The spring scholastic seasons are beginning to wind down, but for some reason, the NJSIAA wanted to get a head start on the baseball and softball tournament.
For some reason, the state tournaments in both sports will begin this week, even before teams like Kearny are done competing in the local Hudson County Tournament.
It can get downright confusing for the players, but it’s even worse for the coaches, who have to juggle pitch counts and innings limits and proper rest just to survive.
For example, the Kearny softball team, the defending champion of the Hudson tournament, was set to face the winner of Memorial and Secaucus on Tuesday (that game was scheduled for Monday) and then had to worry about East Orange in the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV playoffs on Thursday.
That’s a lot of pressure packed softball in a span of three days for the Kardinals, who are the top seed in the Hudson tourney.
The winner of the Kearny/East Orange tilt will face the winner of Mount Olive and Ridgewood.
In North Jersey Section 1, Group III, Belleville drew the No. 9 seed and will face a very good Ferris team in the opening round in Jersey City. It was not a very beneficial draw for head coach Chris Cantarella and the Lady Bucs.
In the same bracket, Nutley is the No. 13 seed and gets to go to Morris County and face Chatham in the first round. In years past, Nutley has had a ton of success facing Morris County teams, but this one might be a little tough for coach Luann Zullo and the Maroon Raiders.
In North 2, Group II, Lyndhurst is the No. 8 seed and will play host to the Dodgers of Madison.
On the baseball side, Lyndhurst drew the No. 2 seed in North Jersey Section 2, Group II. The Golden Bears, with a stellar 15-5 record, will also face Madison. They should schedule the softball and baseball games at scattered times on the same day to capitalize on the freaky coincidence of both teams facing Madison in the opening round.
The rest of the local qualifiers have their work cut out for them, even Harrison, the defending semifinalist in North 2, Group II.
The Blue Tide (11-8) will get the No. 13 seed and will face Rutherford in the opening round. Harrison won two state playoff games last year to advance to the semifinals before falling to eventual sectional champion Parsippany.
North Arlington drew the No. 14 seed in the North 2, Group I bracket. The Vikings will travel to face Dunellen in the opening round.
Nutley will apparently sneak its way into the postseason, drawing the No. 16 (and last) seed in the North 2, Group III bracket. Coach Bob Harbison’s Maroon Raiders will lock horns with top seeded Pascack Valley.
So there you have it, a brief synopsis of the state playoffs, which begin a little early this year.
Let the fun begin.
Kearny relief pitcher Rodriguez Henriquez can’t keep his hat on, but can find the strike zone, in this recent game against McNair Academic. Henriquez and his Kardinal teammates are the No. 13 seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV playoffs this week, facing Clifton. Photo by Jim Hague