Seton Hall Prep baseball team captures GNT title for fourth straight season

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WEST ORANGE (Updated Friday May 27, 5:47 p.m.) – The Seton Hall Prep varsity baseball team won the 84th Greater Newark Tournament championship for the fourth consecutive season.

The top-seeded Pirates did it in emphatic fashion, beating third-seeded Nutley, 11-1, in the championship game held at Doc Goeltz Field in Verona on May 21, avenging a tough 5-4 walk-off loss to Nutley three days earlier in a Super Essex Conference-American Division game in Nutley.

It also marked the Pirates’ 16th GNT title and 22nd GNT final appearance, extending their tournament records. SHP improved to a 23-3 record.

The Pirates opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning when two runs scored on an infield error and with the bases loaded they pulled off a “triple steal” as sophomore Jack Zyska stole home to give them a 3-0 lead.

In the fifth inning, Nutley scored one to cut the lead to 3-1. In the bottom of the fifth, SHP sent 11 men to the plate, scoring seven runs on six hits to take a 10-1 lead. Freshman Nick Maldonaldo had a two-run double, senior Justin Miller had an RBI single, senior Joe Giovinco had a two-run single, senior Patrick O’Hare had an RBI single and another run scored on an error. They closed out the scoring when senior Nick DeNicola drove in senior Ryan Toohers with a single in the bottom of the sixth.

Senior righty Brendan Shamieh (7-0 record) threw six full innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits with one strikeout and one walk.

Following the game, Shamieh  said, “I think we came in here today fired up and we certainly knew Nutley was a real good team and we had to play well from the first pitch to the last to beat them.”

O’Hare added, “I was really motivated to come out here today and do really well against Nutley because on Wednesday I struck out three times. I was fortunately able to do that. The main thing is that we really hit well as a team.”

Maldonado commented, “It’s an honor to be a freshman playing on the varsity here at SHP as the older guys have really taken me under their belt to be great role models.”

SHP head coach Mike Sheppard Jr. said, “I didn’t refer to the tough loss to Nutley this week but I just feel that all I have to mention is the great history of Nutley against SHP in the GNT and that’s enough.”

Frank Gately, SHP’s assistant coach for 26 years and pitching coach, said, “pitching and defense is about everything we try to do each game. I think we really accomplished that today besides the great team hitting as SHP turned two double plays and made no errors and Brendan, who did not have his best stuff but he really competed.”

In earlier action, the Pirates  defeated Caldwell, 9-2, at the Kelly Athletic Complex on May 16. They opened the scoring in the first inning on an infield groundout by junior Francis Prior to take a 1-0 lead. In the third inning, trailing 2-1, they tied the game at 2-2 on a bases-loaded walk to DeNicola. The Pirates took a 6-2 lead, scoring four in the fourth inning when O’Hare hit a two-run double and Miller had a two-run single. They added three more in the fifth when O’Hare hit another two-run double and senior John Savino had an RBI single. Senior righty Gerard Phillips (3-0) picked up the victory, pitching six innings, allowing two runs (none earned) on three hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

On May 18, SHP  traveled to the Park Oval in Nutley and lost a tough game to Nutley, 5-4, in nine innings. Trailing 1-0 in the third inning, SHP scored two runs when Savino hit a sac fly to right field and Toohers had an RBI single. They added a run in the fourth on a solo home run by Zyska and a run in the fifth on a solo home run by Toohers to increase their lead to 4-1. Nutley came back in the seventh to score three runs and won the game with a run in the ninth.

On May 19, the Pirates traveled to Harry Shatel Field at the Harter Road Complex in Morristown and defeated Morristown, 4-3, in eight innings. They opened the scoring in the fifth inning when Savino hit an RBI single. They increased their lead to 2-0 in the third inning when Zyska hit a solo home run. Morristown tied the score at 2-2 with single runs in the third and fourth innings. In the top of the seventh, Savino walked and pinch-runner Mike Ukrainskyj, a junior,  scored on a wild pitch to give SHP a 3-2 lead. Morristown came back to tie the score in the seventh on a wild pitch. SHP scored the go-ahead run in the eighth when DeNicola singled to open the inning. Senior A.J. Cerbo, the courtesy runner, was sacrificed by Giovinco. On the play, he went all the way to third base. He was driven in on a sac fly by Zyska. Maldonado (4-0) picked up the win in relief, pitching the final 1 1/3 innings and retiring four consecutive batters.

SHP received the No. 2 seed in the state North Jersey Non-Public A tourament. The Pirates will host a quarterfinal-round game against the winner between 10th-seeded Oratory and seventh-seeded Paramus Catholic on May 31. The top seed is Delbarton. The semifinals are June 3 and the final is June 6.

The Pirates defeated Bloomfield, 20-0, May 11, at Bloomfield Middle School field in a Super Essex Conference-American Division game for their fourth straight shutout. O’Hare went 3-for-3 with four RBI and three runs scored; DeNicola was 2-for-3 with two RBI; senior Chris Festa was 1-for-1 with two RBI; Zyska went 3-for-3 with an RBI and Ukrainskyj, juniors Nico Mottesi, Eric Vaz, Josh Tannen and Kevin Gately; and Toohers, Savino, Miller and senior Dylan Badger each had an RBI.