Diamond Classic Expands Again

by Marc Narducci | Apr 1, 2024
Diamond Classic Expands Again
 This high school baseball season, there will be a big change to one of the biggest events in South Jersey—the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.

This is the 50th year of the Diamond Classic and the main interest stems from the fact that all the top teams in South Jersey are invited, regardless of enrollment size. It is an unofficial South Jersey championship.

The tournament is staged before the beginning of the state tournament. For those competing in the Diamond, it is like playing in a state tournament before the actual tourney begins.

Last season the Diamond expanded from 16 teams to 24. This year brings further expansion, as there will be 32 teams. Since there are so many teams, the Diamond has to start earlier. 

This year there will be 10 automatic bids for the division leaders at the time of the cutoff date. There are more than 10 divisions in South Jersey, but some are combined for seeding purposes. The other 22 teams will be selected from the South Jersey Coaches Association Top 20 poll. The remaining teams not in the poll will be determined by the Diamond Classic committee. 

Here are the dates for this year’s Diamond Classic:

April 24: Diamond Classic cutoff and selection.

By May 1: Conclusion of first-round games at the home of the higher seed.

By May 4: Conclusion of second-round games at the home of the higher seed.

By May 8: Conclusion of third-round games at the home of the higher seed. 

By May 11: Conclusion of fourth-round games TBA Games at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

On May 16: Championship game, 6:30 p.m. at Pitman’s Alcyon Park. 

The biggest question is whether having 32 teams will water down the field, but there are more than 90 baseball teams in South Jersey. Book it, there will still be teams that feel they should have earned an invitation. 

“There were coaches who felt even with 24 teams last year that good teams got snubbed,” said Diamond Classic tournament director Keith Williams, who is the athletic director at West Deptford.

A case in point was Eastern. Last season Eastern wasn’t extended an invitation to the Diamond and went on to win the South Jersey Group 4 championship.

“Coaches pointed to the fact that Eastern made a big run in the state tournament,” Williams said. 

Gloucester Catholic is the defending Diamond Classic champion. The Rams have won seven titles, which ties them for the most with Bishop Eustace.

Williams feels the best part of the tournament is the inclusiveness.

“We have representatives from all conferences, but the smaller schools still have a chance,” he said. 

The baseball season opens on April 1, so teams have three-and-a-half weeks before the cutoff.

It’s not much time, but in baseball, teams are used to playing a heavy schedule because it’s the nature of the game.

What the Diamond organizers hope for is decent weather, especially with five rounds. 

Still, there is the hope with the new format that deserving teams like Eastern will be able to compete. In another instance, in 2021 South Jersey Group 4 champion Clearview didn’t earn an invitation. 

There is still a chance that a team that comes on late in the season, doesn’t get invited, but the odds are lessened with the expanded format. 

Photo: Haddon Heights Sr. Jake Griess / Marc Narducci

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Author: Marc Narducci

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