BRIDGEWATER, NJ – It was certainly hard to top day one of The Last Dance World Series, especially given Prince Rodgers Field saw two of the first New Jersey high school baseball contests in 2020 on July 14.

Not even 24 hours later and starting bright and early on July 15, players and coaches from Bridgewater-Raritan (BR Panthers), Somerville (Branchburg Bulldogs), Immaculata (Spartans) and Bernards (Bernards) continued the second of their pool play games at Bridgewater’s Prince Rodgers Field and in the North Region 8 pool with contests as follows: Bernards vs. Somerville, and Immaculata vs. Bridgewater-Raritan.

In what ended up being a tournament elimination game in the pool to start the day, Somerville (1-1) led 2-1 over Bernards (0-2) with one out in the bottom of the 3rd inning before breaking the game open with a nine-run frame. Trailing 11-1 at the conclusion of that inning and with the score the same heading into the top of the 5th, Bernards brought home a pair of overdue but timely runners in scoring position to cut the lead to 11-3. But with the bases loaded, Pat Lawson, who also picked up the win on the mound, hit a walk-off bases-loaded single to give Somerville a 13-3 victory in five innings by run/mercy rule.

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Per official regulations, a team who finishes an inning from the 5th frame onwards and is ahead by a margin of at least 10 runs automatically wins.

But this rule certainly wasn’t a factor in the second game of the day.

Immaculata (2-0) and Bridgewater-Raritan (1-1) met in a contest, each needing a win to control its destiny to win the pool and advance to the single-elimination rounds of The Last Dance. Coming off a thrilling 2-0 win against Somerville in 10 innings just 24 hours earlier, the Panthers found themselves in another defensive/pitching duel against the Spartans. But Bridgewater-Raritan came up just short this time around. With one out, Ryan Giacobello hit an RBI single for Immaculata in the bottom of the 4th inning to bring in the game’s lone run, while starting pitcher Ryan Kabus threw a four-hit, complete-game shutout and struck out ten Panthers batters to lead the Spartans to a 1-0 victory.

Kabus threw 92 pitches in a gem of a performance for the win on the mound. Despite the loss, Panthers starting pitcher Anthony Scarlata, who scored the go-ahead RBI in the 10th inning against Somerville the day prior, also had a phenomenal performance. He finished the day allowing only three hits, one run and one walk while striking out seven Spartans batters in five innings.

Detailed game recaps for both games can be found below, and given a lot is at stake in both games of the final day of pool play at Prince Rodgers Field, scenarios to determine the winner will also be outlined at the end of this article.

GAME 1: Bernards (AWAY) vs. Somerville (HOME)
FINAL/5: Bernards 3, Somerville 13

Just like the day prior, one rough inning and the opposing defense coming up big with runners in scoring position was the difference in the loss by Bernards.

Eddy Gambelli and Colin Walsh each drew walks off of Somerville starting pitcher Pat Lawson in the top of the 1st inning, and had three steals between them to put runners on second and third. However, a pair of strikeouts by Lawson denied Bernards what would have been the game’s first scoring plays. Andrew Holmes then took the mound for Bernards, and Matty Wright led off for Somerville in the bottom of the frame with a single and a steal, while a bobbled grounder put runners on second and third with nobody out.

Despite a pair of strikeouts by Holmes in the inning, a passed ball at the plate and then an RBI single by Zack Repetto scored Wright and Matt Miceli to give Somerville an early 2-0 lead.

After Will Bouher and Max Kaul both each executed perfect bunts for infield single with a walk drawn by Chris Reyda in between, Bernards appeared to be in position to break through with the bases loaded and nobody out. With one out, an RBI single by Noah Gagnon cut Somerville’s lead in half to 2-1, but a strikeout by Lawson and a ground ball to short ended the inning.

Somerville came up empty in the 2nd, and Holmes had allowed no runs and only three hits up to that point for Bernards. He had also struck out three batters, while Lawson struck out two more Bernards batters in the 3rd to reach five strikeouts after three innings.

They then rode that momentum and exploded in the bottom of the 3rd. Starting the inning at the top of the order, a single by Wright began what ended up being a barrage of eight hits and particularly nine runs to break the game open. Somerville ultimately extended its lead to 11-1 and sent 13 batters to the plate, and even began to go through the lineup a second time. Wright had two hits in the inning, including a two-run double in Somerville’s third-to-last at bat of the frame, to cap off a 3-for-3 day with three runs, 3 stolen bases, one walk, and two RBIs.

