NJHSBCA Senior All-Star Game remains a gem

By Bob Behre | June 12, 2024

Central’s Evan Hoeckele of Bernards deals to Northwest’s Evan Rymer of West Morris.

The N.J. High School Baseball Coaches Association Senior All-Star Games delivered again at Diamond Nation on Monday evening in Flemington.

The South team defeated the Northeast squad, 13-8, after jumping out to a 12-1 lead and hanging on for the victory. The Northwest team prevailed in a close one, edging the Central squad, 8-5.

It’s always a good night and the temps couldn’t have been more comfortable for a June evening.

There are always a ton of fascinating stories in every success represented by the 100 players at the All Star Games. Diamond Nation attempts to bring a few of those to the forefront for the enjoyment of the baseball community as a whole.

Kellen Moore of Lawrence and a Diamond Jack out of Diamond Nation, was playing in his last high school game and his last game at the familiar turf facility in Flemington.

The 6-4, 190-pound Lafayette-bound Moore didn’t get the call until the top of the ninth inning for the Central team but made the wait for his family, friends and teammates well worth it.

Moore, who struck out 170 batters in his career and posted a 1.72 ERA at Lawrence this spring, struck out the Northwest side around a one-out walk.

“It was mostly fastballs,” said Moore. “It was just great being out there and playing with guys you’ve played against and getting a chance to talk to them. It was a great experience.”

One of those Central teammates was, of course, Moore’s Lawrence and Diamond Jacks teammate Robert Kelly, a terrific shortstop and hard-throwing reliever bound for Monmouth University.

Moore will pitch this summer for the Trenton Generals of the East Coast Collegiate Baseball League.

Landon Mack of Bishop Eustace, batting second for the South team, lined a 3-2 pitch beyond the right field fence to stake his team to a quick 1-0 lead over the Northeast club. It was one of those noisy blasts that had everyone at Field 1 turning abruptly to Field 4 to see what the ruckus was about.

“I was sitting fastball,” said the 6-2, 205-pound Rutgers-bound Mack. “I busted it out of the box because I wasn’t sure it was going.” That was mostly because it was a line drive that, though lacking for air, did not lack for velocity.

Mack, a first baseman and pitcher, crushed nine HRs for Bishop Eustace this season to go with a .365 batting average off of 31 hits. He also drove in 27 runs. “This is a cool night playing with a bunch of guys who are friends for the final time.”

Pop John’s Mac Tufts had a memorable at bat in a six-run sixth inning that shaved the South’s deficit to 12-7. Tufts came up with the bases loaded and proceeded to lace a shot into the right-center field gap that chased home all three base runners.

“I got a fastball on the inner-half,” said Tufts, bound for Longwood University in Virginia. “This has been a fun event. I’m just swinging the bat tonight, having fun and keeping it loose. My college teammate, Gabe Alvarez (St. Joseph-Mont. pitcher), is on this team, so that’s cool.” 

Tommy Baase is an excellent student at Hunterdon Central, but the pitcher/outfielder wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to pursue academically in college or what particular career lie ahead.

While that is likely a more common theme than most senior students would admit, Baase has taken what should be viewed as a highly mature approach to his future. He’s matriculating at Raritan Valley Community College to give himself two years of study while he figures out his future.

“I decided (on that path) a while ago,” says Baase, who pitched a scoreless inning for the Central squad in the Senior All-Star Game. “I just wasn’t sure yet what I wanted to study. And I really wasn’t looking to play baseball in college.”

Greg Tufaro, with is wife Cyndi, far right, receives NJHSBCA Joe Hartmann Man of the Year award from Vinnie Abene of Edison, far left, and Chris Banos of Somerville, second from right.

But Raritan Valley’s third-year coach Dan Mondelli got wind of Baase’s academic plan and encouraged him to add baseball to the mix. Mondelli has done a nice job building the program the past few seasons as he encourages ballplayers local to the school to take advantage of one of the top community college opportunities around.

Mondelli lifted Raritan Valley from a 3-29 team in 2023 to a squad that improved to 16-18 overall and 6-9 in the Garden State Athletic Conference this season, topped off by a berth in the Region XIX D2 playoffs. That’s no surprise given Mondelli’s 39 years of coaching that includes stops at Elizabeth, as an assistant under Ray Korn, seven years at Linden and five more at Holmdel as the head coach. He was also an assistant at Gov. Livingston and associate head coach at the County College of Morris.

That’s the wealth of baseball knowledge for which Baase can depend upon the next two years.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Baase of his new opportunity in baseball. “It’s nice to see all the hard work I put into it is paying off.” Baase, who struck out 37 batters and 27 innings and registered a 1.04 ERA this spring, will join former Hunterdon Central teammate Logan Escamilia on the RVCC roster. Former Red Devils Kyle Yasanus and Jake Breuer will also join Baase on the RVCC roster.

Annual NJHSBCA Awards

The NJ High School Baseball Coaches Association honors its own each year, in addition to those who make major contributions to high school baseball.

Former Home New Tribune/Courier News reporter Greg Tufaro, a friend to so many and a true baseball junky, was named the prestigious Joe Hartmann Man of the Year. Greg was honored for contributions he and his family have made via the Marisa Tufaro Foundation. Greg and his wife, Cyndi, lost their daughter Marisa at the age of 13 to a complex heart defect.

Marisa survived six open-heart surgeries and a heart transplant before succumbing to a rare form of cancer in 2017. Greg and Cyndi established the Foundation to assist pediatric patients and underserved children throughout the greater Middlesex County area. The Foundation has since provided $300,000 in donations toward that mission, contributed scholarship dollars to high school seniors and sent 27 middle school students to a weeklong summer art camp at Rutgers University.

Hall of Famers

Coaches James Dietz of Summit, Bob Carcich of Emerson, Rick Sabol of Somerville and Phil Fiore of Lenape were enshrined in the NJHSBCA Hall of Fame.

Service Awards

The annual Mike Stang Service Awards were presented to Dan Romano of Caldwell, Tim Byron of Old Tappan, Joe Drulis of Notre Dame and David Townsend of Cherry Hill East.

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