Gloucester Catholic, Don Bosco nail down Non-Public championships

By Bob Behre | June 10, 2023

Don Bosco Prep celebrates its 8th NJSIAA Non-Public A state championship.

On a terrific night at one of New Jersey’s finest settings for high school baseball, Gloucester Catholic and Don Bosco Prep left little doubt who was the premier team in their respective NJSIAA groups last night in Hamilton.

Gloucester Catholic defeated St. Mary of Rutherford, 10-0 in six innings, to register its state record 20th state championship and a 16th state title in Non-Public B.

Don Bosco Prep of Ramsey, ranked No. 2 in the state by, defeated No. 1 Red Bank Catholic, 4-1, behind a gritty two-hit, six-inning pitching performance by righthander Mike Staiano. The Ironmen’s second straight NP-A championship also secured the school’s second straight No. 1 finish in the statewide Top 20.

All six state baseball championship games are being played over two days at Bob DeMeo Field in Veterans Park, Hamilton.

Gloucester Catholic’s lefthander Tanner Nolan (10-0) put forth a dominant effort, tossing a complete game two-hit shutout, striking out seven Gaels and walking two in 77 pitches. Nolan had also shut down then-No. 2 Ranney of Tinton Falls in the South Jersey, Non-Public B final to elevate the Rams to No. 3 in the state.

The Bosco-Red Bank Catholic nightcap hit a speed bump when lightning in the area caused a 40-minute delay with one out in the bottom of the sixth and Don Bosco ahead, 4-1, with a runner on second base. Luckily there was no rain accompanying the lightning and the game resumed promptly at 9:07 p.m.

The NJSIAA baseball tournament concludes today with the four Public group championships.

Winning pitcher Tanner Nolan leads the celebration as Gloucester Catholic wins its 20th NJSIAA Non-Public state title.

Pascack Hills and Rumson-Fair Haven open play when they square off for the Group 2 championship at 10 a.m. Morris Knolls and Mainland play for the Group 3 title at 1 p.m. The Group 4 title, pitting Ridgewood and Old Bridge, follows at 4 p.m. and the day concludes when Pequannock and Buena tangle in the Group 1 championship game at 7 p.m.

Gloucester Catholic 10, St. Mary (Ruth.) 0

The Rams gained a measure of revenge in a sense, since St. Mary won the last meeting between the two Non-Public titans in the 2019 state final. But Gloucester Catholic, which also picked off the Gaels in 2001 and ‘03, now owns a 3-1 record against the Bergen County school in state final showdowns.

The two schools have also met in the regular season a few times over the years.

So, St. Mary (20-10) can say it recognized the recipe put forth by legendary Gloucester Catholic coach Dennis Barth and his charges; excellent pitching and relentless offense in any and every form.

Nolan entered the game with a paltry ERA of 0.50 and lowered it further with his six shutout innings. He did not surrender a hit, or a base runner for that matter, until Jason Rosado threaded a bouncer through the middle with one out in the fourth. By then, the Rams had built a 6-0 lead.

Blayze Conte, St. Mary’s No. 3 hitter, then sent a flair into short right field for a single as Rosado moved to second. The inning got a little weird when Nolan threw away a pickoff attempt at first base, allowing the runners to move up. Nolan, however, struck out the next batter before uncorking a wild pitch with Kyle Watson at the plate.

But, typical of the Rams, they found a way of making good baseball from bad. Catcher Damon Suriani chased down the errant pitch and fired back to Nolan, at the plate, who applied the tag on Rosado trying to score from third. Rally over.

Gloucester Catholic (24-7) had scored the game’s first run in the top of the first on Sal Serici’s RBI double to the foot of the left field fence. They added four big runs in the third on Tyler Bunting’s sac fly and a monstrous two-out, three-run triple to center field by lefty-hitting No. 9 hitter Jake Terranova.

Sal Serici had two doubles, an RBI and scored two runs for Gloucester Catholic

“It was an 0-1 pitch,” said Terranova, who drove it over the center fielder’s head, easily scoring all three runners. “I thought he was going to catch it. When I rounded second and saw Bean (Barth) waving me to third, I just took off.”

