BRIDGEWATER, NJ — The mission behind the statewide Last Dance Tournament this summer has been to give baseball teams a little bit of the experience they missed out on in the spring, and the closure that senior ballplayers didn’t get due to schools being shut down since mid-March because of the pandemic.
The tournament has been greeted enthusiastically around the state, and attendance has been robust in many places.
But in seeding the teams by region, some contingents got the short end of the stick more than others. The Bernards Mountaineers, for example, are an outgrowth of a small Group 2 program, and they were placed in a region with three opponents who all could have been legitimate contenders for a Somerset County championship in the spring.
Bernards has had to do battle with Immaculata, Somerville and Bridgewater-Raritan. For the Mountaineers, that amounts to Dancing With The Stars.
After losing to Immaculata, 8-1, in the first game of the tournament on Tuesday, the Mountaineers were back at it Wednesday morning at the Prince Rodgers Complex, where Somerville (Branchburg) pulled away with seven runs in the bottom of the third inning en route to a 13-3 victory over Bernards.
After Somerville pushed across two unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning, Bernards got a run back in the second. Will Bouher beat out a bunt down the third base line to lead off, Chris Reyda drew a walk and Max Kaul also bunted his way on, loading the bases with no one out. With one out, Noah Gagnon lined an RBI single to left field, but Bernards left the bases loaded after that.
Right-handed pitcher Andrew Holmes threw well through the first two innings for Bernards, but an error and three soft infield hits among the first 11 batters Somerville sent to the plate forced the big righty to throw a lot more pitches than he might have otherwise, which helped lead to a third-inning uprising in which Somerville chipped away and eventually got into the Bernards bullpen.
The Mountaineers have one more game in the Last Dance Tournament, facing Bridgewater-Raritan at 10 a.m. Thursday at Prince Rodgers. Bridgewater-Raritan is 1-1 in the tournament.