For many New Jersey high school baseball programs, the 'Last Dance' Tournament, in July, gave coaches and players the chance to finally work as a team, after a very disappointing end to the season, before it really began.
Glen Ridge High was one of the schools which fielded a team in the Last Dance, and head coach Liam Penberthy was ecstatic to get the opportunity to see his players.
The team had begun practice on, or around March 6, and the nice weather for that time of year had given so many programs optimism for a nice year ahead. Unfortunately, the season was first delayed, then eventually canceled, because of Covid-19.
The Last Dance Tourney was put together state wide, and has been well received. It began with games from July 14-16, with every school assured of three games. The winners of each bracket would then advance to the next round, and keep playing until eventually winning a title, in both South and North Jersey.
"It was a great opportunity for the kids to get back out on the field," said Penberthy. "I was pleased with how smooth the tournament was run. Speaking from my experience, the idea of this being fun, and for the seniors, diminished quickly after the first pitch of each game. It became very high school season-like."
Competitiveness was the order of the day for the Ridgers and their opponents.
"Teams were battling back and forth," said Penberthy. "Kids wanted to win on both sides. Unfortunately we were not able to advance beyond pool play,but were able to notch one in the win column, against Cedar Grove."
The Ridgers opened against Caldwell.
"Our opening game was tough," said Penberthy. "Caldwell swung the bats well, and the ball just seemed to find holes for them. Hey, that’s baseball."
Glen Ridge also lost a close game against Columbia High, of Maplewood.
"There is plenty of room for improvement, and our players will continue to do so, playing through the summer," said Penberthy. "We will return most of our guys next season, which is exciting for me.
"We lose Aidan Brennan and Hayden Sweet to graduation. They will be missed by myself and their teammates. Aidan and Hayden provided leadership, and an even-keeled approach for the team. They also brought a 'do or die' attitude to the field for the three days, as they did not have next week guaranteed, let alone a next season.
"I wish Hayden and Aidan the best as they transition into the best four years of their lives."
Read more about the Ridgers here https://www.tapinto.net/towns/bloomfield/sections/sports/articles/glen-ridge-high-baseball-coach-liam-penberthy-has-a-young-core-hopes-2021-will-be-a-breakout-season-for-team
The 2020 baseball season certainly had a different theme.
"We always talk about playing each inning like it’s your last," said Penberthy. "This year, that statement couldn’t ring truer. I certainly hope, going forward, this idea hits home for our team. We have work to do, and improvement that needs to occur, if we are going to be who we say we want to be next season and beyond."