Komline, Fattore, Verano send Bridgewater-Raritan to Group 4 final

By Bob Behre | June 6, 2024

Bridgewater’s J.R. Rosado eyeballs a pitch he drove for a single, igniting a three-run third inning.

Bridgewater-Raritan has made a habit of jumping on opponents early then using a ruthless combination of stifling pitching and deadly efficient defense to chalk up victory after victory in what is becoming a historic season at the Somerset County school.

Livingston, another terrific Group 4 squad from the Super Essex Conference, received an unpleasant sampling of the Panthers’ baseball pedigree on Wednesday afternoon. Bridgewater rolled to an 8-1 victory, its 29th of the season, in an NJSIAA Group 4 semifinal in Bridgewater.

The victory sends Bridgewater-Raritan (29-3) to the Group 4 final opposite Eastern High, which defeated Jackson Memorial, 7-5, in the other semifinal. Eastern High is in Voorhees in Camden County and competes in the rugged Olympic Conference.

Credit should be spread all around, as it usually is with this deeply talented Bridgewater squad, but we’ll start with lefthander Kellan Komline before we move to slugger Matt Fattore, DH Frankie Verano and a host of other Panthers who contributed mightily.

The sophomore Komline pitched with the maturity of a senior as he limited Livingston (22-8-1) to one run on five hits over five innings while striking out seven and walking four. He also hit a batter. Komline was presented with a quick lead when the Panthers struck for four runs in the bottom of the first inning, the first two of which came on Fattore’s two-run home run to left field.

“Getting that lead was great,” said Komline. “I have full trust in our lineup.”

Komline worked with runners on base in the first four innings, but didn’t allow a run until Livingston’s Julian Schultz followed Alex Yang’s one-out double with a two-out double of his own in the fourth. Incredibly, that was the first run Bridgewater-Raritan permitted in five state tournament games. But, by then, the Panthers had staked its starting pitcher to a 7-0 lead.

One could see it would be a typical afternoon of finding barrels for the Panthers. Bridgewater’s terrific leadoff hitter Devin Goldberg led off the game with a hard line out to center field. Matt Lehberger followed with a single through the middle. Fattore then stepped in and latched onto a low and inside fastball and drove it high over the fence in left for a 2-0 lead.

“Matt’s home run was a tone-setter, for sure,” said Bridgewater’s passionate 16th-year coach Max Newill. “You could see right from Devin’s first swing that we were going to hit the ball hard today.”

Matt Cichocki kept the rally rolling with a double to right field, J.R. Rosado (single, two runs) reached on an infield error and Komline brought Cichocki home with a fielder’s choice grounder to the right side. Verano capped the four-run rally with an RBI double to right.

“It was a low fastball,” said Fattore of his home run. “It’s not necessarily my pitch. I hit everything all over the strike zone. We just love to jump out early on teams. It gives our pitchers confidence.”

Bridgewater tacked on three more runs in the third despite Livingston starter Tyler Chen retiring the first two batters. Rosado, Bridgewater’s exceptional catcher, singled to center before his batterymate Komline was hit by a pitch. Verano, the No. 7 hitter, stepped up again, delivering an RBI single before No. 8 hitter Joe Spirra capped the three-run outburst with a two-run double to left.

Tyler Chen of Livingston delivers in the NJSIAA Group 4 semifinal against Bridgewater-Raritan.

The Panthers answered the Lancers’ run in the top of the fourth with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. The speedy and disruptive Goldberg started the rally with the first of his two infield hits. He then stole second and third and scored when the throw to third base got away.

The 8-1 lead would stay that way after righthander Mike Lentini relieved Komline, who had accumulated 93 pitches. Lentini shut out Livingston over the final two innings, permitting no hits, striking out none and walking one. Lentini walked Joe Meierhofer to start the seventh, but first baseman Fattore snared a hot shot by Schultz, fired to second to Goldberg who fired back to Fattore for a pretty double play. Lentini got the next batter to pop out to Fattore to end it.

That wasn’t the first outstanding play in the game by Bridgewater. Goldberg made a fine play on Massimo DePaola’s slow bouncer to the left side for the third out of the first inning, stranding two runners. Both reached on Komline walks.

Panther center fielder Lehberger made a diving catch charging in on Ethan Sze’s shot leading off the sixth. Lehberger then made a nice running catch one batter later on Adam Goldberg’s shot toward the right-center field gap.

Komline had most of his success with his two-seam fastball and changeup. He likely cost himself a sixth inning of work courtesy of a 27-pitch third inning in which he extricated his team from a bases loaded jam. Schultz had started it with a bad hop single to right field. Komline hit Robbie Lynn with a pitch with one out and issued a two-out walk to DePaola that loaded the bases.

But Komline won a lengthy eight-pitch battle with Sze, getting him to bounce out to second base to end the threat.

“Kellan didn’t have his best stuff but he dug deep,” said Newill. “He and J.R. got it done because they believe in each other.”

Komline concurred.

“I had some iffy pitches but I stuck with my stuff and battled through it,” he said.

A year ago, Bridgewater-Raritan had already completed an impressive 23-7 season that had, nonetheless, ended with a loss in the sectional final. The Panthers also fell in the 2023 Somerset County semifinals. Both of those disappointments have been rectified by the 2024 club. And don’t think those difficult defeats were anything but motivation for this gritty, determined squad.

“We have taken those losses as motivation,” said Rosado. “Some of us have the picture of Bayonne celebrating as the screen-saver on our computers.” Bayonne defeated Bridgewater in the 2023 North 2, Group 4 final.

“We are taking that heartbreak as motivation,” said Fattore, “We are just looking to win games and doing it like we’ve been there before.”

Newill sees the resolve of his team.

“We had a good team last year,” said Newill, “and these guys played through those experiences and it’s made these games seem not as big for them. They’ve expected to win all year and that hasn’t changed.”


It will be Bridgewater-Raritan’s first appearance in a group championship baseball game since Bridgewater East and Bridgewater West were merged in 1992. Eastern won the Group 4 championship in 2013 and lost in the Group 4 final to Ridgewood in 2019.

Bridgewater West won the Group 2 championship in 1989, 35 years ago. Bridgewater East was the Group 3 runner-up in 1971.


Komline and Rosado are both Diamond Jacks out of Diamond Nation. Komline will play this summer for the Super 16U squad and Rosado is on the Super 17U team.

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