The 7th annual Essex-Union Underclassmen All-Star Baseball Game is set to be played tonight – Monday, June 20 – at Kean University’s Jim Hynes Class of 1963 Stadium in Union.
Two players have been added to the Union County roster, including pitchers Vin Doren of Governor Livingston and Tim Geissel of Scotch Plains.
Doren, a junior righty, defeated top-seeded Scotch Plains 3-2 in the Union County Tournament final at Kean, going the distance. That was GL’s first UCT title in its sixth appearance in the final.
Geissel, a junior lefty, was the winning pitcher against Cranford in the UCT semifinals. Pitching in relief of starter Jake DeFouw, a senior right hander, Geissel – in a 36-pitch performance – allowed no runs on two hits, while striking out three and walking none.
“Not a lot affects Tim,” Scotch Plains head coach Joe Higgins said. “He leads the team in appearances. He has ice in his veins and it showed today. He was unflappable.”
Doren was equally as effective for GL in the championship game.
Doren, gave up two runs while scattering 10 hits. He struck out five, including two in the seventh inning that included the game’s final batter, walked only one, hit a batter and threw one wild pitch.
Doren was in control for the entire 98-pitch complete game, mixing his pitches well enough to get crucial outs at times when Scotch Plains had opportunities to produce big innings.
“I had trouble with my secondary pitch at the start, but found my curve late,” said Doren, who attended St. Peter’s Prep his freshman year. “I also found my changeup, which was huge, late in the game.”
“He did a great job, throwing his curve and change at any point in time, with both pitches coming off a fastball he had command of,” said GL pitching coach Matt Rago, a 2008 GL grad. “He established his off speed pitch early in the count and in the last two innings got out of jams while not being afraid to pitch to contact.”
“He manned up,” said GL head coach Chris Roof, a 1992 GL grad, of Doren’s performance. “He just competed. He has to get his curveball over.
“He wasn’t afraid of this stage, which is why I went with him. The key was him getting his off speed pitch over. Once he did that I knew we were in good shape.”
Rago pitched a scoreless inning in the first of two Watchung Conference vs. Mountain Valley Conference All-Star Games. They took place in 2008 and 2009 at Elizabeth’s Williams Field and included seniors. The Watchung Conference won the first game 5-4 and the Mountain Valley Conference the second game 7-4.
In the 2008 game, Watchung Conference starting third baseman Evan Shapiro was 2-for-2, with a walk and drove in four of the team’s five runs. Shapiro was a senior who continued to play on the collegiate level at Quinnipiac.
In the 2009 contest, Johnson senior left hander Rob Smorol was the winning pitcher for the Mountain Valley Conference. He pitched the first three innings, retiring all nine batters he faced, six on strikes.
Smorol went on to star at Rutgers and also pitched in the Boston Red Sox organization for three years. He is now an assistant coach at Rumson.
7th ANNUAL ESSEX-UNION UNDERCLASSMEN ALL-STAR BASEBALL GAME
MONDAY, JUNE 20 AT KEAN UNIVERSITY
2016 UNION COUNTY ROSTER (updated):
4-Will Faucher, New Providence, (5-11, 155), junior, infielder
Chris Roof, Gov. Livingston head coach
Joe Higgins, Scotch Plains head coach
Mike Abbate, Dayton head coach
Chris Brodeur, New Providence head coach
Dan Mondelli, GL assistant coach
SCORES, MVPS, DISTINGUISHED ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
2016: Essex County vs. Union County – at Kean University
2nd DISTINGUISHED ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Mike Sheppard Sr., Seton Hall
2015: Essex County 12, Union County 7 – at Kean University
ESSEX MVP: Anthony Condito, Nutley, junior outfielder
UNION MVP: Matt Meola, Union, junior first baseman
1st DISTINGUISHED ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Fred Hill, Rutgers
2014: Essex County 7, Union County 2 – at Snyder Park, Berkeley Heights
MVP: Anthony Maldonado, North 13th Street Tech, junior infielder-pitcher
2013: Essex County 8, Union County 6 – at Kean University
MVP: Tyler Brandon, Seton Hall Prep, junior pitcher from New York City
2012: Union County 7, Essex County 1 – at Kean University
MVP: Luis Amaro, Roselle Park, junior pitcher
2011: Essex County 12, Union County 1 – at Kean University
MVP: D.J. Link, Seton Hall Prep, junior catcher from Clifton
2010: Union County 4, Essex County 4 (tie) – at Kean University
MVP: Rob Fonseca, Seton Hall Prep, junior first baseman from Madison
I covered the Watchung vs. Mountain Valley games at Elizabeth’s Williams Field.
Here’s a look at my stories from the 2008 and 2009 Watchung vs. Mountain Valley games:
2008: Watchung Conference 5, Mountain Valley Conference 4 – at Elizabeth
By JR Parachini
ELIZABETH – Hits flew out of the ballpark, a total of 10 pitchers were used and a large showing of fans were treated to a nine-inning, one-run ball game that came down to the last play. All in all, not a bad beginning for what hopes to be an annual event.
