Bloomfield’s dream run to the Greater Newark Tournament final may have had a nightmarish ending. But as the dust settled on the Bengals’ 15-0, five-inning defeat to Seton Hall Prep Saturday at Yogi Berra Stadium, it marked a time to focus more on what Bloomfield had accomplished — most notably making the GNT final for the first time since 1997 — and what more it hopes to achieve in the upcoming state tournament.
“They came out and hit the ball, hats off to them, they took it to us,” Bloomfield head coach Mike Policastro said. “I’m not going to cry about it and dwell over it. Our kids earned the right to be there. Obviously losing 15-0 is not how you want to go out.”
Seton Hall Prep jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, but in the top of the second, Bloomfield loaded the bases with one out and seemed poised to cut into the deficit. Seton Hall Prep’s John Cerwinski struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning unscathed.
Beginning with those two strikeouts, Cerwinski retired the final 11 batters he faced, five of them by strikeout. Seton Hall Prep responded with six more runs in the bottom of the second, putting the game out of reach.
“I felt like even after the first inning our kids were up on the fence and into the game,” said Policastro. “(In the second) after we didn’t score with the bases loaded and then Seton Hall scored four or five more, I think our kids were just down.
“I told them after the game the result isn’t what you wanted, but I’m proud of the run that we made. The bottom line is that we made a run to the GNT final for the first time in 25 years. We’re the runner up in the GNT and that’s a pretty big accomplishment when Seton Hall is in your county. We still have four games to prepare for the state tournament.”
Bloomfield looks to bounce back, starting Monday at Garfield, followed by a double-header on Tuesday when it hosts Wayne Valley at 4 p.m. and then Rutherford at 7. The Bengals close the regular season on Friday at Roxbury.
The NJSIAA state baseball tournament will be officially seeded on Wednesday (May 24) based on a power point system that takes into account games played up until this past Saturday (May 21).
Based on those power points, Bloomfield is projected to be the 11th seed in North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 and is set to face sixth-seeded Columbia. Policastro knows that Columbia is a tough draw and on paper, the Bengals’ 9-15 record might not look impressive. But with the schedule they play and their recent tournament, he believes his team is well prepared.
“I just think when you play a schedule like we do when you’re playing in the SEC American Division where you’re always seeing good pitching and then you’re playing teams like GL, Roxbury, Old Tappan (it prepares you),” Policastro said. “We’ve seen our share of guys that throw hard and are very good pitchers. There’s no easy wins on our schedule. I think it sets us up well for a possible run because when you play good teams day in and day out, and there’s no easy games and your kids are battling all the time, to me, that makes them battle tested.”
While unofficial, it appears four other local squads are projected to qualify for the state tournament.
In North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3, Belleville’s strong 3-1 finish has vaulted them into the 16th and final spot in the section. A daunting challenge against top-seeded Millburn awaits, but after a 3-12 start, just qualifying is a nice accomplishment for a group that has faced a lot of adversity the last three springs. Also in North 2, Group 3, Nutley (11-10) is projected to be the eighth seed and would face ninth-seeded Chatham.
In North Jersey, Section 2, Group 2, Lyndhurst (14-9) is the projected sixth seed and would face 11th-seeded Leonia in the first round. And in North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1, North Arlington (8-13), which looks to bounce back after a rough week, is the projected eighth seed and would square off with ninth-seeded Becton.
First round play in the state tournament is set for next week.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)