Barth’s boys had given him a 5-0 lead with his horse on the mound in full throttle. There wasn’t much stopping the Rams from adding the school’s 20th state baseball title to its crowded trophy case.

Gloucester Catholic added a run in the fourth on a throwing error to extend the lead to 6-0. The Rams then put the game away with four runs in the sixth behind Bunting and its intrepid freshman third baseman Guy Lynam.

St. Mary reliever Xavier Arana had grinded through 4.2 innings against the rugged Rams lineup and left after plunking Serici with a two-out, two-strike pitch. That’s how close the Gaels came from getting through the sixth unscathed.

Serici, however, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Then Tate DeRias drew a walk and stole second, preceding Bunting’s clutch two-run single to center field that forged an 8-0 lead. Lynam, who had walked and scored in the third to highlight three fairly ordinary at bats, stepped in with loftier intentions.

“He threw me a fastball on the first pitch and I saw it really well,” said Lynam. “I noticed he was missing high a lot. Then he came in with another fastball but this one was middle-in.” Lynam didn’t hesitate. And he didn’t miss.

He drove the ball over the 365-foot sign in right-center field for a two-run home run and a 10-0 lead. “He’s not a freshman anymore,” said Barth.

“That felt so good,” said Lynam, “to do it for Tanner and R.J. (center fielder Mustaro) and the rest of the seniors. They finally got their championship.”

It had been a bit of a championship drought, at least in how Gloucester Catholic views these things. The Rams last won when they went back-to-back in 2017 and ‘18, but that was without Barth, who had left for the collegiate ranks in 2013 to coach Rutgers-Camden. He would leave the Division 3 college after seven seasons and the school’s all-time wins record.

Barth, whose 2012 team defeated Don Bosco Prep for the Non-Public A championship in his final game before he was hired at Rutgers-Camden, returned to his alma mater in 2019 and set about getting his new charges back to where he felt they belonged.

St. Mary’s leadoff hitter Tyler Giordano looks to square one up in Non-Public B state final on Friday.

“I’ve been telling this group, you can’t graduate without a championship,” said Barth, a staggering 552-115-1 in a high school career that runs 1994-2012 and 2019-present. His .828 career winning percentage is the highest in New Jersey among coaches with more than 200 wins.

Nolan was incredibly economical through five innings, throwing just 51 pitches. But he tired a bit in the sixth and absorbed his only two walks of the game. He still struck out the side in the sixth, though, including the final batter, Conte, to set off a long-awaited celebration.

“Tanner pitched like that all season,” said Barth. “Terranova is fast, that’s why I like him batting ninth. And Guy put the finishing touch on it all.”

One of the incredibly hard things to do is win a Diamond Classic championship. The Diamond is, of course, a seven-county tournament that crowns the champion of South Jersey each year. The Rams won their seventh Diamond this season and paired it with a state championship for the fourth time.

Gloucester Catholic, with coach Dennis Barth at left, gets another one for the trophy case.

Barth, by the way, was the leadoff hitter his senior season at Gloucester Catholic when the Rams defeated St. Mary’s of Jersey City for the 1980 Non-Public B state title. He unapologetically calls that 1980 team, “our best team ever.” That team was coached by Al Radano (351-101 .777), the local legend who preceded Barth’s legend.

Serici had two doubles, an RBI and scored two runs for the Rams. Bunting drove in three runs with his double and sac fly.

Don Bosco Prep 4, Red Bank Catholic 1

Lefty Mike Staiano was the story for Don Bosco Prep in so many ways. Sure, he was terrific on the mound, permitting just one run on six hits over six innings, striking out five and walking none while hitting a batter. He threw 90 pitches and left after the 40-minute lightning delay.

No worries, because righty Dylan Henshaw retired the Caseys in order in the top of the seventh to pin down the Ironmen’s eighth state championship in 10 final round appearances. All of Don Bosco’s state final appearances are in Non Public A.

