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South Jersey Groups 3 and 4 Baseball Playoff Preview

South Jersey Groups 3 and 4 Baseball Playoff Preview
Last year Highland won the South Jersey Group 3 baseball title by earning four close wins, two by three runs, another by two and a fourth by one.

The Group should again feature close games and plenty of contenders as the NJSIAA tournament begins Monday May 21.

At press time the seedings weren’t announced, but the power points, provided by NJ.com, are pretty close to being set.

This year Central Regional is expected to be the top seed, followed by Ocean City, Triton and Highland among the top four.

Any of those four could win it, but this Group has such balance, that it wouldn’t be surprising if a team outside the top four ends up winning.

Cherry Hill West, projected to be fifth, is a team that has been hot lately. The Lions benefit from playing a rugged Olympic Conference schedule.

Another Olympic Conference team that can’t be discounted is Seneca, which could be the No. 10 seed despite having a 14-5 record. That is an indication how deep Group 3 is.

Seneca has one of the state’s top players in senior center fielder-pitcher Kevin Decker, who is expected to be selected in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft.

Senior Shortstop Kevin Gsell is among the better infielders in South Jersey by classmate Luke Hoey, a first baseman-pitcher, is a dual threat.

Hoey entered the week hitting .340 and was 4-2 with a 1.51 ERA.

Seneca is also competing in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic, having beaten Gloucester, 10-0, in the first round.

Group 4
Just like Group 3, South Jersey Group 4 has no shortage of contenders. The favorite will be the expected top seed Eastern. Like Seneca, Eastern is also competing in the Diamond Classic this weekend after beating Haddonfield, 3-1, in an opening round game.

The Vikings began the week 17-5, while playing one of the toughest schedules in South Jersey. Senior outfielder Jack Herman is among the top players in South Jersey. In Saturday’s win over Haddonfield he not only had an RBI triple, but earned the save with three innings of scoreless relief.

Classmate Jesse Barbera has been among the top pitchers in South Jersey.
Eastern competes in the Olympic Conference American Division, annually one of the best in South Jersey and this year is no different. Two other American Division teams, Shawnee, Washington Township, bear watching.

Washington Township, which also won a first round Diamond Classic game, 2-1 over Bordentown, has beaten Eastern twice this season.

And Shawnee began the week leading the division.  Shawnee has lost two one-run games to Eastern and is 1-0 against Washington Township.

Clearview, Jackson Memoria and Egg Harbor Township, teams that are expected to be seeded No. 2 through No. 4, are also major contenders.

This Group is annually deep and this season is no exception.

It wouldn’t be surprising if at least one American Division team, if not two, advance to the final.
 
Last year Southern Regional, which was seeded 11th, beat No. 8 seeded Lenape in the championship. This year it appears as if a team a little higher than a No. 11 seed will emerge as champion.
 
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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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