Needing at least one run in the top of the 5th inning to stay alive, Bernards began to chip away at Somerville’s lead. They scored two runs on RBIs by Ryan Falduto and Tom Orlic, but the five runners in scoring position they stranded in the contest ended up being costly.

With their lead cut to 11-3, Somerville’s first three batters of the inning successfully reached base and loaded the bases with nobody out on a walk by Timmy Wright, a single by Kyle Insabella, and a walk by Karson Wengryn. Needing two runs in the inning to win by run rule, Matty Wright drew a walk to score one run, and despite back-to-back strikeouts by Bernards’ Vincent Falivene immediately afterwards, Lawson hit the game-winning walk-off single to score Insabella and give Somerville a 13-3 victory.

Lawson also earned the win on the mound after throwing 59 pitches in four innings, striking out four Bernards batters, and allowing four hits, one run, and four walks.

GAME 2: Bridgewater-Raritan (AWAY) vs. Immaculata (HOME)
FINAL: Bridgewater-Raritan 0, Immaculata 1

For the second straight day, Bridgewater-Raritan found itself in another extremely low-scoring affair.

This time, the Panthers came up just short and on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

Despite needing 21 pitches to get out of the opening frame, Immaculata starting pitcher Ryan Kabus and the Spartans defense ultimately escaped with Panthers runners on the corners in the top of the 1st inning. Bridgewater-Raritan starting pitcher Anthony Scarlata then immediately retired the Spartans in order with a pair of strikeouts of his own to set the tone for what would be another defensive/pitching duel.

A 1-2-3 second inning by Kabus followed by two picked off Spartans runners in the bottom of the 2nd by Bridgewater-Raritan certainly added fuel to the fire, and with both pitchers quickly each retiring the side in the third inning, three innings seemed to go by in the blink of an eye.

After three innings, Kabus’ pitch count was at just 42 for Immaculata, while Scarlata’s pitch count was at 48 for Bridgewater-Raritan.

But in the 4th inning, Kabus again retired the Panthers in order with a pair of strikeouts to go with it, giving the Spartans pitcher six strikeouts and just one first-inning hit and one first-inning walk allowed after four innings pitched. Immaculata’s offense then finally broke through in the bottom the 4th, as Chris Markovich led off with a single and Kabus put him in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Ryan Giacobello, who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs in Immaculata’s 8-1 victory over Bernards the night prior, then singled into a ball into center that took two of the craziest Spartans bounces possible.

This ultimately scored Markovich and put Immaculata up 1-0 before the 4th inning came to an end.

While Bridgewater-Raritan led off the 5th inning with a single by Aaron Santos, Kabus’ seventh strikeout along with a diving catch of a line drive at second for an inning-ending double play denied the Panthers what could have been a good chance to tie the game. But Scarlata answered by striking out the side in the bottom of the frame to keep the score at 1-0 in favor of the Spartans.

Kabus struck out two more Panthers batters in the 6th inning to get Immaculata out of the frame unharmed with a runner on second and ultimately set up a thrilling finish. The Spartans were retired in order in the 6th, and the Panthers went into the final inning of regulation needing to score at least one run to stay alive.

Kabus retired the first two Panthers batters of this inning and got his tenth and final strikeout in the process. With the Panthers down to their final out, Justin Sinibaldi hit a double into right to put the tying run on second base. Unfortunately for Bridgewater-Raritan, a well-hit fly ball into right was caught, and Immaculata escaped with a 1-0 victory.

With 92 pitches, four hits and one walk allowed, 10 strikeouts, and a complete-game shutout, Kabus got the hard-fought win on the mound for Immaculata. After throwing 21 pitches in the first inning, he averaged just under 12 pitches per inning in the remaining six frames of the contest.

This performance put the Spartans just a win against Somerville away from winning the Bridgewater pool as explained below.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2/3:
The North Region 8 (Bridgewater) pool standing are as follows after the above two games:
1. Immaculata (2-0)
2. Bridgewater-Raritan (1-1)
3. Somerville (1-1)

4. Bernards (0-2)

While all teams are guaranteed three games in the pool play stage of the tournament, Bernards was mathematically eliminated from contention in North 8 due to their second loss of pool play. The team the emerges with the best record with tiebreakers factored in if necessary will ultimately win the pool and advance to the single-elimination portion of the tournament.
With one more day of pool play on July 16th and therefore one more game for each team, however, Immaculata, Bridgewater-Raritan, and Somerville can all still win the pool.

