RVL NOTEBOOK - Burlington County Times

May 13, 2013

Delran visits Vincentown as RVL opens 67th season

The Rancocas Valley Baseball League kicks off its 67th summer of men’s semipro baseball Monday night — weather permitting — when Delran visits Harry Thompson Field to take on defending champion Vincentown in a rematch of the 2012 playoff finals.  This is also the start of the 116th consecutive summer of baseball in the county, starting with the Burlington County League, which existed from 1898 to 1952.  

There are always roster changes in this type of league, and that’s again the case in the RVL this year. Taking over for the retired Rocky Petrone at Delran will be a combination of veteran pitchers Eric Gertie and Jason Ronca.  Two other changes will see former coach John Veterano trade jobs with former manager Gerry Lamola at Pine Barrens, and Mike Hynes and Matt Mann are now in charge of Riverside, in place of Gabe Mastrangelo Sr.

The nine-team league will again play a 32-game regular season, with each team facing the others four times, twice at home and twice on the road.  Following the regular season in early August will be the playoffs to decide the 2013 RVL champion. The eighth- and ninth-place teams will play a play-in game, with the survivor meeting the regular-season champs in a best-of-3 quarterfinal series. The other quarterfinal pairings are second place vs. seventh place, third vs. sixth, and fourth vs. fifth.

The Burlington Mets were regular-season champions in 2012. But they were upset in the semifinals by the Vincentown Merchants, who then swept Delran for their 13th RVL playoff championship.

Here are the 2013 opening-day rosters (in order of 2012 finish):

Burlington Mets

Manager: Keith Babula

Home: Life Center Academy, Florence

Roster: Keith Babula, Shaun Babula, Vince Corbi, Brandon Elliott, Matt Fischer, Dan Graham, Paul Guerrieri, Kevin Gunter, John Harvey, Vinny James, Lucas Jones, Dave Jost, Mike Kerns, Josh Limon, Mark McCouch, Sean McNeil, Garrett Mull, Anthony Perez, Pedro Perez, Jon Reiner, Kyle Semmel, Carl Taylor, Dan Torres, Jeff Vitale.

Comments: Last year’s regular-season champs (27-3-2) return pitchers Shaun Babula, Harvey, Taylor, Pedro Perez and McNeil, and added Gunter and McCouch. Infielder Dave Jost returns after a year’s absence. Guerrieri hit .487 with 20 RBIs.

Cinnaminson Reds

Manager: Brett Miller

Home: Memorial Field, Cinnaminson

Roster: Cameron Bahr, Craig Carroll, Casey Donahue, Martin Evans, Vince Gares, Geoff Gilbert, Greg Gilbert, Jim Goodwin, Pat Graham, Matty Janulis, Chris McManus, John Meadus, Nick Melchiorre, Brett Miller, Dennis O’Hanlon, Bob Osborne, Mike Osborne, Greg Santora, Frank Sirolli, Joe Sirolli, Ryan Varga, Mike Wasco, Tim Wasco.

Comments: This was an offseason of major changes for Cinnaminson, although the club’s brotherly base — the Osbornes, Gilberts, Sirollis and Wascos — will keep them near the top. Goodwin topped the staff in 2012 with seven wins.


Manager: Eric Gertie, Jason Ronca

Home: Notre Dame Field, Delran

Roster: Mark Anderson, Kyle Ballay, Mike DeLellis, Mike Forgash, Dan George, Eric Gertie, John Iacovelli, Bobby Isopi, Dave Kittle, TJ Maiorino, Chris Maull, Justin McFadden, Ryan McFadden, Kevin McMenamin, Sean McChesney, Kevin Milley, Max Newill, Rocky Petrone, Jason Ronca, Adam Tussey, Matt Ulmer, Mark Wickersham, Rex Workman.

Comments: Always a team to be feared, with solid veteran pitchers like Ronca, Gertie, Newill, Maull, Wickersham and DeLellis. And CF Ryan McFadden can track ‘em down with the best.

Vincentown Merchants

Manager: Harry Thompson

Home: Thompson Field, Vincentown

Roster: Joe Argow, Zeke Boren, Jack Bujanowski, John Bujanowski, Kevin Carty, Todd Davison, Mike Ferrara, Troy Foster, Andrew Gager, Adam Goldstein, Dan Hayduk, Stefan Kancylarz, Ed Moore, Greg Miller, Jesse Pappler, Sam Pepper, Vern Powell, Bryce Sonberg, Ian Thomas, Billy Thompson, Harry Thompson, Damon Valloreo, Danny Williams, Ryan Williams.

Comments: There hasn’t been a repeat playoff champion since Delran in 2007-08. But the Merchants have a history of making their championships back-to-back — 1953-54, 1967-69, 1972-73, 1997-2000. Pepper is coming off a summer when he hit .416 with 13 extra-base hits.

Mount Laurel

Manager: Dean Johnson

Home: Babe Ruth Field, Delanco

Roster: Brandon Barnes, Brian Black, John Burns, Mike Cooper, Ryan Derry, Kevin Diamond, Mike DiCiurcio, Justin Ely, Ben Fadool, Shane Fox, Connor Hall, Dean Johnson, Jeff McGarry, Paul Meagher, Austin Papp, Cole Pewor, Andrew Schaefer, Trevor Sotelle, Matt Szukics, Mike Tobia.

Comments: If you were looking for a sleeper to break up the RVL’s “Big Four,” Mount Laurel has basically the same team as last summer, plus they added p-1b Ely. Kevin (Meat) Diamond slugged .452 last summer, while Barnes was at .427 and Tobia .379.

Willingboro Baseball Club

Manager: Mike Stumpf

Home: Kennedy Rec Field, Willingboro

Roster: Tyler Bayley, Nick Berarducci, Justin Binder, Frank Caruso, Anthony DiVincenzo, Kevin Faber, Mike Gulli, Devon Hedgepeth, Dan Hill, Mike Juckett, Eddie Kaminski, Cameron Lung, Jose Martinez, Matt Moceri, Craig Ricks, Jamie Schwantes, Dan Sieracki, Rich Stronski, Mark Stumpf, Mike Stumpf, Paul Tessein, Jared Turner, John Walls, Jon Wetzel.

Comments: The WBC had some significant offseason losses, but also added some good players. As always, they will be in the hunt. Hill, who hit .433 last summer with a 4-3 record and 1.24 ERA pitching, has become a bonafide two-way threat.

Pine Barrens

Manager: John Veterano

Home: Bowker Field, Tabernacle

Roster: Rob Antoniewicz, Connor Arsenault, Greg Brooks, Matt Baer, Josh Brown, Frank Canuso, Chris Dellemonache, Ryan Derry, Shaun Flynn, Bob Henderson, Nick Henderson, Brian Henry, Dylan Johannink, Mike Kondrath, Ron Krankowski, Mike Lamola, Dan Lawrence, Rob McCabe, Rich Powelson, Eric Sellito, JT Triantos, Tyler Veterano, Doug Veterano.

Comments: The Phantoms are another team that could break through this summer. Krankowski (4-4, .387) and Powelson (.342) had solid 2012 campaigns.


Manager: Mike Hynes, Matt Mann

Home: Kenney Field, Riverside

Roster: Bryan Bessinger, Jeff Briggs, Jim Capparelli, Frank Cerami, Kodi Doyle, Buey Garafalo, Joe Gutowski, Mike Hynes, Kevin Joo, Tim Kemmerle, Brett Knazek, Joe Knazek, Matt Leith, Kevin Lovitt, Matt Mann, TJ Mann, Gabe Mastrangelo, Jonnie McGugan, Eric Oliver, Jacob Reeder, Jason Sabol, Josh Sabol, Jake Still, Tyler Wolf.

Comments: In its fourth year, Riverside keeps getting better and better. Most of last year’s team returns, led by Oliver (.481) and TJ Mann (.405).

The team will hold a fundraiser June 1 at Throwbacks Bar and Grill on Route 130 in Delran. Cost is $12 for all the wings (soda included) you can handle between 4 and 6 p.m.

Burlington Township Pirates

Manager: Ed Eifert

Home: Viereck Field, Burlington Township

Roster: Al Antuzzi, Dan Callahan, Steve Colangelo, Phil Dunbar, Brian Eifert, Ed Eifert, Eddie Eifert, Wayne Feret, Eddie Hoffman, Matt Klish, Charles Lavin, Chris Liberatore, TJ Lovenduski, Mike Lynch, Eric McGillivray, Ryan Murtaugh, Joe Parzyck, Dom Perillo, Tom Taggart, Andrew Velzy, Zach Wallace, Mike Zier.

Comments: The first-year Pirates were scrappy all last summer and look to improve during their second season. Feret proved to be a solid center fielder and hit .397, with just three strikeouts in 78 at-bats.

Monday, May 18, 2013

Vincentown wins RVL opener over Delran 3-1

Defending league playoff champion Vincentown opened the 2013 Rancocas Valley Baseball League season with a 3-1 victory over Delran.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Burlington edges Willingboro 6-5

Vinny James was 3-for-3, with a double and one RBI, to lead the Burlington Mets to a 6-5 win over the Willingboro Baseball Club Tuesday at the Kennedy Rec Center field.  John Harvey, who tied teammate Shaun Babula for the league lead last summer with eight wins, earned the pitching win, striking out seven, with Sean McNeil coming in to get the save.  Mark Stumpf had a double and scored twice for WBC. Craig Ricks took the loss.

Vincentown 19, Burlington Township 2

Sam Pepper picked up where he left off last summer, pitching the Merchants to their second win.  Greg Miller had a double and a home run while Johnny Bujanowski delivered a grand-slam homer in the bottom of the sixth.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cinnaminson edges Riverside in 8 innings

Mike Wasco singled to score Martin Evans in the bottom half of the eighth inning, lifting Cinnaminson to a 1-0 win over Riverside.  Evans walked to lead off the eighth, followed by a Mike Osborne single and an intentional walk to Geoff Gilbert. With bases loaded, Wasco delivered.

Ryan Varga got the win, pitching the final four innings after Nick Melchiorre went the first four. They combined for 14 strikeouts and allowed three hits total, countering the strong joint effort of three Riverside pitchers.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Burlington tops Riverside 3-1 behind Babula

Shaun Babula allowed four hits and struck out nine as the Burlington Mets improved to 2-0 in the Rancocas Valley League with a 3-1 win over Riverside Thursday at Kenney Field.  The Mets took a 1-0 lead against lefty Kevin Lovitt in the top of the fourth on Jon Reiner’s two-out single, which scored Paul Guerrieri. Garrett Mull delivered a double.  For Riverside, Frank Cerami had two hits, including an RBI double, and Josh Sabol added a double.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Szukics, Mount Laurel open RVL season with a win

Matt Szukics pitched a three-hitter with six strikeouts as Mount Laurel opened its Rancocas Valley Baseball League season with a 7-0 win over Riverside at Kenney Field.  Kevin Diamond was the big hitter, with three hits — a single, double, triple — and two RBIs. Connor Hall knocked in a pair of runs, and Paul Meagher and Trevor Sotelle each had two hits.  Third baseman Mike Tobia and shortstop Meagher made things easier for Szukics, with several outstanding plays.  Brett Knazek started for Riverside and took the loss.


