Seton Hall Prep baseball team defeats Millburn to win fifth straight GNT championship


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WEST ORANGE, NJ – The Seton Hall Prep varsity baseball team captured a record fifth straight Greater Newark Tournament title.

Behind great pitching, outstanding defense and timely hitting, the second-seeded Pirates defeated top-seeded Millburn, 4-2, in the 85th GNT championship game held at Belleville High School’s George Zanfini Municipal Stadium baseball field on Saturday, May 20. The Pirates also extended their GNT record to 17 titles and improved to a 24-2 record this season. SHP also beat Millburn in its previous game three days earlier.

In the GNT final, SHP opened the scoring in the top of the third when Mike Ukrainskyj launched a double off the center-field wall to open the inning. Two outs later, Kevin Gately singled to left field to drive him in to make it 1-0. They increased their lead to 2-0 when Francis Prior walked to open the fourth inning. Two outs later, Ukrainskyj hit an RBI double to right center. After Millburn scored in the bottom of the fourth to make it 2-1, SHP came right back when Jack Zyska had a one-out bunt single. With two outs, Prior drove in Zyska with a single to left field to make it 3-1.

Millburn scored a run in the bottom of the fifth to make it 3-2 and had runners on first and second with no outs when Eric Vaz made a great catch on a bunt attempt to record the first out. Millburn’s top hitter lined a one-hopper to Gately, who turned it into a 4-6-3 double play to halt the Millburn rally. SHP added to its lead, scoring one run to make it 4-2. Catcher Eric Raio walked and courtesy runner Angelo Crincoli scored when Gately doubled into the left-field corner.

Jack Mahala (6-0) pitched a great game, hurling six strong innings and allowing two runs, one earned, on five hits with four strikeouts and one walk. Nick Maldonado pitched the seventh to record his second save of the season with one strikeout.

Following the game, Mahala said, “My fastball was reliable today, I was struggling with my off-speed stuff and had to grind it out. My defense played great behind me, especially Gately and Vaz.” Gately said, “With the game so close, we had to play top-notch defense against a great team like Millburn and we did.”  Ukrainskyj commented, “I think people expect the No. 8 hitter to work the count, but you see a lot of first-pitch fastballs in that spot and those were the ones I jumped on.”

SHP head coach Mike Sheppard Jr. said, “Jack gutted through the game today.” About Ukrainskyj’s success, Sheppard said, “Mike was batting second and sometimes lead off early this season and was a little too aggressive in those spots, so we moved him down in the order, figuring he would see more fastballs.” About the offense, Sheppard said, “Our offense has been struggling this season; we’ve been leaving too many guys on base. Today, our guys, Gately, Ukrainskyj, and Prior, came up with big two-out hits. Pitching and defense will win a lot of games for you and today it did for us.”

Earlier in the week, the Pirates hosted Morris Hills at Porcello Field on May 16 and won, 7-1. Christian Bascunan improved to 2-0 on the season, pitching five innings and allowing one run on five hits with two strikeouts and two walks. Steven Sgaramella threw the final two innings, allowing one hit with one strikeout.

Trailing 1-0 in the fourth inning, SHP scored three runs to take the lead on a two-run single by Ukrainskyj and a sac fly by Vaz. They increased their lead to 5-1 in the fifth inning when Ukrainskyj had an RBI single and Gately, who walked and stole second, scored on an error. They scored their final two runs in the sixth when Zyska had a two-run double to left center field.

On Wednesday, May 17, they traveled to Millburn and won, 9-3, in a Super Essex Conference-American Division game. The victory clinched at least a tie for the SEC-American Division title. It marks their sixth SEC-American Division title. Jamil Vanheyningen (5-1), of West Orange, threw a complete game, allowing three runs on three hits with five strikeouts and no walks. SHP opened the scoring in the second inning when Ukrainskyj and Gately had RBI singles and Ryan Hebert had an RBI fielder’s choice. Gately had another RBI single in the fourth to make it 4-0. After Millburn made it 4-1 after four innings, SHP blew open the game, scoring five runs to make it 9-1. Ukrainskyj, Hebert, and Prior had RBI singles to highlight the inning.

SHP has two division games remaining with a 13-1 record. They are scheduled to visit Livingston on May 24 and visit Montclair on a date to be determined. Millburn had a 12-3 record with one game left against Newark Academy on May 23.

The Pirates are the No. 4 seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey Non-Public “A” state tournament and will host fifth-seeded Delbarton in the quarterfinal round on May 30 at Porcello Field at 4 p.m. The winner will visit top-seeded St. Joseph of Montvale in the semifinal round June 2.

The Pirates are the defending champion. They also are the defending NJSIAA Non-Public “A” state champions.