POTENTIAL CLINCHING SCENARIOS:
NOTE: These are NOT official by any means.

IMMACULATA: Immaculata controls its own destiny and therefore has the simplest clinching scenario: win against Somerville (1:00pm, July 16th) to go undefeated (3-0), finish first in the pool, and advance in the tournament.

All other teams would be eliminated with no tiebreakers necessary if Immaculata wins its final game. That said, the possibility of potential tiebreaker scenarios coming into play was briefly brought up in the Day 1 recap linked at the top of this article.

Now is definitely the time to revisit them and the (unofficial) clinching scenarios of the remaining two teams as follows:

SOMERVILLE: If Somerville defeats Immaculata to put both teams at 2-1, things will get very interesting. A Somerville win in the 1:00pm game following a Bridgewater-Raritan loss to Bernards in the 10:00am game would give both Somerville and Immaculata the best records in the pool. However, in this scenario, Somerville would advance based on the head-to-head tiebreaker (i.e. where ties between two teams with similar records would be broken by the team who won the contest directly between each other).

Simply put, Somerville would win the pool and advance in The Last Dance tournament with a win against Immaculata and a B-R loss.

BRIDGEWATER-RARITAN: Bridgewater-Raritan MUST win against Bernards in the first game (10 a.m. July 16) to finish with a 2-1 record in the North 8 pool. However, whether or not the Panthers ultimately emerge from the pool will be out of their hands; if B-R wins, this would be decided in the following 1 p.m. game between their crosstown rivals Somerville and Immaculata. If Bridgewater-Raritan AND Somerville both win their final games on July 16, this would force a three-way tie at 2-1 between B-R, Somerville, and Immaculata.

In this three-way tie, the head-to-head tiebreaker scenario would no longer apply, and would instead go to the following tiebreaker: fewest runs allowed. Here are the total runs allowed so far in the two games played by each of these teams: Bridgewater-Raritan 1 (17 innings played), Immaculata 1 (14 innings played), Somerville 5 (17 innings played).

The Panthers and Spartans therefore have currently allowed four fewer runs than Somerville and have the advantage so far in regards to this tiebreaker should it come into play. Bridgewater-Raritan therefore would clinch the pool with a win against Bernards AND an Immaculata loss to Somerville AND a win in the three-way tiebreaker of the fewest runs allowed.

In other words, every run scored in the final day of pool play could ultimately decide who advances in The Last Dance and who will be eliminated.
Baseball is amazing.

NEXT UP + WHAT’S AT STAKE:

The final two games as follows will take place at Prince Rodgers Field at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. tomorrow (on July 16). As explained in the section above, the pool winner will not be decided until both games are played, as three of the four teams are still mathematically alive to win it.
Fasten your seatbelts for a wild finish to the North 8 pool!

Per The Last Dance tournament fan policies: “Fans are encouraged to wear masks, to bring their own chairs, and to socially distance from all non-family members. Fans are not permitted in the areas directly behind home plate or directly next to the dugouts. Fans should stay in their cars until fifteen (15) minutes prior to the start of a contest. If a fan returns a foul ball, please return it to the dugout so it can be sanitized before return to play.”

GAME 1 (10 a.m.): Bridgewater-Raritan (1-1) vs. Bernards (0-2). A win by Bridgewater-Raritan and a loss by Immaculata in Game 2 below will set up the three-way tiebreaker scenario explained above, where the pool winner would be determined by fewest runs allowed. Bridgewater-Raritan would be eliminated from the tournament with a loss in this game.

GAME 2 (1 p.m.): Immaculata (2-0) vs. Somerville (1-1). The Spartans control their destiny and would win the pool with an undefeated record if they defeat Somerville no matter what happens in the first game. If Bridgewater-Raritan loses the first game, the winner between Immaculata and Somerville in the pool finale would ultimately advance particularly due to the head-to-head tiebreaker that would go to Somerville with a win by Somerville (and this game would effectively become the North 8 championship game).

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