Delran 5, Burlington Township 2:

Sean McChesney and Eric Gertie combined on a two-hitter as Delran rallied to win at Viereck Field.  McChesney went five innings, allowing one hit, striking out seven and two unearned runs. Gertie finished up under the lights.  Dan George had a two-run single for the key hit off loser Phil Dunbar. Brian Murtaugh pitched 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

  • Sunday night’s Willingboro at Cinnaminson game was rained out.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mount Laurel, Cinnaminson winners

Trevor Sotell pitched six innings and received help from Mike Tobia in Mount Laurel's 4-2 win over Delran.  Tobia struck out the side in the seventh to save the win for Sotell, who allowed four hits and struck out four.  Kevin Diamond and Justin Ely had two hits each for Mount Laurel (2-0). Ryan McFadden had two hits for Delran.


Cinnaminson 9, Riverside 1:

Ryan Varga went the distance (six innings) and struck out six as the Reds improved to 2-0.  Greg Gilbert tripled and doubled among his three hits, drove in three runs and scored twice.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pine Barrens starts season with a win


The Pine Barrens Phantoms scored three runs in the fifth inning and began their season with a 4-2 decision over Mount Laurel.  Ron Krankowski singled the first run home for Pine Barrens in the fifth and an error on the play allowed Chris Delle Monache to score. The Phantoms’ earlier run came on Eric Sellitto’s double in the second inning.  Matt Baer worked the first four innings for the win and Mike Kondrath saved it by striking out the side in the fifth, after which the game was called (darkness).


Cinnaminson 14, Burlington Township 4

A balanced attack boosted the Reds (3-0). Martin Evans had three hits, Bob Osborne and Joe Sirolli had two apiece, and the trio combined for six RBIs.  Brett Miller recorded the win, pitching five innings and allowing one earned run. Burlington Township’s T.J. Lovenduski had two hits.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Burlington Mets improve to 3-0

The Burlington Mets pulled out a 2-1 decision over the Pine Barrens Phantoms with an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth inning Friday in the Rancocas Valley League.  Shaun Babula went the route for the Mets, striking out seven and allowing one unearned run. Ron Krankowski went the first five for Pine Barrens (1-1), allowing four hits and one run in the fifth inning, when Babula scored on a two-out wild pitch. Nick Henderson took the loss when Kyle Semmel singled and eventually came home on an error in the darkness-shortened game.

RVL NOTEBOOK - Burlington County Times

May 27, 2013

Versatile Hall catching on at Mount Laurel

Connor Hall returned to Mount Laurel this summer hoping to get some experience chasing down fly balls in the outfield. His Rutgers-Camden coach told him he was considering moving the versatile Hall to play the outer pastures next spring.  But Hall, who was Mount Laurel’s regular first baseman last summer, was told by coach Dean Johnson that outfield wasn’t where he was needed.

“We had a couple of guys who didn’t come back and that forced us to make some moves,” Johnson said. “I had to put Connor behind the plate.”  Hall, who played high school ball at Delran, looked like he’d handled the position most of his life during ML’s opening-night win at Riverside.

Speaking of Johnson, the veteran coach was raving about the play of third baseman Mike Tobia and shortstop Paul Meagher in the opener.  “They were both outstanding,” he said. “Tobia made a couple of plays like you see on SportsCenter.”


Pine Barrens was the last RVL team to play, 10 days after opening day. The Phantoms finally opened Wednesday, notching a 4-2 win at Mount Laurel.  Matt Baer, 1-4 in 2012 but with a 2.94 ERA, went four innings to earn the pitching win. Mike Kondrath, coming back from a disappointing 2012 when he only pitched two innings, fanned the side in the last inning.

In another quirk of the schedule, Willingboro played its only game back on May 14. Its games Sunday against Vincentown and Monday against Riverside were postponed. The Baseball Club will be busier this week, facing Delran on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Ageless Max is back

His first name is not Ageless, but Max Newill seems to have that word always appearing in front of his name.  The veteran lefty was back on the mound last week when Delran dropped a 4-2 verdict against Mount Laurel. In seven strong innings, he allowed five hits, four unearned runs, walked two and fanned six.

A call to arms at Riverside

When coach Mike Hynes gets his pitching staff together, Riverside could be pretty good. The current roster includes lefties Kevin Joo and Kevin Lovitt, and righties Joe Gutowski and Jade Hendrick. That’s pretty solid.  Runs have been hard to come by for Riverside, but there’s a good reason. It’s gone up against Cinnaminson’s Ryan Varga twice, Burlington’s Shaun Babula and Mount Laurel’s Matt Szukics. In those four games, they’ve scored just two runs.

Father and son reunion

Johnny Bujanowski apparently likes playing next to his dad, Jack, in the Vincentown outfield. The young center fielder got off to a spectacular start, with eight hits in nine at-bats, six runs scored and five RBIs. He’s also reached base 12 of 13 times.  Jack Bujanowski, V-town’s right fielder, hadn’t missed a game in something like 18 years before injuring his right wrist diving into first base in a regular-season game at Cinnaminson last summer. The injury also forced him to miss the playoffs, which Vincentown won.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Vincentown knocks off Burlington

Stefan Kancylarz made his 2013 Rancocas Valley League debut and swan song a good one, hitting a home run to spark Vincentown to an 8-2 win over Burlington in a battle of unbeatens at Thompson Field.  Kancylarz, who just finished his sophomore year at Saint Joseph's and has been playing for V-town since his junior year of high school, will be playing in a summer league in California until Aug. 5.  Ryan Williams had two hits and starter Joe Argow (six innings) and Greg Miller combined for 11 strikeouts.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Delran tops Willingboro

Sean McChesney pitched a three-hitter for Delran in a 6-2 win over Willingboro in Rancocas Valley League baseball Tuesday.  Rex Workman doubled two runs home in the first inning, launching Delran to its second win in four games.  Ryan McFadden had two hits for Delran and Willingboro received two hits from Matt Speckmann.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Diamond sparkles in Mount Laurel victory

Kevin Diamond had two hits, including a triple, and scored two runs for Mount Laurel in a 5-1 win over Burlington Township in Rancocas Valley League baseball Wednesday.  Diamond and Matt Szukics (double) were two of the four Mount Laurel players with RBIs. Winning pitcher Justin Ely allowed one hit and an unearned run in five innings.  Matt Klish batted in the Township run. Another bright spot for the Pirates was Ryan Murtaugh’s six strikeouts in 2 2/3 relief innings.

Riverside 5, Pine Barrens 4:

Matt Mann walked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, allowing Josh Sabol to score the winning run.  Riverside trailed 4-0 going into the home seventh but took advantage of several walks. Tim Kemmerle, who pitched the top of the seventh, was the winning pitcher in relief.

Burlington 9, Cinnaminson 0:

Sean McNeil struck out five in a two-hitter for the Mets (4-1). Matt Fischer was 4-for-4, and Kyle Semmel had two hits and two stolen bases.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pine Barrens outscores Burlington Twp

Bryan Henry, Eric Sellitto and J.T. Triantos combined for nine RBIs in Pine Barrens' 13-7 triumph over Burlington Township.  Each of the Phantoms' trio had two hits. Henry tripled and doubled, Sellitto doubled and Triantos doubled. Winning pitcher Matt Baer benefitted from the support as Pine Barrens evened its record at 2-2.  Burlington Township received a three-run double from Dom Perillo and Jake DeWitt hit a two-run double for the Pirates.

Delran 5, Willingboro 4: 

Mark Wickersham had two hits, the first of which was a two-run double in the first inning that helped propel Delran to a 5-0 lead. Eric Gertie was the winning pitcher with a five-hitter as Delran improved to 3-2.  Jon Wetzel's two-run double in the fifth inning was prominent in the Willingboro comeback that fell short. Ed Kaminski also doubled for 'Boro.

Vincentown 10, Cinnaminson 6: 

Troy Foster hit a two-run double to lift the Merchants into a 5-4 lead en route to their victory. Greg Miller hit a home run, and Mike Ferrara and Dan Williams had two hits apiece for Vincentown, the defending league champion and 5-0 this year.


Friday, May 31, 2013

McFadden leads Delran attack in RVL win

Ryan McFadden had three hits and led Delran to a 14-3 win over Riverside in Rancocas Valley League baseball Friday.  Winning pitcher Jason Ronca had eight strikeouts in four innings as Delran boosted its record to 4-2.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Delran 6, Willingboro 4:

Ryan McFadden had three hits, scored twice and stole three bases to spark red-hot Delran over Willingboro.  It was the fourth straight win for Delran, and the fourth straight loss for Willingboro.  Max Newill, entering the game 0-2 despite a 1.08 ERA, finally got his first win, going all seven innings. He's gone the route in all three starts.  Mark Wickersham and Dan George each contributed two hits to the win.  Fran Caruso and Mike Juckett had two hits each for the 'Boro boys, while Connor McFarlane added an RBI double.

Pine Barrens 6, Burlington Twp. 2:

JT Triantos was 4-for-4 with two runs and Brian Henry added a single, triple and two RBIs as the Phantoms broke a 2-all tie with a run in the sixth and three in the seventh.  Eric Selitto went four innings and Mike Kondrath three, splitting 12 strikeouts.  For the Pirates, Wayne Feret had three singles, two stolen bases and scored both runs, while Eddie Eifert added a single and drove in both runs.

Lights out on Riverside-Cinnaminson:

With Riverside leading 6-5 in the top of the third, the lights at Memorial Field couldn't be turned on, due to a recently changed lock where the switch is located, so the game was suspended. No date is set for its completion.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Vincentown wins sixth

Dave Steig fired a two-hitter with 16 strikeouts as Vincentown coasted past Mount Laurel 15-1.  Sam Pepper led the hitting attack for the Merchants going 4-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Jesse Pappler and Greg Miller also had big nights at the plate. Pappler was 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs and Miller 2-for-2 with five RBIs.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mount Laurel 5, Delran 2: 

Kevin Diamond’s two-run double in the bottom of the second inning broke a 2-2 tie and winning pitcher Matt Szukics had 10 strikeouts in a three-hitter.  Mark Wickersham’s RBI single gave Delran a lead before Mike Tobia replied with a two-run double for Mount Laurel. Delran pulled even in the top of the second on Ryan McFadden’s RBI double.

