Fall League playoffs begin in wake of big Hillsborough Sr. win

By Bob Behre | October 28, 2020

Hillsborough Sr., on a roll of late, knocked Whitehouse Post 284 off its perch atop the High School Fall League standings last night to shake up the seeding on the eve of the playoffs.

The 12-team Fall League playoffs begin tonight with a first round game at 6 p.m., followed by an 8 p.m. second round game. The tournament heats up on Thursday with three more second round games at 6 p.m. and three quarterfinal contests at 8 p.m. The Fall League season concludes on Monday with a pair of semifinals at 6 p.m. and the championship game at 8 p.m.

Whitehouse Post 284 remains the playoff favorite, considering its standing as the dominant team in the league the past couple seasons. Hillsborough Sr., however, has stepped to the fore with 2010 Hillsborough High grad Dylan Zebro at the helm.

Jack Smith, Rocco Viscel and Jayden Bloch combined to limit Whitehouse Post 284 to two runs in the five-inning game. Smith went the first three, surrendering the two runs and Viscel and Bloch each gave Hillsborough Sr. a scoreless inning.

“Jack’s control was on point, as usual,” said Zebro, “and he was lights out. It was also glad to get Rocco an inning since he’s still rehabbing from injury. He was limited to 20-25 pitches. Bloch did his job, too, to finish it off.”

Hillsborough Sr. only managed two hits off Whitehouse’s typically stubborn pitching staff, but they made those hits count. Viscel singled to left field with two outs in the fourth to keep a Hillsborough rally alive and Ryan Hvozdovic would follow with the decisive hit.

“Rocco’s hit was one of the game-changers,” said Zebro. “It was a tough at bat and it kept the inning alive.”

Then Hvozdovic stepped in and delivered a two-run single through the middle to score two runs and put Hillsborough Sr. in front, 4-2.

“Ryan’s another one of those guys we can count on in big situations” said Zebro. “He shows up and performs in clutch situations.”

Hillsborough’s toughest competition, at least on paper, will be that same Whitehouse team and the top-seeded Bucks County Generals. Hillsborough Sr. and Whitehouse Post 284 is a potential semifinal matchup.

“Whitehouse always comes to play,” said Zebro. “No matter what. They always bring their A-game. They have a terrific coach in Steve Farsiou, who does a great job for that team and organization. And Bucks County looks like they have a good team. We know if we run into them it will be a great matchup. Getting the bye was nice and let us save our arms a bit.” Hillsborough Sr. and Bucks County did not meet in the regular season.

Zebro says he is leaning toward starting Brett Radmoski in Hillsborough Sr.’s playoff opener on Thursday night against the winner of the 8 vs. 9 seeds. Smith, his innings limited on Tuesday, will be available in relief. 

The 12-team field was seeded by winning percentage since some teams played twice a week and others played just once a week. The top seed went to the Bucks County Generals (5-0), who owns a regular season victory over third-seeded Whitehouse (11-2-1). Hillsborough Sr. (12-2), the No. 2 seed, split its two regular season games with Whitehouse. The D1 Renegades (4-2-1) earned the No. 4 seed.

Hustle Baseball (8-6), the No. 5 seed, opens the playoffs tonight at 6 p.m. against 12th-seeded In the Zone 2. That winner gets right back at it against the Renegades at 8 p.m. The Renegades, by the way, gave Hillsborough Sr. it’s only other loss.

The pairings for Thursday’s 6 p.m. games include the 8 seed  vs. the 9 seed, 7 vs. 10, and 6 vs. 11. The 8 p.m. games pit the No. 1 vs. the 8/9 winner; 2 vs. the 7/10 winner and the 3 seed vs. the 6/11 winner. The top three seeds need to win three straight games and the Nos. 4 through 12 seeds must win four straight games to win the championship.

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