SOMERSET, NJ - The Franklin Warriors, finished their guaranteed three games in the Last Dance World Series this week with a 1-1-1 record.
Franklin, which played in the North Region at the Piscataway Regional (11A) at Columbus Park, won game one against the Diamond Warriors (Watchung Hills), 8-1. On Wednesday, the Warriors fell to Ridge, 7-1, meaning they would have one game left before their journey was up. Then finally, on Thursday morning in a 11B crossover at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, Somerset tied with Hillsborough, 3-3.
Recently graduated senior Ryan Hanna, who had two singles, two RBI, two runs scored, and a walk in the three games, talked about the experience.
“It was a great opportunity to play in this tournament,” Hanna said. “Big thank you to (St. Joseph Metuchen Athletic Director) coach Mike Murray and everyone that put it together. It was a great opportunity to get one last chance to play with the guys again. While it sucked we didn’t get a chance to have our full spring season, this gave us a chance to play with each other one more time and that’s something I’ll always remember. For us seniors, I know we all cherished every single moment of this. We all wanted one last run together and we were given it. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but it was still an amazing experience with these guys and to just pour our hearts and souls into the games.”
Franklin started on a high note with the convincing victory over Watchung Hills. Junior teammate Joshua Kuroda-Grauer got things going with a solo home run and it was all Warriors from there. Hanna scored twice in the contest and had an RBI.
“Tuesday was amazing. Josh setting the tone to start the game and then Nadell (Booker) coming in and pitching a gem for us, it was perfect,” Hanna said. “It was like nothing had happened and we picked up right where we left off. Even though Watchung put up a good fight, we just outlasted them and separated ourselves.”
Franklin stayed strong in the game despite a mishap with the lights going out.
“Even with the little delay, we were still loose and just having fun with it all,” Hanna said.
The last 72 hours or so for Somerset have been crazy, but it’s something the seniors especially will keep with them.
“Coach (Nick Zucchero’s) message after it was all just thank you,” Hanna said. “Thank you to the seniors who put everything into this program for the last four years, and he also gave props to the younger guys who played big roles and played a very good game today against Hillsborough after our senior send-off.
“Coach Z has been an amazing coach and has helped us grow on and off the field. He really has done so much for this program and I know that he will continue to go in the right direction.”
Kuroda-Grauer, a Rutgers commit, had six hits including a home run, two doubles, and a triple during the Last Dance to lead the way. He had both hits and scored the lone run against Ridge and finished with four runs scored total.
Against Watchung, Danish Nadeem went 2-for-3 with a home run and a double with two runs scored, two RBI, and a walk and Avery Myers notched an RBI-double.
Against Hillsborough, after falling behind 2-0 in the first inning, Somerset’s Thomas Mrotek and Vincente Rivera both scored in the third and Dylan Millman scored in the top of the sixth to take a 3-2 lead before the Raiders knotted the score in the bottom half of the frame.
The Last Dance World Series is a 222-team high school baseball tournament that is sanctioned by the USSSA and not the NJSIAA. It was put together by St. Joseph (Met.) Athletic Director and head baseball coach Mike Murray. Each squad was split into either the North or South Region and grouped geographically into regionals (1-16 A/B).
The winner of each numbered group after a crossover final will move onto the Sweet 16, then the Elite 8, Final Four, and then the Championship.
The single-elimination rounds, starting on July 21, will be played at home stadiums of minor league clubs in the state including TD Bank Ballpark (Somerset Patriots), Skylands Park (Sussex County Miners), Yogi Berra Stadium (New Jersey Jackals), and FirstEnergy Park (Lakewood Blue Claws).
Arm & Hammer Stadium in Trenton, home of the New York Yankees’ Class AA affiliate the Trenton Thunder, will host the championship game on July 31.
Somerset Warriors Roster
Peyton Bonds, Nadell Booker, Myles Castillo, Ryan Hanna, Pedro Irizarry, Joshua Kuroda-Grauer, Dylan Ling, Sam Mattia, Dylan Millman, Tyler Moore, Thomas Mortek, Avery Myers, Danish Nadeem, Sohan Patel, Gabe Perez, Vincente Rivera, Charles Schiermyer, Jamin Shah.
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.