Cinnaminson 7, Willingboro 4: 

Geoff Gilbert doubled the go-ahead run home in a three-run sixth inning that broke a 4-4 tie. Craig Carroll then retired Willingboro in the seventh to save it for Ryan Varga, who worked the first six innings (seven strikeouts, no earned runs).

Burlington 11, Riverside 2: 

Shaun Babula tripled, singled and had four RBIs for the winners late Tuesday. Vinny James (two RBIs) doubled three times and John Harvey struck out five in a five-hitter.  Pedro Perez had two hits and scored twice, celebrating his first joint appearance with younger brother Scoop in the Mets’ lineup.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Riverside well armed in RVL triumph

Kevin Joo pitched five strong innings for the win and Brian Bessinger worked the last two innings for Riverside in a 5-2 decision over Cinnaminson.  Tyler Wolf was 2-for-2 and scored twice, while Josh Sabol knocked in two runs for the winners (2-6). Greg Gilbert had a single and double in three trips for Cinnaminson (4-3).

Burlington 6, Burlington Twp. 2: 

Matt Fischer batted in four runs and stole two bases as the Mets improved to 6-1.  Sean McNeil was the winning pitcher, Luke Jones had two hits and one RBI, and Kyle Semmel scored two runs. Township received two hits apiece from Ryan Murtaugh (one RBI) and Wayne Feret.

Pine Barrens 8, Willingboro 6: 

Bryan Henry had three hits and three RBIs as the Phantoms improved to 4-3. Eric Sellitto had a two-run double in the second inning for Pine Barrens, and Dylan Johannink was the winning pitcher in relief (five strikeouts, 2 1/3 hitless innings).

Vincentown 9, Delran 4: 

Greg Miller’s double knocked in three of the seven runs the Merchants (8-0) scored in the fifth inning. Sam Pepper had three hits and scored two runs in support of winning pitcher Jonathan Morrow.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mount Laurel tops Burlington behind Cooper

Connor Hall had a two-run single in the last of the fifth and Mike Tobia added a double and a three-out save as Mount Laurel posted a 3-2 victory over the Burlington Mets.  Mike Cooper got the win, going six innings and striking out five. Carl Taylor fanned eight in six innings for the Mets.  Jeff Vitale had a two-out, two-run single in the sixth for the Mets.

Cinnaminson 5, Burlington Twp. 2: 

Cameron Bahr and Joe Sirolli had RBI singles to break a 2-2 tie in the top of the sixth.  Nick Melchiorre (6 IP, 7 K, 1 ER) outlasted Township Al Antuzzi, who allowed just three runs in 5 2/3 innings.

■ The Pine Barrens at Willingboro game was postponed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

George leads Delran to RVL victory

Dan George was 3-for-3 and batted in three runs for Delran in a 6-4 win over Cinnaminson.  Max Newill was the winning pitcher, going all seven innings and striking out six as Delran boosted its record to 7-4. Rex Workman had two hits and scored two runs for Delran.  Cinnaminson (5-4) received two hits apiece from Greg Gilbert and Mike Wasco.

Game Photos courtesy of Tri-County Sports Online


Vincentown 4, Pine Barrens 0: 

Joe Argow worked the first six innings and Greg Miller got the last three outs as the Merchants won their ninth game without a loss.  The Vincentown pitchers combined for six strikeouts. Adam Goldstein hit a two-run homer in the second inning to give Vincentown a 3-0 lead. Ryan Williams had two of the Merchants’ six hits.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

McFadden, Ronca spark Delran to RVL triumph

Ryan McFadden led off the game with a home run, launching Delran to a 4-2 victory over Cinnaminson.  Jason Ronca struck out 16 in a three-hitter and also aided the offense for Delran (8-4 record). Ronca and McFadden each finished the game with two hits and two runs scored.

Burlington 5, Burlington Twp. 0

John Harvey pitched a two-hitter, struck out 11 and walked one as the Mets improved to 7-2.  Matt Fischer and Kyle Semmel each had two RBIs, and Shaun Babula scored two runs. Semmel and Babula doubled, as did Township’s Zach Wallace.

Mt. Laurel 8, Pine Barrens 1

Mount Laurel scored all of its runs after the third inning and pulled away to its sixth win in eight games.  Pine Barrens took a 1-0 lead into the fourth. Mount Laurel scored twice to move ahead, then scored three runs in each of the next two innings.  Ryan Krupa had two hits for Pine Barrens and scored the Phantoms’ run.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Unbeaten Vincentown nips Mets

Sam Pepper’s RBI double, with two outs in the top of the seventh, scored an unearned run and lifted Vincentown to a 3-2 victory over Burlington.  Hard-throwing Dave Stieg, who fanned 16 in his RVL debut last week, allowed four hits and went the route, retiring 15 of the last 16 batters. He whiffed four. Shaun Babula took the loss, scattering 11 hits while striking out 11.  Vincentown (10-0) led 2-0 after the first four batters hit safely, including RBI singles by Mike Ferrara and Greg Miller. But Burlington (7-3) used a triple by Babula, and RBI singles by Kyle Semmel and Paul Guerrieri in the bottom of the first to tie the game at 2.

Game Photos courtesy of Tri-County Sports Online


RVL Notebook

June 17, 2013

Henry helping Pine Barrens catch on

The Pine Barrens Phantoms hope to make a move on the “establishment” in the Rancocas Valley Baseball League.  The establishment would be the Big Four of Vincentown, Burlington, Cinnaminson and Delran, seemingly the top four teams every summer for as long as most can recall.

And a big reason for that optimism is Bryan Henry, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder out of Northern Burlington High. He has given coach John Veterano stability behind the plate and, after starting out hitting fifth, has settled comfortably into the three hole. (He’s hitting almost .400 and averaging two RBIs a game.)  A second-team all-county selection in high school, when he was just 5-9 and before his “growth spurt” in college, Henry originally attended Chestnut Hill College, a Division 2 school in Philadelphia, largely because of that lack of size. When he filled out, he spent his final year at Keystone College, a top 10 Division 3 baseball power up north of Scranton in La Plume, Pa.  The catcher did well enough to be drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011 and played in a Mizzoula, Mont., Rookie League in 2011 and in both Low and High Class A ball last summer.

When former RVL teammate Ronnie Krankowski found out Henry was back in the area this summer, he suggested Veterano contact him and, voila!, Pine Barrens had a catcher, a No. 3 hitter, and maybe even a closer, too.  The 2013 Phantoms are a nice blend of veterans — Krankowski, Eric Sellito, Rich Powelson, Dylan Johannick, Frank Canuso, Chris Dellamonache, Mike Kondrath, Matt Baer, Nick Henderson and Mike Lamola — and newcomers — Henry, Ryan Krupa, JT Triandos, Rob Antonewicz and Spencer Bard.  “We have a chance to have a nice team of young college guys and young veteran players,” Veterano said. “And if we are serious about winning games, we need to develop a closer.”

Henry, who recently attended a Tampa Bay Rays tryout camp, approached Veterano about closing a game some night. That night came on May 29 at Riverside’s muggy Bob Kenney Field.  Johannink had thrown six near-perfect innings, striking out 11 and allowing two hits. Pine Barrens took a 4-0 lead into the last of the seventh as Henry took off the catcher’s gear, wiped his brow and took the mound.  “I was throwing strikes,” Henry said. “But I was getting squeezed a little by the ump, I thought. It went from a little league strike zone to a big league strike zone.”  After a couple walks and a strikeout, there were a couple more walks. One run was forced in, then two. Then another strikeout. And another walk.

Veterano visited the mound.  “He wasn’t all over the place, but he was up in the zone a lot,” Veterano said. “Two foul balls is all I can remember them even hitting.”

“I guess I stayed out there a little longer than I should have,” Henry said. “John came out and said if I could throw strikes he was gonna stick with me. I’m a competitor. I told him I could, but I guess I couldn’t.”

When the fifth run finally walked across, Henry had the rare pitching line of 2/3 of an inning, no hits, five runs, eight walks and two strikeouts.  “The guys from Riverside weren’t gonna hit it,” Henry said. “They were just gonna stand there and see if I could walk them before they struck out.”

Neither Henry, who said he threw over 90 mph while in high school, nor Veterano seemed dismayed. Quite the opposite, in fact.  “My arm isn’t quite conditioned to do stuff like that yet,” Henry said. “But as soon as I can, I’ll be back to close or do whatever I can to help this team.”

“In a similar situation, we will run him out there again,” Veterano said. “His stuff is that good.”

This and that

• Cinnaminson’s state Group 2 title had an RVL flavor to it: Coaches Bret Jenkins and Dan Rella are former Mount Laurel players, while infielder Cole Pewor is on the Mount Laurel roster and pitcher Clinton Hart is on the Cinnaminson Reds.

• This is a big week for Pine Barrens. The Phantoms face Cinnaminson Tuesday and Wednesday nights in a home-and-home, visit Vincentown Thursday, then have a twi-night twinbill with Burlington Sunday at Patty Bowker Field, starting at 5.


• Veteran Jason Ronca struck out 16 as Delran topped Cinnaminson 4-2 last Wednesday. He also contributed two hits offensively.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mike Kearns and Garrett Mull both launched two-run home runs as the Mets beat Burlington Township 8-5. Jeff Vitale and Paul Guerrieri added RBI singles for Burlington. The Pirates scored a single run in the fourth inning and batted around while scoring four runs in the fifth. Nick Cancellire knocked in a pair of runs with two RBI base hits. Dom Perillo and Brian Eifert added RBI singles for the Pirates. Jonathan Wilkins, in his RVL debut, pitched into the fifth inning to pick up the win for the Mets. Wilkins received help from Sean McNeil and John Harvey, who recorded the final out. Nick Cancellire took the loss for Burlington Township.  


Game photos courtesy of Tri-County Sports Online




Derry throws a gem for Mount Laurel

Ryan Derry pitched the shutout for Mount Laurel in a 10-0 victory over Delran.  Derry struck out seven and allowed four hits in the six-inning game as Mount Laurel boosted its record to 7-2. Brian Black was 3-for-3, batted in three runs and scored one.  Connor Hall contributed two hits and scored a run. Delran (8-6) received a double from Kyle Ballay.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mt. Laurel pulls away from Burlington Twp.

Some say win number one is the hardest to obtain. For Burlington Township, that saying is nearly a fact.  The 2013 Rancocas Valley Baseball League season has not panned out the way the Pirates had planned. Winless in 11 starts, Township had the tall task of breaking into the win column against a hot Mount Laurel squad.

Mount Laurel, riding a four-game winning streak, defeated Burlington Township 12-3 to improve to 8-2 on the season behind the right-handed services of starting pitcher Trevor Sotell.  Sotell turned in a solid outing, picking up the victory and only allowing four hits over six innings and striking out seven. Only one of the three runs Sotell allowed was earned.  “Trevor is always confident no matter who he faces,” Mount Laurel manager Dean Johnson said. “He threw well, threw strikes, and as long as we can get some good defense and hit behind him, he’s good.”