2009: Mountain Valley Conference 7, Watchung Conference 4 – at Elizabeth
By JR Parachini
ELIZABETH – You can argue that Rob Smorol was the best baseball player in Union County this year.
His batting statistics back that up.
You can also argue that the Johnson senior left hander was the best pitcher – no disrespect to Westfield senior right hander Chris Jenkins and Scotch Plains junior righty Gary Binkiewicz.
When Smorol was healthy enough to pitch, not many caught up with his fastball or reached base.
Johnson head coach Dave Kennedy shut him down twice during the season because of a sore left arm. Smorol will attend Rutgers on a baseball scholarship and Kennedy, who played minor league baseball, was not taking any chances.
Smorol felt fine enough to pitch at the end of the season and Kennedy gave him the opportunity. He kept on getting batters out and winning games.
Kennedy also gave Smorol the ball to start Wednesday afternoon’s second annual Mountain Valley Conference vs. Watchung Conference Seniors All Star Baseball Game at Williams Field.
In a perfect three-inning stint, he sent Watchung Conference batters back to the dugout shaking their heads. Nine came up and nine went down, including six on strikeouts.
Smorol earned the mound victory in an eventual 7-4 MVC triumph that evened the series at 1-1. The Watchung Conference team won last year’s game 5-4.
“You’ve got the best seniors in the county here, so this was a lot of fun,” Smorol said.
When you’re pitching and not allowing any baserunners and striking out numerous batters, there’s a lot to smile about.
Smorol went 4-0 on the mound with a 1.13 earned-run average this year. He struck out 53 in 31 innings.
Had he been healthy enough to pitch the entire season, who knows what his numbers would have been like? Johnson finished with a winning record of 16-7. That mark might have been better as well.
This is how he described his senior campaing:
“It was a roller coaster, I guess,” Smorol said. “I still got to hit, but I was really disappointed that I couldn’t pitch this year.
“There was nothing I could do about it. I actually think the injury made me stronger, with more flexibility now in my arm.”
Smorol described the injury this way, “it was an impingement in my shoulder. Basically, that came from lack of flexibility in my shoulder. There was some fluid in my arm, so I had to just shut it down for two or three weeks.”
Smorol began the year strong on the mound and was then limited to just batting and playing the outfield. He then came back – on a limited pitch count – to beat Bloomfield 3-1 at Roselle Park April 19, throwing about 75 pitches in an economical six-inning start.
Then Kennedy had to shut him down again because of soreness that was there once more.
Smorol came back on the mound again to pitch against Roselle Catholic and Governor Livingston, beating RC 1-0 on the road May 21 and GL 8-1 at home on May 27.
“Against Roselle Catholic I felt very good and the GL game I didn’t have much arm strength, but my arm felt fine and I didn’t have any arm problems,” Smorol said. “I didn’t have as much strength, but my arm felt good.”
He was strong and unhittable against the Watchung Conference All Stars.
“Today, my arm felt good,” Smorol said. “I would say I’m at 100 percent right now.”
Smorol is now playing for the Toms River-based New Jersey Terminators before his career at Rutgers will begin in September.
“The Terminators goes all the way until the fall and we have seven Division 1 pitchers on the team and 12 Division 1 players,” Smorol said. “After that, Rutgers starts right as soon as school starts.’
Smorol’s fastball was looking pretty sharp Wednesday, with a pop you could hear loud and clear coming from Brearley catcher Roger Marques’ glove.
“Last year I hit 87, but I haven’t been clocked at all this year,” Smorol said. “I would have to say 88 maybe, somewhere around there.”
“We had four pitchers and Tom Mannix pitched on Sunday,” said Kennedy, who along with RC head coach Joe Kropa served as the MVC coaches.
Mannix, who will next play in the North-South All Star Football Game at Kean University in Union June 29 before heading to Holy Cross on a football scholarship, went the distance for Brearley in Sunday’s Group 1 final vs. Park Ridge at Toms River East.
While Mannix was playing shortstop for the MVC squad, the North football team was practicing at Elizabeth’s football field across the way. Mannix will now be joining those practices.
After Smorol pitched his three perfect innings, Brearley righty James Stafford pitched the fourth and fifth, allowing three runs.
Cranford right hander Adam Fanelli allowed no runs in the sixth and seventh and fellow Cranford righty James Knight just one run in his two innings of work, the eighth and ninth innings.
The MVC team scored two runs in the bottom of the second for a 2-0 lead and never trailed. Those runs were given up by WC starter AJ Ortiz of Linden, a lefty who will continue at Keystone College in La Plume, Pa.
Plainfield right hander Joshue Reyes pitched a scoreless third inning for the WC team, while Linden lefty Richard Weber gave up three runs in the fourth.
