Eastern is the Baseball Group 4 Favorite

Eastern is the Baseball Group 4 Favorite Eastern is the defending South Jersey Group 4 baseball champion, and the Vikings won’t relinquish their title very easily. Just like softball, this is a deep field--one in which at least half of the 16 teams could make a case for winning a sectional title.

The tournament begins on May 18.

Eastern is the projected top seed, and the Vikings tuned up with an impressive 2-1 win over St. Augustine in the first round of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.

St. Augustine is the defending Diamond champion and will be a viable contender in the loaded South Jersey Non-Public A field.

Tyler Ronczka pitched a complete-game, five-hitter, while striking out six. Ronczka will be a major factor in the Group 4 tournament. That win improved Eastern’s record to 17-3.

How dangerous is Group 4?

Eastern’s three losses have all been to Group 4 teams. The Vikings lost by 6-5 scores to Egg Harbor Township and Shawnee, and 14-4 to Cherry Hill West.

It should also be noted that Eastern beat both Shawnee and Cherry Hill West the first time these Olympic Conference American Division teams met.'

Group 4 is so strong that Shawnee isn’t projected to make the 16-team field, although the official field will be announced later in the week.

As for the other teams, Egg Harbor Township and Cherry Hill West are among a long list of contenders.

Cherry Hill West is a strong team, and the Lions have what coach Dan McMaster refers as “two No. 1 pitchers.” They would be senior righthander Jeff Dixon and soopomore righthander Ian Scheidemann (pictured).

Senior shortstop A.J. Wright is among the top infielders in South Jersey.

Toms River North is projected to be the No. 2 seed, and the Mariners will be dangerous.

Two Tri-County Conference Royal Division teams, Williamstown and Kingsway, are the projected No. 3 and 4 seeds (with Cherry Hill West No. 5).

Lenape is among the dangerous darkhorses. The Indians were good enough to earn a berth in the Diamond Classic, but lost to top ranked Gloucester Catholic in the first round.

And speaking of darkhorses, a team that has played better in the second half of the season is a young Washington Township team.

The Minutemen played one of the toughest schedules in South Jersey, and that often helps during the state tournament. Township also owns two wins over the above mentioned Lenape team.

The field is so deep that an Egg Harbor Township team that beat Eastern won’t even earn a first-round playoff game. The Eagles are projected to be the No. 10 seed.

Other teams such as Rancocas Valley, Cherokee, and always dangerous Toms River East are among others who could be dangerous opponents.

Photo (Marc Narducci): Cherry Hill West sophomore Ian Scheidemann

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Author: Marc Narducci; photo by Marc Narducci

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