Mount Laurel jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a two-run single from Connor Hall, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Center fielder Kurtis Burnett (3-for-4, two RBIs) was a part of a 7-8-9 group that collectively went 6-for-12 with five RBIs.  Mount Laurel added three runs in the second inning, two in the fourth, one in the fifth and six in the sixth. Cole Pewor and Paul Meagher also had three hits apiece.  “Mount Laurel’s a very good-hitting club and we’ve seen some good pitching from them,” Burlington Township manager Ed Eifert said. “We really couldn’t get anything going against Sotell until the fifth and sixth inning. He’s a good pitcher and we knew that coming in.”

The only offense Burlington Township could muster up was an RBI single from Charlie Lavin and a bases-loaded walk from Brian Eifert. The third run came across the plate as a result of a Mount Laurel error.  “There are not a whole lot of positives we can take from this game tonight. We just didn’t have a very good game,” Eifert said. “We had a much better game (8-5 loss) against the Burlington Mets the other day where we staged a comeback, not so much tonight.”

Burlington Township, a second-year team, will try to break into the win column Sunday against Riverside. Mount Laurel's next game is a visit to Willingboro.

Pine Barrens 1, Cinnaminson 0: 

A fourth-inning run held up behind pitchers Matt Baer and Ron Krankowski. Baer worked the first four innings for the win and Krankowski handled the last three.  Bryan Henry singled in the fourth and took third when Krankowski’s attempted sacrifice turned into an infield hit. Eric Sellitto struck out but the ball eluded the catcher. Henry beat the relay back to the plate after Sellitto was thrown out at first base.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Juckett solid as Willingboro makes it two straight

How does a team rebound from a 0-7 start? Well, winning two straight is a good starting point.  Coming off of a convincing 8-0 victory over Cinnaminson the night before, Willingboro took the field again with hopes of acquiring its second win in as many evenings. The opponent was Delran and Willingboro accomplished the task at hand.  

Behind the left-handed craft of starting pitcher Mike Juckett, Willingboro squeaked out a 5-4 victory and improved its record to 2-7 in the Rancocas Valley League.  “Pitching,” Willingboro head coach Mike Stumpf said. “We pitched well. The night before against Cinnaminson, we had our starter throw seven innings, pick up 12 strikeouts and of course we scored some runs like tonight. Juckett used his fastball and curveball and had a good outing.”

Juckett went five solid innings, surrendering two runs (one earned) while allowing eight hits and one walk. He struck out four.  “I don’t pitch that much at all, now that I’m old,” Juckett said jokingly. “I just tried to throw the ball over the plate and let our defense do the job. Everybody showed up, which made it much easier.”

Willingboro stuck early, putting up a run in the second inning, three in the third and one in the fourth. The highlight came in the top of the third inning when Fran Caruso, who went 2-for-4, drove in two runs on a hard line drive to left field.

Delran starting pitcher Jason Ronca suffered a complete game loss. Ronca surrendered five runs on seven hits while walking five and striking out 10.  Delran made some noise in the final inning with a runner on third base and an opportunity to tie with two outs, but hard-throwing righty Tom Ditro fanned Eric Gertie swinging on a fastball to close things out.  “We made a couple of bad plays in the field,” Ronca said, “Pitching was a little shaky at times tonight but we gave ourselves chances toward the end.”

Delran drops to 8-7 but remains within striking distance in the standings with 19.5 points. Willingboro, trying to work its way up the standings, wasn’t underestimated by Ronca.  “We’ve all been playing each other so long that 2-7 or 0-7 doesn’t matter,” Ronca said. “I’ve faced them a ton of times in the past eight to 10 years. Whoever scores the first run is always at the advantage. They’re a good club.”

Willingboro looks to make it three straight Sunday afternoon when they host Mount Laurel at home. Delran, on the other hand, looks to rebound from losing three straight when they play host to Cinnaminson on Tuesday night.


Game photos courtesy of Tri-County Sports Online



Vincentown, Burlington pull out wins in RVL

Vincentown scored twice in the bottom half of the seventh inning and stayed unbeaten with a 4-3 win over Pine Barrens in Rancocas Valley League baseball.  Sam Pepper doubled the tying and winning runs home with two outs, lifting the Merchants to their 12th triumph. The bases were loaded on walks to Bryce Sonberg, Mike Ferrara and Greg Miller.  Vern Powell was 2-for-2 and batted in the earlier Vincentown runs. Winning pitcher Dave Stieg struck out 10 and walked none while scattering seven hits.  Pine Barrens (5-8 record) had taken a 3-2 lead on a two-run triple by Bryan Henry in the fifth inning.

Burlington 2, Riverside 1: 

The Mets also won in the bottom of the seventh, Shaun Babula scoring on a passed ball.  Babula was also the winning pitcher. He allowed a run in the first inning and nothing more on his way to a six-hitter with 11 strikeouts.  Garrett Mull scored the tying run for Burlington (10-3) in the fourth inning. Riverside received two hits from Josh Sabol, who scored the Patriots’ run on a single by Brett Knazek.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Burlington, Riverside play to RVL tie

John Harvey had a Friday night to remember ... but it was almost even better.The Burlington Mets’ right-hander went nine innings, allowed just two hits, no earned runs and had 15 strikeouts in a 3-3 tie with Riverside.  But with darkness settling in at Life Center Academy’s field, Harvey came up with one out in the bottom of the ninth against side-arming lefty Matt Leith. He hit a drive to deep left-center that was caught at the snow fence by Kevin Joo.  Paul Guerrieri and Matt Jolly had two hits each, Kyle Semmel scored two runs, and Guerrieri, Garrett Mull and Jon Reiner had RBIs for the Mets (10-3-1).  Riverside’s pitching was handled by Joo, Brett Bessinger and Leith.

Game photos courtesy of Tri-County Sports Online


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Vincentown remains unbeaten

The Vincentown Merchants remained unbeaten with a 10-1 win over Cinnaminson in the Rancocas Valley Baseball League.  V-town had needed an eighth-inning home run to win 3-2 when the teams met last Wednesday.  It was the sixth time in 13 games that Vincentown had scored in double figures.  Mike Ferrara was 5-for-5, Greg Miller was 4-for-4 and Jack Bujanowski added three hits. Dan Williams and Troy Foster each had two hits.  Righty Jonathan Morrow, a recent Seneca High grad, went the route, allowing just four hits. Ryan Varga took the loss for Cinnaminson (5-9).

Willingboro 16, Mount Laurel 5:

The ’Boro (3-7) won its third straight, doubling its biggest offensive showing of the year.  Matt Speckmann had three hits and scored three runs. Mike Gulli had two hits and four RBIs and Rich Stronski added two hits and scored three times. Each had a double.  Tyler Bayley earned the win with four innings in relief. Starter Connor McFarlane pitched well for three innings, but wasn’t able to return after the rain delay.  Kevin Diamond had a triple for Mount Laurel (8-3), which had its five-game win streak halted.

Riverside 19, Burlington Twp. 1:

Brett Knazek had four hits, including two doubles, five RBIs and scored four times to power Riverside.  Jason Sabol added two hits, while Jesse Fante went four innings to pick up the pitching win. Frank Cerammi and Brian Bessinger went the last three.

• The Burlington at Pine Barrens doubleheader at Patty Bowker Field in Tabernacle was rained out. The teams made it to the bottom of the fifth inning of the opener before the skies opened up.

RVL NOTEBOOK - Burlington County Times

More on Stumpf's mind than wins, losses

You knew Willingboro wasn’t going to stay winless for very long. For one thing, the Rancocas Valley League plays a 32-game season, and there’s just too much talent there for that to happen.  You couldn’t tell Willingboro lost its first seven games by watching manager Mike Stumpf, who is to laid back whatSports Illustrated‘s Gary Smith is to sports writing.

An 0-7 record, however, is what Willingboro took the field with Wednesday night at Cinnaminson. Craig Ricks tossed an 11-strikeout four-hitter, Rich Stronski slugged a double and homer and Willingboro rolled 8-0. Losing streak over. Stumpf, typically, had little reaction.  The next night Mike Juckett and Tom Ditro combined for eight strikeouts against Delran, Fran Caruso had a couple of big hits and ‘Boro won 5-4. The seven-game skid was forgotten, replaced by a two-game winning streak. Stumpf did have a little reaction to this one.

Delran had won the first three meetings this year against Willingboro by scores of 6-2, 5-4 and 6-2. And Delran’s pitcher Thursday was Jason Ronca, a longtime thorn in just about every RVL team’s side, but especially Willingboro.  “I gotta tell you, we’ve been facing Ronca for, what, 10 years now ... and I don’t think we’ve ever scored five runs against him,” Stumpf said. “Maybe in a season, but never in one game.”

Willingboro, as has been the case for several years now, has usually been close, the bridesmaid but never the bride, so to speak.  “We’ve been in most of our games, except Vincentown,” Stumpf said. “And most of the games have been close for five innings ... we just haven’t been able to finish.”

Not sure if this had anything to do with the losing streak, but within days after it ended, Stumpf was engaged to Bree Zubiria. Apparently he didn’t want to pop the question until his ‘Boro boys were winning.

This and that

• The Legend of Sam Pepper continues to grow in Vincentown. The former Seneca High School star had a memorable seven-day (three-game) stretch recently:

Friday, June 14, he delivered an RBI double in the top of the seventh inning to beat Burlington 3-2.

Sunday, June 16, he hit a home run in the top of the eighth inning to beat Cinnaminson, also 3-2.

Thursday, June 20, Pepper delivered a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 4-3 win over Pine Barrens.

Did we mention who those hits were off? Shaun Babula, Ryan Varga and Dylan Johannink, three of the RVL’s top pitchers.

Going into Sunday’s games, Pepper was hitting .514 (19-for-37) with five doubles, a home run and 10 RBIs (teammate Greg Miller tops the RVL with 21).

Speaking of Vincentown, the Merchants will be without the services of lefty Damon Valloreo for the year due to surgery. On June 23, 2011, Valloreo struck out 20 batters in a two-hit 10-0 win over Pemberton (now Pine Barrens).

But don’t feel too sorry for the Merchants. They’ve got plenty of arms — Joe Argow, Zeke Boren, Jonathan Morrow Jr., and Dave Stieg, along with relievers Johnny Bujanowski, Miller, Pepper and Kevin Carty. Stieg improved to 3-0 with a 10-strikeout effort in the Pine Barrens win.

• It’s hard to believe Cinnaminson played two games, 14 innings, at Memorial Park Wednesday night and didn’t score a single run. The Reds have many of the players who helped win RVL titles as recently as 2009 and 2011.

Cinnaminson had just eight hits on the evening, two each by Cameron Bahr, Vince Gares and Frank Sirolli, and one apiece by Greg Gilbert and Joe Sirolli.