Twos are wild as Don Bosco Prep wins its second straight NJSIAA Non-Public A state title.

Staiano was also in the middle of his team’s decisive three-run fourth inning, delivering a two-out RBI single to score Andy Granatell from second with the inning’s second run.

“I was just trying to keep it simple and not try to do too much,” said Staiano of his single through the middle.

Nick Becker followed with a double to center field that chased Staiano all the way home from first base, giving Staiano an opportunity to show off his speed. Eric Becker had started the rally with a leadoff single and came around on a botched relay off of Granatell’s single to center.

Red Bank Catholic (24-6) came out red hot, ripping Staiano for four hits over the first two innings to go with a few loud outs. But the Caseys could manage just one run.

Sean Griggs singled to left with one out in the top of the first inning and raced to third when Frank Scrivanic followed with a double down the left field line. Clean-up hitter Shane Andrus then launched a shot to deep center for a sac fly that scored Griggs with the game’s first run. But Staiano got out of it on a 6-3 groundout despite shortstop Eric Becker first bobbling the grounder.

Don Bosco (27-5) answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the first, helped greatly by Eric Becker drawing a two-out walk. Allen Hernandez was even more helpful, though, as his booming double to right-center field scored Becker from first to tie the game at 1-1.

Red Bank Catholic’s bats were noisy again in the second but, somehow, the Ironmen escaped trouble again.

Matt Brunner, the No. 6 hitter, led off and drove a double into left-center field. Brendan Kopec followed with a single to center but it was hit so hard, Brunner had to stop at third base. Red Bank Catholic was feasting on Staiano’s heaters. But here’s where Staiano’s game may have turned for the better.

The senior bound for Manhattan got a strikeout for the first out, then induced Max Dantoni to hit a bouncer toward the middle of the diamond. Shortstop Becker snared the grounder, stepped on second base and fired to first for an inning-ending double play.

From there, Staiano would shut out Red Bank Catholic on just two hits over the next four innings. He did so by flipping his approach 180 degrees to the Red Bank Catholic batters.

“I usually attack with my fastball and work my changeup off that,” said Staiano. “But they were hitting my fastball pretty hard and they were fastballs that were hitting some pretty good spots. So, I started adding in my changeup more than usual, and my curveball.”

Indeed, Staiano would pitch backward at times, if not interspersing a steady diet of off-speed stuff. His changeup was effective and his curveball was downright nasty. He credited Don Bosco pitching coach Jim Wladyka for his in-game conversion.

“Coach Wladyka made me the pitcher I am today,” said Staiano. “I trust him. He’s changed my life on and off the field.”

Wladyka pushed that credit right back at Staiano.

“Mike has attacked multiple ways this season,” said Wladyka. “He has that ability to adjust and adapt to what he’s facing. They jumped on him pretty good early and were hitting good pitches. But Mike can go breaking ball heavy and expand the zone with the fastball. More importantly, he’s mature enough to flush the bad and move on to the next pitch and the next batter. He’s had a big year for us.”

Scrivanic, who has had a huge season for Red Bank Catholic, finished his career with a 3-for-3 performance. Caseys starter, righty Steve Svenson, permitted four runs on six hits in 4.2 innings, struck out one and walked none.

Eric Becker had a single, double, drew a walk and scored two runs for Don Bosco Prep.

NOTES: This is the fifth NJSIAA baseball championships held at Veterans Park since 2018. While the COVID pandemic knocked out the 2020 high school season, Cranford won the Last Dance, a tournament organized by the state coaches in July of that year.

… Gloucester Catholic is a remarkable 20-5 in state championship games. … St. Mary (Ruth.) has won four state championships, two in Non-Public B and two in the former Non-Public C. The Gaels have been state runners up nine times.

…Red Bank Catholic coach Buddy Hausmann played on the Caseys’ only state championship team. The Caseys defeated Montclair Kimberley in that 1997 Non-Public B final. Red Bank Catholic also lost in the Non Public A final in 1986.

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