For the 6th consecutive season, the Cumberland County College Dukes hosted the 1st Round of the Region XIX Baseball Tournament and it was an enjoyable weekend for all baseball fans. Due to the elevated play of the entire region, there were two "play-in" games to determine the 7th and 8th participants in this year's tournament. As the #2 overall seed, Cumberland hosted the Phantoms of Delaware County Community College and the Vikings of Ocean County College. Delaware County and Ocean County played a thrilling 11-inning game to determine who would earn the right to challenge Cumberland on their home field.
Ocean County would prevail, defeating Delaware County, 6-5.
This would be the 4th time that Ocean County and Cumberland would faceoff on the diamond as the two teams met earlier in the regular season. Cumberland would sweep the series in a hotly contested matchup that ended in walk-off fashion as Luke Turner hit a 3-run home run to complete the sweep for the Dukes.
Game 1 of their postseason matchup would develop into another classic matchup between these two well-run programs as Anthony Capasso took the ball in his first collegiate postseason start. Capasso was nearly unhittable as he overcame first inning jitters to cruise through 5 scoreless innings. During that time, the Cumberland offense would build what would seem a formidable lead. Dylan Scaranda (2 for 5, 5 RBIs, 2 Rs, 1 HR) and Shawn Vazquez (2 for 5, 3 RBIs , 1 HR) would lead the charge for the Dukes as they would both homer and account for 10 of the 11 runs scored by Cumberland on the day. Brian Gallante, Nicholas Milhan, and Misael Castillo each had 2 hits to continue the impressive day for the Dukes offense.
It would not be all roses for Cumberland as Ocean would tie the ball game up at 5 in the top of the 8th to chase Capasso. Capasso would pitch 7 complete innings with 6 strikeouts, scattering 6 hits and giving up 5 earned runs. In the bottom of the 8th, the Dukes would seize control of the game with a 6-run inning highlighted by a solo HR by Shawn Vazquez. Capasso would be relieved by Nick Hillesheim who shut down the Ocean County threat throwing two scoreless innings to secure the victory for Cumberland.
Ocean County would slow Cumberland down with starter Matt Malatesta. The Dukes offense would be led by Brian Gallante (1 for 3, 1 R), Patrick Meenan (1 for 3, 1 R), and Nicholas Milhan (2 for 4, 1 RBI), but could not muster significant threats on Malatesta. Cumberland starter, Steve Bowley, manuevered his way through multiple tough situations going 6.1 innings on the day. He would give up 11 hits, but only 4 earned runs. Nick Hillesheim would make another appearance and provide another strong outing going 2.2 innings and not giving up a run.
In the bottom of the 9th and the Dukes trailing 4-2, Ivan Solis and Luke Turner would reach base via singles to threaten Ocean. However, Malatesta would finish the game and close out the Dukes for a complete game victory.
Facing elimination would prove to be a defining game for the young Cumberland roster as they would face an Ocean County team riding a wave of momentum from their victory in Game 2. The Dukes offense would answer the call as they would score 3 early runs with 2 in the first and 1 in the third to take a 3-0 lead into the 4th inning. They would extend that lead to 6-0 highlighted by a 2-run home run by Dylan Scaranda. Ocean would not go down quietly as the answered in the top of the 5th with 3 runs of their own. Cumberland's pitching and defense would limit the damage and keep Ocean at bay the rest of the way to secure the 6-3 victory and move on in the postseason.
Cumberland was led by Nicholas Milhan (3 for 5, 2 RBI, 3 R), Ivan Solis (2 for 3), and Eric Stewart (2 for 3, 1 RBI). Dylan Scaranda added to his postseason home run total to 2 with his 2-run shot in the 4th inning. Brian Bromley started his first postseason game and performed admirably limiting the Vikings to scoring in just one inning. He teamed with Nick Hillesheim to strikeout 8 Viking hitters and scattered 11 hits.
Cumberland now advances to the Region XIX Final Four for the 5th consecutive year, a record for the program. At press time, Cumberland joins Rowan College at Gloucester County and Brookdale Community College in the Final Four with Northampton Community College and Bergen County College playing game 3 tonight for the final spot.
The host of this year's Region XIX Final Four will be Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville, PA. Cumberland's first game is tentatively scheduled for 12 PM on Friday with their opponent still to be determined, which will be based on tonight's matchup between Northampton and Bergen.