Craig Ricks allowed four hits and whiffed 11 as Willingboro won 8-0 in the opener. In the nightcap, Matt Baer and Ron Krankowski combined on a four-hitter in Pine Barrens’ 1-0 win. Tough-luck loser Craig Carroll allowed just two hits and an unearned run in the nightcap.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mount Laurel edges Pine Barrens in RVL

Mount Laurel scored twice in the fourth inning for a 2-1 win over Pine Barrens in the Rancocas Valley Baseball League Monday.  Matt Szukics was the winning pitcher, allowing six hits in his six innings. He struck out four as Mount Laurel boosted its record to 9-3.  The game was halted by lightning after Pine Barrens batted in the top of the sixth. The visiting Phantoms (5-9) scored in the first inning. Bryan Henry doubled with two outs, then came home on a single by Ron Krankowski.  Niko Celia, a recent Lenape High School graduate, had two hits for Mount Laurel. Connor Hall led off the home fourth with a single, followed by a walk to Mike Tobia. With Justin Ely batting, they executed a double steal. Ely singled to score Hall and Paul Meagher followed with a single to score Tobia.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Burlington Mets 7, Burlington Twp. 0:

Shaun Babula fired a three-hitter with seven strikeouts for Burlington.  Babula had a solid night offensively, going 3-for-3 with three stolen bases and two runs scored. Paul Guerrieri added a pair of hits, including a double, and Kyle Semmel had a double and four stolen bases.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Willingboro streak reaches five

Willingboro ran its win streak to five games with a 13-1 win over Burlington Township. Willingboro is 5-7 after an 0-7 start; Township fell to 0-15.  Rick Stronski again led the attack, going 4-for-4 with four RBIs and a pair of doubles. Conner McFarlane was 2-for-2, including a double, and also drew two walks.  Brian Camp went six innings for the win and struck out six. Mike Juckett finished off the seventh.  Jake DeWitt had a double for Township.

RVL Notebook - July 1, 2013

Sing along with RVL coaches: Who'll stop the rain?

From Sunday through Sunday (June 23-30), there were 23 Rancocas Valley Baseball League games scheduled. Seven were played, and the other 16 were postponed.  They will be added to an already-busy July schedule as opportunity — and the weather — allows. (Anybody seen Ernie “let’s play two” Banks lately?)

Why the nightly downpours and thunderstorms? Did league president Ric Babula accidently send one of his infamous “nastygrams” to Mother Nature?  “It’s been crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Vincentown coach Harry Thompson, who has been involved with the Merchants as a player or coach since 1947.  “There’s gonna be a lot of doubleheaders, and that’s gonna affect pitching for everybody. I’m still trying to find somewhere to get (Sam) Pepper, (Greg) Miller and (Kevin) Carty some innings. Maybe now I’ll find some spots to do that.”

Because of all this rain, no team has even played 16 games — of the 32-game season. And they’ve been playing for six weeks, with just four weeks remaining until the playoffs.  Still, it’s close enough to the midway point to take a look at things.

Vincentown (13-0): When the Merchants pulled out games against Burlington, Cinnaminson and Pine Barrens recently, it made you think that — impossible as it sounds — maybe they could unbeaten. Thompson can throw Joe Argow, Jonathan Morrow, Dave Stieg and Zeke Boren in any four-game week.

Burlington (11-3-1): With pitchers Shaun Babula, Carl Taylor, John Harvey, Jonathan Wilkins and Sean McNeil, the Mets are never out of a game and rarely will have a losing streak. The bats have been hit-and-miss, but the recent re-signing of Zach Skidmore should help.

Mount Laurel (9-5): The season’s surprise team has nicely overcome a couple of preseason defections. Kevin Diamond has been tearing the cover off the ball, and is joined in the middle of the order by Connor Hall and Niko Celia. Mike Tobia, Matt Skuzics and Brian Black are solid.

Delran (8-7): It was 4-for-4 last week — four rainouts. But with Jason Ronca, Max Newill and Eric Gertie, along with newcomer Sean McChesney, to pitch it’s always in games. Mark Wickersham has been hitting like it’s 2005 again, and Ryan McFadden has added offense to his always-strong glove game.

Riverside (6-7-1): When lefty Kevin Joo is on the mound, it can play with anybody. Otherwise, there no superstars but plenty of guys who can play, like Joe (.296) and Brett (.385) Knazek, Brian Bessinger, speedy Eric Oliver and Gabe Mastrangelo, and hard-hitting Josh Sabol (.419).

Cinnaminson (5-9): The team of brotherly love — Gilbert, Osborne, Sirolli, Wasco — hasn’t quite been up to snuff, so far. Ryan Varga and Nick Melchiorre are veteran arms who’ve been aided by Greg Santuro and Craig Carroll. Greg Gilbert has been the main offensive weapon.

Pine Barrens (5-9): It’s got a deep staff — Ron Krankowski, Mike Kondrath, Dylan Johannick, Eric Sellito and Matt Baer. And with hitters like Bryan Henry, Ryan Krupa and Rich Powelson, it’s a threat in any playoff series.

Willingboro (5-7): The ‘Boro Boys have been coming on lately. The pitching has been good, with Craig Ricks, Tom Ditro, Tyler Bailey, Devon Hedgepeth, Connor MacFarlane and veteran Mike Juckett.

Burlington Township (0-15): The Pirates have generally been playing better, but not getting the results. Wayne Feret, Matt Klish, Phil Dunbar and the Eiferts, Eddie and Brian, have been the leaders.

Holiday break

The RVL will take a breather for the Fourth of July holiday, with no games Wednesday through Saturday this week. (Probably be sunny all four days!) The season restarts Sunday.


The Burlington Mets re-signed Zach Skidmore, who hit .429 with 15 extra-base hits in 2012. Other recent additions: Mark DeJesse (Delran), Mike Stumpf and Nick Beradanucci (Willingboro), Rich Ledbeater (Mount Laurel) and Matt Guerrieri (Delran).

In passing

The RVL community was shocked last Monday with the news of Mary Osborne’s death. The 71-year-old mother of longtime RVL stars Bobby and Mike Osborne suffered a heart attack while serving as a crossing guard.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Riverside tops Delran behind Joo

Riverside used outstanding pitching by Kevin Joo, with last-inning relief from Frank Cerammi, to post a 2-0 victory over Delran.  After losing its first four games and slipping to 1-6 on June 4, Riverside is now 7-7-1. Delran, which has been shutout three times in its current four-game losing streak, fell to 8-8.  ric Gertie matched Joo zero for zero until the fifth inning, when Tyler Wolf’s single scored Jesse Fante. Riverside pushed across an insurance run in the sixth when Brett Knazek singled home Jeff Briggs.


Willingboro 5, Burlington Township 4:

Willingboro made it six wins in its last seven starts when Eddie Kaminski scored in the bottom of the sixth on a wild pitch that went through an opening in the backstop.  Connor McFarlane earned the pitching win with five innings of scoreless relief, striking out 11. Rich Stronski led the winners (6-8) with two hits, including an RBI double.  Zach Wallace and Dan Callahan (5 k’s in 3 IP) pitched for the Pirates, while Mike Zier had two hits.

Mount Laurel 3, Cinnaminson 1:

Trevor Sotelle, with last-inning relief from Mike Tobia, outdueled Craig Carroll.  Matt Szukics had an RBI double in the top of the fourth to tie the game, and Diamond’s two-run double in the fifth (his second) won it.  Frank Sirolli and Greg Gilbert each had two hits for Cinnaminson (5-10).

RVL Notebook - July 8, 2013

RVL notebook: Hill's first RVL home run was a memorable one

Dan Hill has been playing organized baseball for over a dozen years. And at every stop along the way -- Cherry Hill National Little League, Cherry Hill High School West, Post 372 American Legion, Penn State-Abington, and the last three summers with Willingboro of the Rancocas Valley League -- he's always been among his team's best pitchers and hitters. 

The 6-foot, 275-pounder figures he's probably hit more than 30 home runs. But the one he hit last Monday evening at Life Center Academy is the one he's never, ever going to forget.  "That was the greatest hit ever," Hill said. "It meant so much because it came against Shaun. And it was my first RVL home run after three years. I didn't even see it go out. I heard my teammates yelling. I just floated around the bases ... I think I ran the entire way, yelling nonsense the whole time. There was so much adrenaline. It's something that will probably never happen again.. "Shaun is Shaun Babula, who pitched 11 years professionally before retiring in 2009 and has been among the RVL's best pitchers the last five years. Oh, he's also Dan Hill's pitching coach at Penn State-Abington.

When Babula was hired as the school's pitching coach in 2011, the two alpha males didn't quite hit it off at first.  "After my freshman year of college, I was pretty upset when the pitching coach left," Hill said. "Me and Shaun, we're two stubborn guys and we bumped heads a lot at first. But he put me in line. We would talk about things, not always baseball. Now I think he's the best coach ever.  "He's always rooting for the underdogs, working them up to pitch at the college level. He took my buddy (Nick Cancelliere, who plays for Burlington Township in the RVL) and converted him from a catcher into a pitcher who beat the No. 1 team in our conference."

Friendly trash talking between the two has been a constant since Hill, at Babula's suggestion, joined the RVL.  In the fourth inning last Monday, Hill lined a single to center field off John Harvey and barely beat Babula's throw to first base. "I knew he was gonna come up throwing," Hill said. "He made me chug a little harder. I definitely did not want to get 8-3'd."

Even after the home run -- on a 2-2 fastball -- there was a funny payback moment when Hill went to coach first base after his dinger. Tom Ditro, another Abington product, had reached on a single.  "We both knew Shaun has a great move, so I just wanted to remind Tom to stay close," Hill said. "He said, 'I'm just gonna stand right here on the bag.' "

Babula went into his stretch and threw the ball to first anyhow. Right at Hill, or was it Ditro? Or both? No matter, it went out of play, but the game ended on the next batter.  "I knew he was gonna do something like that,'' Hill said, noting it was all in good fun.  "We shook hands after the game and did the man chestbump/hug thing," the 36-year-old Babula said. "I like competing against my Abington kids. I always like to dust 'em off the first time they're up against me.  "It's funny, cause Dan always said, 'I don't care how many times you get me out, I just wanna hit one home run off you.' He certainly did that Monday night. The [big guy] got me, and now I'll never live it down, that's a guarantee."

Spreading them out

There are 11 Penn State-Abington players currently on RVL rosters: Burlington (Mike Kerns, Mike McCouch, Sean McNeill), Burlington Township (Cancelliere), Riverside (Tyler Freeman), Willingboro (Hill, Ditro, Fran Caruso, Kevin Faber, Connor McFarlane, Brian Camp).

