Diamond Classic Field Set

Diamond Classic Field Set The rankings for the best South Jersey baseball team will get a boost when the 42nd annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic opens play this weekend.

This 16-team, single-elimination tournament comprises the top teams in South Jersey. And while the team that wins the Diamond doesn’t necessarily earn the No. 1 spot, it sure helps.

The reason the Diamond doesn’t definitely determine the top team is because the NJSIAA state tournament begins the day after the May 17 championship game. And how a team fares in the state tournament rightly carries a lot of weight.

Either way, the Diamond is something that tests a team’s depth. There are some teams that might hold back a top pitcher in the Diamond to save him for either a conference game or the state tournament. Others have the philosophy to win the tournament at all costs and worry about the other tournaments later.

St. Augustine is defending Diamond champion, having beaten Pennsville, 3-2 in the final. That was one of the most interesting finals in Diamond history. St. Augustine’s Zach Warren was the winning pitcher, allowing one hit and nine walks. That is combination you won’t see very often.

Here are this year’s pairings:

Saturday, May 9
At Maple Shade: Mainland vs. Riverside, 10:30; Ocean City vs. Kingsway, 1.
At Deptford: Williamstown vs. Paulsboro, 10:30; St. Augustine vs. Eastern, 1
At Hammonton: Northern Burlington vs. Buena, 10:30; Rancocas Valley vs. Haddonfield, 1.
At Washington Township: Lenape vs. Gloucester Catholic, 10:30; Cherry Hill West vs. Bishop Eustace, 1.

Saturday, May 16
Quarterfinals at Deptford and Washington Township at 10:30 and 1.

Sunday, May 17
Semifinals at Deptford and Washington Township at 1.
Finals at Eastern, 5. One interesting game finds Northern Burlington vs. Buena. On April 26, Northern Burlington beat Buena, 17-0 in a non-league game. Of course Buena didn’t use pitcher Denny Brady, the East Carolina recruit. With Brady, the defending Group 2 state champs have the ability to beat anybody.

One of the interesting first round games finds St. Augustine vs. Eastern.

St. Augustine, after a rough stretch, is coming on. And Eastern was playing as well as just about anybody in South Jersey before Monday’s 14-4 loss to Cherry Hill West. (The Cherry Hill West-Bishop Eustace game should also be a competitive matchup). Eustace is one of those teams that always goes out to win the Diamond, and the Crusaders have the pitching, led by righthander Tyler Phillips, to be awfully competitive.

The team everybody is looking at is Gloucester Catholic, the consensus No. 1 squad in South Jersey. With the Division I pitching tandem of senior John Murphy and junior Tyler Mondile, that is as good a one-two punch as any in South Jersey. Murphy has signed with the University of Maryland and Mondile has made a verbal commitment to Florida State.

If the Rams can muster enough offense, they will be difficult to beat, but then again, that could be said of many of the Diamond teams, which is what makes this tournament so fascinating.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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