Union righty Ryan Pascullo, who will play at Rutgers-Newark, allowed one run in his two-inning stint that covered the fifth and sixth innings.
Dason Jones, a righty from Newark East Side, gave up one run in the seventh, while Elizabeth right hander Yilson Herrera pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings.
Although the MVC team was ahead 7-4 after Knight got the third out in the top of the ninth, the coaches allowed the teams to play the bottom of the ninth.
Herrera pitched a 1-2-3 inning and the game was over.
Tom Baylock of Scotch Plains, Bob Brewster of Westfield, Pat Migliore of Linden and Scott Gleichenhaus of Plainfield were the WC coaches.
Smorol was the most dominating player on the field and would have been the most likely MVP candidate had one been chosen.
At the plate this year, he batted .547 with 24 runs and 40 RBI on the season.
In Wednesday’s game, the righty batter got up once in the later innings when he wasn’t pitching. He flied out to right in his only at-bat.
Kennedy will miss having him on the mound and in his lineup.
“He’s got control of his stuff and he’s throwing as hard as I’ve ever seen him,” Kennedy said. “He’s got ability to throw more than one pitch.
“He’s a pitcher and I think he’s going to be ready when he gets to the next level. I hope he keeps improving and has a shot at the weekend and can be a starter for Rutgers. You never know?”
Steve Balboni of Governor Livingston had two hits his first two times up for the MVC squad. His father Steve, a former New York Yankee and Kansas City Royals player and assistant coach at GL, is now a scout for the Yankees.
Balboni’s father was in attendance watching his son play. Both stands were filled with very enthusiastic fans.
“Last year we probably had about 25 in attendance, this year we probably had about 250,” Kennedy said. “This was a pretty good crowd.
“On that side of it you’ve got to think that over time – if we can keep this going – this can be a real nice thing.”
Elizabeth head coach Ray Korn was responsible for putting the game together the first two years to give kids undecided on where they would be going to college exposure to college scouts and coaches.
Like last year, there were local college scouts in attendance.
“Without Ray, it’s going to be difficult, because he did so much to keep this going,” Kennedy said. “I think if the Union County coaches get together and commit to something and have something where you put out a product, people would want to watch it.”
SECOND MVC VS. WC SENIORS ALL STAR BASEBALL GAME
Watchung Conference (1-1) 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 1 – 4
Mountain Valley Conference (1-1) 0 2 0 3 0 1 1 0 0 – 7
Rob Smorol, Johnson lefty: 3 innings, 0 runs (9 up, 9 down, 6 strikeouts)
James Stafford, Brearley righty: 2 innings, 3 runs
Adam Fanelli, Cranford righty: 2 innings, 0 runs
James Knight, Cranford righty: 2 innings, 1 run
Smorol was the winning pitcher.
AJ Ortiz, Linden lefty: 2 innings, 2 runs
Joshue Reyes, Plainfield righty: 1 inning, 0 runs
Richard Weber, Linden lefty: 1 inning, 3 runs
Ryan Pascullo, Union righty: 2 innings, 1 run
Dason Jones, Newark East Side righty: 1 inning, 1 run
Yilson Herrera, Elizabeth righty: 2 innings, 0 runs
Ortiz was the losing pitcher.
MVC scored two runs in bottom of second for 2-0 lead.
WC scored on run in top of the fourth to pull to within 2-1. Third baseman Kenny Russell of Elizabeth had the first WC hit, which was an RBI-single that drove in Dashon Jones, who reached on an error and stole second.
MVC scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 5-1 lead. Cranford’s Mike Gaeta scored his second run of the game after leading off with an opposite field double to right. RC’s Nick Drejaj then brought home Johnson’s Mark DiMaio with an opposite field RBI-single to right. Fanelli drove in Drejaj with an RBI-single to right-center.
WC scored two runs in the top of the fifth to pull to within 5-3. With the bases loaded and two out, Jones drove in a run with a single to left. Alex Espinosa of Newark East Side then walked with the bases loaded, with Elizabeth’s Willy Montas scoring. Russell then flied out to deep left-center, with Brearley’s Cory Stryker making a nice catch for the inning’s final out.
MVC took a 6-3 lead in the sixth on an RBI-single by RC’s John Kropa that scored pinch runner Matt Canales of Union Catholic, who ran for Marques, who singled.
MVC scored its final run for a 7-3 lead in the seventh when Canales smashed an RBI-single to center that scored RC’s Tom Bouck, who reached base on a leadoff walk.
WC scored the game’s final run in the top of the ninth when Montas, who caught for the WC team, brought home Kevin Maroney of Scotch Plains on a sacrifice fly. Maroney, who will continue at Monmouth University, played first base.
NOTES: Brearley players Stryker and Josh Manto replaced the two New Providence players – Max LaPlance and Greg Dinerman – who were originally selected to compete for the MVC team.