Two-way threat 

Jason Sabol came into last Sunday's game in the bottom of the fifth inning, relieving Riverside starter Jake Still with a 5-1 lead against Mount Laurel.  In one inning he allowed four line drives, including a double, but miraculously allowed no runs.  After Brian Black and Conner Hall singled, Still got Kevin Diamond to line out to second baseman Paul Meagher, who flipped to shortstop Jesse Fante for a double play.  Mike Tobia then drilled a long double to deep left field, but the from Josh Sabol to Fante to catcher Joe Knazek nailed Hall in a bang-bang play at the plate.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cinnaminson rallies, snaps skid in RVL

Cinnaminson rallied from an early deficit for a 12-3 win over Burlington Township.  Ryan Varga’s double scored the tying and go-ahead runs during a five-run sixth inning that gave Cinnaminson a 6-3 lead. Greg Santora had singled to make it 3-2.  Cinnaminson took a 1-0 lead into the bottom half of the fifth inning before Township’s Jake DeWitt doubled, sending home the three runners Township had on base.  Varga finished with two hits and four RBIs, Mike Wasco doubled twice and scored two runs. John Meadus was the winning pitcher in relief (2 2/3 innings, three strikeouts).  Cinnaminson halted a seven-game losing streak and is 6-10 overall. Township remained winless despite pitcher Phil Dunbar allowing one run through five innings before Cinnaminson erupted.

Vincentown 6, Pine Barrens 2: 

The Merchants, idle for 14 days due to several rainouts, returned to action and won for the 14th time without a loss.  Dave Stieg struck out nine and walked two in a four-hitter. Greg Miller had two hits and Sam Pepper tripled.


Harvey sharp in Burlington's victory over Mount Laurel

The Burlington Mets finally got a chance to evade the rain and play a Rancocas Valley Baseball game.  After having five of their previous seven games postponed by rain, they used another strong performance by starting pitcher John Harvey to post a 4-1 victory over Mount Laurel at Life Center Academy.  The unbeaten Harvey, winning his league-best fifth game, threw six strong innings and scattered five hits.  “Every time he pitches, we can count on him to shut them down,” shortstop Matt Jolly said.  “It seems like the last couple games we've played an inning or two before the skies have opened up on us and we haven’t been able to play,” Harvey said. “I was in a good rhythm all day and I was able to keep the hitters off balance.”

On the offensive side of the ball, the first-place Mets (13-3-1) played a bit of small ball to manufacture their first three runs.  The Mets scored their first run in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Jon Reiner, scoring Vinny James, who reached on an error. That tied the game at 1-all.

The next two runs came in the third inning on successive ground outs to second base by Kyle Semmel and Matt Fischer. Sean McNeil and Shaun Babula reached base to start the inning, and scored on the grounders.  “In those situations, the guys know what they’re supposed to do and they got the job done,” Harvey said.

In the sixth inning, Jolly tacked on an insurance run with a home run to left field off Mount Laurel starter Justin Ely.  “I was just being aggressive," Jolly said. "I saw a fastball down the middle of the plate.”

Third-place Mount Laurel (10-6) took a 1-0 in the second inning. Mike Tobia came home on the throw through to second base on unsuccessful attempt to catch Cole Pewor stealing second base.  Burlington is 6-0-1 in its last seven games. Mount Laurel has lost three of its last four starts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Stumpf's four hits power Willingboro past Cinnaminson

Mark Stumpf was 4-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs to lead Willingboro to a 10-7 victory over Cinnaminson on Tuesday in the Rancocas Valley Baseball League.  Jon Wetzel also had three hits, including a double, for the ‘Boro boys (7-8). Dan Hill went four innings to earn the win, and Anthony DiVincenzo threw three scoreless innings of relief, striking out four.  Bob Osborne had three hits and scored twice for Cinnaminson (6-11).

 Vincentown sweeps Riverside: 

The Merchants improved to 16-0 with 10-0 and 14-4 victories. Joe Argow pitched a two-hitter, walked one and struck out four in the opener.  Sam Pepper hit a home run while going 3-for-3 with three RBIs. Greg Miller was 2-for-2 with four RBIs and Dan Williams had two hits.   The nightcap featured three hits (two doubles) by Jack Bujanowski in support of winning pitcher Zeke Boren. Miller, Pepper and Ryan Williams added two hits apiece.

Delran, Pine Barrens fit to be tied

Lights out.  Those two words refer to not only the game being shortened by darkness, but also the right-handed services of flame thrower Dylan Johannink.  It’s been an interesting season for Tuesday’s opponents, Delran and visiting Pine Barrens. And it was an interesting finish, a 4-4 tie halted by darkness after eight innings.

Delran won eight of its first 12 games but had lost its next four and came into Tuesday’s game at 8-8. Pine Barrens started 4-3 before dropping seven of its next eight to fall to 5-10.  With both teams in desperate need of a win, it was only fitting that neither one came away with one.

Delran jumped out to an early lead, putting up a four-spot in the second frame thanks to timely hitting and Phantoms’ miscues. Justin McFadden and Matt Guerrieri provided key two-out base hits to break the scoreless tie.  “It was nice to take the early lead,” Delran coach Eric Gertie said. “It just wasn’t enough to come away with the win.”

The Phantoms fought back with two runs in the fourth inning thanks in large part to some patient at-bats and a throwing error by a Delran infielder.  Pine Barrens tied the score with two runs in the fifth. Brandon Triantos provided the only hit of the inning, when he singled home Ron Krankowski to knot the game at 4 and ultimately end the scoring.  “It feels really good to come away with a tie and some momentum,” Phantoms second baseman Ryan Krupa said. “It’s been kind of a tough year so far. We started out hot but haven’t played well as of late. We’re a solid team. When everyone comes and plays together, we can do good things.”

The final two innings didn’t provide much offense, but the Phantoms’ Johannink put on an incredible display of pitching as he hurled two perfect innings, fanning all six batters he faced.   “I’ve been pitching ever since I was allowed to pitch,” Johannink said. “I throw fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. But as you saw tonight, if guys aren’t catching up to my fastball, I will continue to throw that.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bayley lends a hand as Willingboro evens record

It’s nearing the middle of July and Willingboro is sizzling.  Willingboro reached the .500 mark with a 7-4 win over Mount Laurel in a Rancocas Valley League baseball game Wednesday. Willingboro has won eight of its last nine after an 0-7 start and is 8-8 overall.

Winning pitcher Tyler Bayley surrendered three runs in the first inning, when Mount Laurel capitalized on errors. Bayley settled down over the next four frames, allowing one run on five hits, striking out five.  “Bayley pitched well after that first inning and gave us a chance to win,” Willingboro first baseman Fran Caruso said. “All we needed him to do was to throw strikes for us to have success.”

It turned downhill for Mount Laurel when starting pitcher Ken Kraft was lifted in the third inning due to an undisclosed injury.The team was already understaffed.  Willingboro posted a four-spot in the inning, thanks to four consecutive walks to Dan Hill, Tom Ditro, Cameron Lung and Justin Binder.  “We had some people call out,” Mount Laurel manager Dean Johnson said. “The air kind of came out of the balloon for us when we saw we didn’t have anybody on the mound. It shouldn’t be that way, but I believe that’s what happened.”

Mount Laurel (10-7) attempted to make a push by putting up a run in the fifth, compliments of an RBI single from Kevin Diamond to make it 5-4.  Willingboro, however, padded its lead in the sixth when leadoff hitter Mark Stumpf manufactured a run by working a one-out walk, stealing second and third, and coming home on a balk.

In the bottom of the sixth, Craig Ricks was summoned in relief of Bayley to shut the door. Darkness then halted the game.  “We have a really patient team, everybody loves to walk,” Willingboro interim manager Mike Juckett said. “We were all about just waiting, looking for strikes, and trying to find the right ball to jump on.”

Willingboro's improvement has drawn attention.  “They started out 0-7 because they had a tough early schedule,” Johnson said. “Now their schedule is leveling out and they’re playing good baseball. Since I’ve been in the league, which is 13 years now, they’ve always been there until the end. In the playoffs, they’re a very tough out.”  “Mount Laurel is a very good team,” Juckett said. “We are happy to get a win and we hope to keep it going throughout the remainder of the season.”


Riverside holds on against Pine Barrens

Riverside saw its lead threatened in the final inning but held on for a 2-1 victory over Pine Barrens.  Bryan Bessinger got the final two outs to save the win for Jake Still, who worked 6 1/3 innings. Rob Antoniewicz greeted Bessinger with a sacrifice fly to score the Pine Barrens run but the Phantoms were then down to their final hope and Bessinger induced a groundout to finish it.  Kevin Joo came home on a double steal executed by Riverside in the fourth inning and that proved to be the winning run. The Patriots' first run came on Tyler Wolf's sacrifice fly in the first inning.  Riverside improved to 8-9-1 and slipped into fourth place. Pine Barrens is 5-11-1.  

Cinnaminson 7, Burlington Township 1: 

Winning pitcher Brett Miller struck out nine in five innings and Corey Mingin struck out three of the six batters he retired in two perfect innings.  Frank Sirolli had three hits, scored two runs and batted in a pair for Cinnaminson (7-11). The Reds also were aided by Mike Osborne's three RBIs.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Burlington Mets edge Delran in RVL l

Burlington scored in the bottom half of the seventh inning Thursday for a 4-3 win over Delran.  Delran had tied the score in the top of the seventh before Burlington answered on an RBI single by Matt Fischer. The win boosts the Mets’ record to 14-3-1.  Shaun Babula, Matt Jolly and Kyle Semmel combined for seven hits and each scored a run. Mark McCouch was the winning pitcher.  Ryan McFadden had three hits and Mark Wickerham had two for Delran (8-9-1).

Cinnaminson hands Vincentown first loss

Cinnaminson’s up-and-down season took an upward turn Thursday night as the Reds handed Vincentown a 7-5 loss, the Merchants’ first after 16 wins.  Sam Pepper’s two-run homer in the first off Nick Melchiorre gave V-town the early lead. But Ryan Varga came in to throw four innings of strong relief.  Cinnaminson (8-11) did all its scoring in the top of the third, with Ryan Mingin’s two-run single and Tim Wasco’s grand slam being the key hits.

Mount Laurel 6, Riverside 4:

Matt Szukics went the route for the Laurels, allowing two runs in the first and two in the seventh.  Szukics’ seven strikeouts included one to end the game with two runners on. Brandon Barnes had three hits, and Mike Tobia (two RBIs) and Paul Meagher added two hits for Mount Laurel.  Brett Knazek and Jacob Reeder had doubles for Riverside.

