SOMERSET, NJ - Baseball bats will soon be pinging in New Jersey as the Last Dance World Series begins with pool play next week from July 14-16.
The 222-team tournament featuring plenty of high school talent across the state is being run by the United States Specialty Sports Association and is not technically a high school tournament or sanctioned by the NJSIAA. It is considered a youth tournament.
Teams are broken up into two big regions - North and South - and then placed at locations nearby geographically for pool play (Groups 1-16 A/B) and in mini brackets for the single-elimination games.
Franklin High, better known as the Somerset Warriors for the tournament (roster at the bottom), is set to play in the North Region umbrella at Piscataway’s Columbus Park against the Diamond Warriors (Watchung Hills) on July 14 at 5:00 p.m. Piscataway is facing Hillsborough afterwards at approximately 7:30 p.m.
“Excited is an understatement,” said Warriors head coach Nick Zucchero. “I’ve done virtual practices the entire season until about mid-May expecting and encouraging the kids to take advantage of their time to practice their craft each day in the confines of their own homes. The kids are chomping at the bit to get into real games.”
Organized by St. Joseph (Metuchen) head baseball coach and Athletic Director Mike Murray, the Last Dance will be the first athletic event held in the Garden State since March due to COVID-19. The NJSIAA spring season was cancelled.
“Big thanks to Mike who coordinated this,” Zucchero said. “If it wasn’t for him and all the coaches who have helped this wouldn’t be possible.”
After pool play, the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 for the North and South Regions will take place on July 21 and July 22, respectively. The Final Four for each region will be held on July 28 and July 29. The overall final will be on July 31. All dates are subject to change due to weather.
The single-elimination rounds 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.
“Our goal is to make it as far as possible. At the end of day, though, this tournament is meant for the seniors to have one last shot at playing together,” Zucchero said.
For the tournament, there are a few different rules such as 11 batters can step up to the plate and there are unlimited defensive substitutions. There are also no pitch count or innings limits and umpires will be located in different positions on the field.
Every player, coach, and umpire will have their temperatures taken upon arrival and players and coaches have to wear masks in the dugout and keep their social distance as much as possible. Fans have been asked to arrive no more than 15 minutes before first-pitch and keep their distance down the lines.
“I haven’t received any negative feedback. The parents are excited that their kids are going to have one last shot at playing this year.” Zucchero said. “I made sure that all of the parents of the players were on board and have been very transparent with the procedures from the USSSA so everyone feels as comfortable as possible going into this.”
For the full pool play schedule, click here. TAPinto Franklin will have you covered and updated on how the Somerset Warriors fair in the tournament.
Franklin Warriors Roster
Peyton Bonds, Nadell Booker, Myles Castillo, Ryan Hanna, Pedro Irizarry, Joshua Kuroda-Grauer, Dylan Ling, Sam Mattia, Dylan Millan, Tyler Moore, Thomas Mortek, Avery Myer, Danish Nadeem, Sohan Patel, Gabe Perez, Vincente Rivera, Charles Schiermyer, Jamin Shah.
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.