Willingboro 10, Pine Barrens 3:

Mike Juckett had three hits, scored twice and stole two bases, while Justin Binder, Dan Hill, Mike Gulli and Tyler Bayley chipped in with two hits apiece to power the ‘Boro boys on Thursday night.  Craig Ricks went the first five innings to earn the win, allowing six hits. Brian Camp fanned three over the final two frames.  Losing pitcher Eric Sellitto went all seven innings, and also delivered a three-run double.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Vincentown 5, Mount Laurel 2:

The Merchants’ Dave Stieg tossed a six-hitter and struck out eight for his fifth win in the annual Fireworks Night game that didn’t ended until early Sunday morning.  Johnny Bujanowski returned to the lineup and delivered a solo home run, and Jesse Pappler had two hits, including a two-run double in the fifth.  Rich Ledbeater had a double for the Laurels. Justin Ely pitched six innings and allowed just five hits and two earned runs.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Riverside inches closer to third place

Riverside moved within a half-point of third place, taking both ends of a doubleheader from host Burlington Township 8-3 and 3-1.  Riverside is 10-10-1 for 26 points, just behind Mount Laurel’s 26.5.  Frank Cerami went six innings for the opening victory, with Mike Hynes finishing up. Eric Oliver and a single, double and one RBI, and Joe Knazek had three singles and a ribbie.  Eddie Eifert had three hits and an RBI for Township. Charlie Lavin and Mike Zier each had two hits.  In the nightcap, Jason Sabol (six innings) and Matt Leith (one) combined on a two-hitter in a duel with BT’s Nick Cancelliere. Eric Oliver scored twice on RBIs by Brett Knazek and Tyler Wolf.

Delran 4, Pine Barrens 1:

Eric Gertie pitched a two-hitter, struck out five and walked none as Delran (9-9-1) climbed to .500 in the opener of a doubleheader at Patty Bowker Field.  Ryan McFadden had three hits and an RBI while younger brother Justin had one hit and scored twice. Matt Guerrieri added two hits.  Bryan Henry and J.T. Triantos had the Phantoms’ hits, with Henry scoring.

Delran 5, Pine Barrens 0:

Jason Ronca threw the first no-hitter of the 2013 season as Delran (10-9-1) inched closer to third place in the late second game of a Sunday doubleheader at Patty Bowker Field.  Ronca walked two and struck out 14 in winning his fourth game in five decisions. Mark Wickersham had three hits and two RBIs, and Kyle Ballay added a couple of hits and a ribbie.


RVL Notebook - July 15, 2013

Mount Laurel's Diamond in the rough

Kevin Diamond is a four-year veteran of the Mount Laurel entry in the Rancocas Valley Baseball League. The big guy is affectionately known as “Meat” to teammates, opponents, umpires and fans.

But after dropping 40 pounds since last season, down to a svelte 220, they might have to start calling the 22-year-old “Salad” or “Veggie.” Or maybe “Bud Light” would be even more fitting.  “Mostly I just stopped drinking,” Diamond said, with a laugh. “But I also worked out a lot and watched what I ate. I just decided that 260 pounds was too much for me.”

Diamond grew up in Medford, but didn’t play baseball at Shawnee because of a state rule that prohibited home-schooled kids from playing sports if they weren’t in the school building. He went to Burlington County College, where Brandon Barnes and Matt Szukics, two of his best friends, were on the baseball team.  “They talked me into trying out at BCC; I didn’t think I would make it, but I did,” Diamond said. “And they were the guys who helped get me onto Mount Laurel.”

Dean Johnson, Mount Laurel’s veteran manager, recalls being introduced to his future slugger.  “He walked up to me with a bat in his hand, literally,” Johnson said. “He came on the team and all he wanted to do was hit.”

During most games, Diamond prowls around behind the bench, bat in hand, looking like your typical designated hitter. But he always brings his first baseman’s mitt and fielder’s glove, just in case Johnson needs him to play in the field.  “He’s got the highest baseball IQ on my team,” Johnson said. “And when he plays in the field, wherever he plays he does a good job ... because of that IQ.”

Diamond is coming off a career year in 2012, when he hit .452 with 38 hits, nine doubles and a team-high 20 RBIs. In the latest RVL stats this summer, he is hitting .407, and is second on the team to Connor Hall in average and hits.

And Diamond leads Mount Laurel in runs scored, doubles (former singles), triples (former doubles), smiles, belly-first slides and ... stolen bases with three. Yes, that’s correct, “Thor” — which is what the ladies at the bars used to call him during his now-former long-haired, bearded days — leads the Laurels in steals.  “I was never fast, so getting the steal sign was interesting,” Diamond said. “The first time Dean gave me the signal I was like, ‘What’s up with that?’ But it’s actually kinda cool to be able to steal a base.”

Law of averages

As well as they had been playing, it seemed only a matter of time until Vincentown lost a game. And Thursday night it happened, when the Merchants, after winning their first 16 games, dropped a 7-5 decision to Cinnaminson.

The Reds did all their scoring in the top of third.  “Everything that could’ve happened, happened,” manager Harry Thompson said. “We were missing a couple guys, and when things started going bad, they just snowballed. Dropped fly balls, grounders, wild pitches. We did it all in that one inning.

“We’ll be OK, though, babe. It was just one of those innings. I still like our chances.”

College update

Rowan University has eight RVL players on its roster: Delran (Kevin McMenamin), Pine Barrens (Rich Powelson, Kyle Brown, Dylan Johannink, Nick Henderson, Eric Sellitto), Vincentown (Ryan Williams), Willingboro (Tyler Bayley).

Burlington County College also has eight players on RVL rosters: Riverside (Joe Gutowski, Kodi Doyle, Tim Kemmerle, Frank Cerami, Matt Leith, Jacob Reeder, Jonathan McGugan), Willingboro (Devon Hedgepeth).

He fields, too?


Last week we talked about Dan Hill’s first RVL home run, but in that same game against Burlington, the Willingboro third baseman also flashed some glove. He came up with no less than five eye-opening stops, and several of them included off-balance throws to first.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Gunter, Harvey pitch Burlington past Willingboro

Burlington grabbed a share of first place  with a 4-1 win over Willingboro.  Kevin Gunter worked the first four innings for the decision and John Harvey had six strikeouts in three innings to save the victory.

Burlington (16-3-1) and co-leader Vincentown (17-1) each have 34.5 points in the standings, and they’ll meet Tuesday, 8 p.m., at Harry Thompson Field.  Matt Fischer had two hits and batted in a run for Burlington. Matt Jolly and Garrett Mull each had a hit and scored a run. Willingboro (9-9) highlights included a double by Dan Hill.


Mingin, Wasco power Cinnaminson in win

 The old saying goes, “you’re only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher.’’


For the moment those words are ringing true for Cinnaminson.  The Reds picked up their fourth win in the last five games on, defeating Mount Laurel 5-1 behind crafty left-hander Cory Mingin and the powerful bat of Mike Wasco.  Coming into Monday night, Cinnaminson and Mount Laurel were separated by five points in the standings. With the season winding down, and playoff spots to still be fought for, it was vital that Cinnaminson turned in a solid performance.

Cinnaminson tallied first, with a run in the top half of the second inning, thanks to an infield error by the home club.  “It’s nice when we can take a lead early on,” Cinnaminson manager Brett Miller said. “We’ve been hitting the ball and playing better all around. It definitely takes pressure off your starting pitcher when you’re able to score first.”

Cinnaminson tacked on another run in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead and broke the game open in the seventh, thanks to a mammoth three-run home run from clean-up hitter Wasco.  “That was a blast,” Miller said. “That’s a big-time home run. I’m happy to see the offense perform like they did. We kept at it and we came away with a big win.”

Mount Laurel’s run came in the third, when Brian Black knocked in Ben Fadool on a sacrifice fly. That was the only blemish on the line of Mingin, who went six productive innings, allowing six hits, while walking two and striking out five.  “Everything was working for me,” Mingin said. “Fastball and change-up is primarily what I threw, and it got me by. It’s much easier to pitch when your defense is playing well behind you and the offense is doing their job.”

The play of the game came in the fifth inning, when Wasco threw a seed to home plate to gun down a runner attempting to score on a sacrifice fly, keeping the score 2-1 in Cinnaminson’s favor.  “It was a huge play,” Mingin said. “It’s great to have your defense pick you up like that and make plays. I owe a lot of credit to them. That was a heck of a throw.”

Cinnaminson improved to 9-11, working on improving its seeding for the playoffs. Mount Laurel dropped to 11-10 and has lost five of its last six games. Manager Dean Johnson didn’t seem too concerned.  “We haven’t played sound defense, there’s been a lack of timely hitting and we’re obviously in a little skid,” Johnson said. “The most important thing is to get into the playoffs by remaining toward the top of the standings.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

After 0-7 start, Willingboro passes the .500 mark

Willingboro leaped over the .500 mark with a 7-3 victory over Riverside thanks to some late-inning magic.

Things didn’t start out so promising for Willingboro as it allowed Riverside to score in each of the first three innings. Some misplays in the field proved costly but the team that’s won 10 of its last 12 games didn’t panic.  “We’ve been swinging the bats well and our pitching has been good,” Willingboro manager Mike Stumpf said as his team continues to rebound from an 0-7 to start the season. “They scored three runs to start, but I was pretty confident they weren’t going to score many more. We’re pitching really well and I knew if we kept it close, eventually we were going to break through and we did.”

Willingboro did indeed stay afloat toward the later innings and it was only a matter of time until it made some noise. Trailing 3-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth, Willingboro had the middle of its lineup coming up, with big Dan Hill.  Mark Stumpf opened the inning with a single and then scored on a throwing after Hill’s single. Two batters Hill scored on a wild pitch to tie the score at 3-3.  “I heard coach Mike say go,” Hill said. “I knew we had to tie the game up, so I went for it and luckily it worked.”

The turning point came in the top half of the sixth, however, when Riverside loaded the bases with nobody out and came away empty.  Willingboro reliever Anthony DiVincenzo buckled down and induced three consecutive ground balls to escape the inning unscathed, including nice plays by Hill at shortstop and Tyler Bayley at third to get force outs at home.  “When we got into that situation, I was just hoping Anthony threw strikes,” coach Stumpf said. “If we only allowed one or two runs, that would’ve been fine, I know we can score. I’m happy we were able to keep it tied though.”

In the bottom half of the sixth inning, Willingboro broke the game open, posting a four spot thanks in large part to some sloppy infield defense by Riverside and a perfectly executed drag bunt from Mark Stumpf.  “We lost focus, committed errors and didn’t take advantage of the opportunity we had in the sixth inning,” Riverside coach Mike Hynes said. “We had our chances. They were able to execute and that was the difference.”

With the win, Willingboro improves to 10-9 and is moving up in the playoff seedings. Riverside drops to 10-11. Hynes knows his team will be fine.  “We’ve rebounded from losses like this before,” he said. “We have some big games coming up and I know we will definitely put up a tough game against our opponents.”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mount Laurel rebounds behind Diamond, Pewor

Kevin Diamond and Cole Pewor led Mount Laurel to a 14-3 win over Burlington Township.  Diamond and Pewor had three hits apiece and combined for five RBIs, helping Mount Laurel improve to 12-10. Mount Laurel had lost five of its previous six games.  Brandon Barnes had two hits and scored two runs. Mike Tobia tripled, scored twice and batted in two runs.  Burlington Township, coming off its first victory of the season, received two hits each from Phil Dunbar and Eddie Hoffman.

Burlington 4, Delran 2: 

The Mets scored three in the top of the ninth inning to break a 1-1 tie, winning it for Twocas Elliott, who’d relieved Shaun Babula in the eighth.  Matt Fischer and Zach Skidmore had three hits each, and Jon Reiner added two, with Reiner and Skidmore hitting doubles. The win boosts Burlington’s record to 17-4-1.  Delran scored in the sixth to make it 1-1. Rex Workman (two hits) and Justin McFadden doubled.

Vincentown 11, Willingboro 0: 

Jesse Pappler had two hits, including a three-run home run, as the Merchants (19-1) won the completion of a game that had been suspended June 26. Ryan Williams also added two hits.  Zeke Boren and Jonathan Morrow combined for the shutout, while Craig Ricks took the loss. 

Willingboro 6, Vincentown 4:

Tyler Bayley went five strong innings and Craig Ricks earned the save as ‘Boro stunned the Merchants in the second game of a doubleheader.  Matt Speckmann was 3-for-3, while Jon Wetzel and Mark Stumpf delivered two-out, two-run base hits.

Pine Barrens 9, Cinnaminson 6: 

Eric Sellitto had two doubles and knocked in four runs, and Ron Krankowski had two hits and three RBIs as Pine Barrens won at Memorial Park. Krankowski and Kyle Brown split the pitching chores.  Mike Osborne and Joe Sirolli each had two hits for Cinnaminson, and losing pitcher Brett Miller had a two-run single.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Riverside outscores Vincentown

Riverside continued its late-season surge with an 18-10 win over slumping Vincentown in the first game of a doubleheader.  Riverside (11-11-1), which dropped both ends of a July 9 twinbill with the Merchants, scored early and often, with Tyler Freeman hitting a home run and Josh Sabol getting three hits. Freeman, Sabol and Tylwer Wolf had four RBIs apiece.  The first-place Merchants (19-3) dropped their second in the last three games, despite home runs by Greg Miller and Adam Goldstein.

Vincentown 10, Riverside 3:

Kevin Carty pitched a complete game and Ryan Williams was 4-for-4 in the late game of a Thursday night twinbill.  Johnny Bujanowski, Troy Foster, Greg Miller and Sam Pepper all had two hits for the Merchants, with one of Pepper’s being a long home run over the light pole.  Jason Sabol was 3-for-3 with a home run for Riverside, and Kodi Doyle had an RBI.

  • Burlington 8, Willingboro 3:

    A pair of four-run innings propelled Burlington over Willingboro.  Burlington scored four times in the second inning and repeated the feat in the fifth. Mark McCouch was the winning pitcher as the Mets improved to 18-4-1.  Vinny James had two hits and scored two runs, Matt Jolly had two hits and three RBIs, and Garrett Mull had a hit and scored twice for Burlington. Rick Stronski doubled and singled for Willingboro (11-11).

    Mount Laurel 6, Cinnaminson 2: 

    Paul Meagher had three RBIs (two-run single, sac fly) as Mount Laurel won for the second straight night and improved to 13-10.  Mike Tobia had a double and two RBIs, and scored two runs. Winning pitcher Matt Szukics allowed four hits and one earned run.  Cinnaminson (9-14) received two hits and one RBI from Greg Gilbert.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Vincentown 8, Delran 2: 

Dave Stieg allowed both Delran runs in the bottom of the seventh in the complete-game win. Stieg struck out six and allowed six hits.  Ryan Williams continued his hot hitting for the Merchants, going 2-for-2 with three RBIs. Greg Miller hit a three-run home run, while Johnny Bujanowski scored three times and Sam Pepper added three hits.  V-town improved to 21-3 while Delran slipped to 10-12-1.

Riverside 4, Burlington Twp. 1:

Jesse Fante tossed a complete game, allowing no earned runs and striking out eight.  Matt Mann was 2-for-3 and Jason Sabol had a double against losing pitcher Nick Cancelliere, who also went the distance (allowed two earned runs).  Riverside evened its record at 12-12-1 and tied Mount Laurel for third place.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Turner spark for Willingboro in triumph

Jared Turner had two hits, scored two runs and batted in two for Willingboro in an 8-5 win over Burlington Township.  Mike Juckett was the winning pitcher with five strikeouts and allowed two earned runs. Fran Caruso, Mike Gulli and Jon Wetzel also had two hits apiece as the ‘Boro improved to 12-11.  Burlington Township, despite falling to 1-23, received two hits each from Ace Rivera and Zach Wallace. Mike Zier scored two runs and batted in a run with a sac fly. Wallace also had an RBI and Dom Perillo doubled.

RVL Playoffs: Play-in Round, Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cinnaminson overpowers Burlington Twp.

For the entire 2013 season, questions were raised on just how good Cinnaminson could be within the Rancocas Valley League when playing at full strength.  In Wednesday evening’s play-in contest for the playoffs versus Burlington Township, the Reds provided the answer.  Cinnaminson (12-15) recorded three home runs, three extra-base hits and handed the Pirates a 21-1 defeat to earn a trip into the 2013 playoffs.  “This is what we’re capable of when we all play together,” said Geoff Gilbert, who was 4-for-5 with a home run and six RBIs. “When we’re all here, we’re going to hit and score some runs.”

The Reds got things started early thanks to a six-run first inning.  Gilbert (a three-run homer) and Mike Osborne (solo home run) highlighted the offensive outburst.  In the second, Mike Wasco added a solo homer.  “I think we showed everybody what we’re capable of when we’re at full strength, which is something we haven’t had all year,” player-manager Brett Miller said. “We know we can play with anybody in this league.”

While the Cinnaminson bats were lighting up the July sky, starting pitcher Cory Mingin was doing his part in keeping Burlington Township from setting sail.  The lefty pitched four scoreless innings, striking our four and allowing just two hits.  “We’re happy we didn’t have to use him more than we did, we’re going to need him when the playoffs start,” Miller said. “We wanted to get a lead and get him out and we were able to do that.”

Miller and Greg Santuro came on in relief to close the game out for the Reds, combining to pitch three innings, allowing just three hits.  Jake DeWitt brought Burlington Township’s lone run across with an RBI-single in the sixth, scoring Wayne Feret.

Cinnaminson now turns its attention to Vincentown for a first-round playoff matchup scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m.  The matchup will feature each of the RVL’s last two champions with the Reds winning in 2011 and Merchants in 2012.  “It’s always us and a few others at the top of this league,” Miller said. “It’s going to be a good series, it’s going to be a battle.  “They won’t look past us, that’s for sure.”

Gilbert believes that if the Reds want to advance out of the first round, it won’t be their bats, but rather their pitching that gets them there.  Vincentown not only owns a league-best 25-5 record, but the top offense within the league.  “Pitching is key,” Gilbert said. “It’s all going to come down to our pitching, we’re going to need our guys to show up.  “If we get our pitching, we know our hitting will be there, we just need to stay basic to baseball: hit, field and pitch.”

RVL Playoff Preview

Vincentown, Burlington seem destined to meet in final

“August in V-town” has arrived, and when it’s all over in a couple of weeks, the champion of the 67th Rancocas Valley Baseball League season will have been crowned.  Based on the regular season, it would seem that a Vincentown-Burlington final is the most likely scenario. The Merchants (24-5) and Mets (23-4-1) were by far the best teams during the regular season.  But this being baseball, anything can happen. And this being the RVL, anything probably will happen.

Saturday and Sunday will feature eight games in a two-day, back-to-back-to-back-to-back four-games-each-day extravaganza at Vincentown’s Harry Thompson Field.  Play starts Saturday at 10 a.m. with Pine Barrens taking on Burlington. That will be followed at 1 p.m. with Riverside facing Mount Laurel and Delran meeting Willingboro at 4 p.m. The day’s final game pits Cinnaminson against Vincentown at 7 p.m. The same teams play in the same order Sunday, with starting times at noon, 2:30, 5 and 7:30.  

Play will continue through the next two weeks, with weeknight games at either 6:30 and 9 (if doubleheaders), or at 7 (single games).  The quarterfinals and semifinals are best of three, with the finals being a best of five.

Vincentown (25-5)

Hitting: Jack Bujanowski, Sam Pepper, Ryan Williams, Greg Miller, John Bujanowski, Jesse Pappler, Mike Ferraro, Troy Foster and Dan Williams form the league’s most feared lineup, a modern-day murderer’s row. And don’t forget Kevin Carty and Vern Powell.

Pitching: Joe Argow, Dave Stieg, Zeke Boren and Jon Morrow are a combined 21-4.

Playoff history: Defending champions and 13-time RVL champs

Burlington (23-4-2)

Hitting: Shaun Babula and Kyle Semmel create mayhem, Vinny James, Matt Fischer, Paul Guerrieri, Zach Skidmore and Mike Kerns are RBI guys, while Garrett Mull, Jon Reiner, Pedro Perez and Matt Jolly are clutch.

Pitching: Babula and John Harvey are the co-aces of a staff that includes Carl Taylor, Mark McCouch, Perez, Sean McNeil, Jonathan Wilkins and Kevin Gunter.

Playoff history: Won it all in 2010; only other RVL title was the Burlington Niagara Firemen in 1951.

Willingboro (15-13)

Hitting: 2b Mark Stumpf is one of the league’s elite players. Rich Stronski, Jon Wetzel, Dan Hill, Mike Gulli, Jared Turner, Eddie Kaminski, Matt Speckmann, Justin Binder, John Walls and Jamie Schwantes are solid.

Pitching: No stars, but Craig Ricks, Devon Hedgepeth, Tyler Bayley, Kevin Faber, Brian Camp, Tom Ditro, Connor Macfarlane and Mike Juckett provide lots of quality innings.

Playoff history: Won RVL regular-season title in 2002 with a 23-7-1 record.

Mount Laurel (15-12)

Hitting: Kevin Diamond, Connor Hall, Brian Black, Matt Szukics, Brandon Barnes, Paul Meagher, Cole Pewor, Mike Tobia, Kurtis Burnett, Rich Ledbeater and Niko Celia are a solid unit.

Pitching: Trevor Sotelle, Szukics, Justin Ely, Mike Cooper and Ryan Derry figure to get the most innings, while Tobia is a solid finished.

Playoff history: Reached the RVL finals in 2006 and ‘07.

Riverside (13-16-1)

Hitting: Twins Brett and Joe Knazek, Eric Oliver, Jason and Josh Sabol, Jake Reeder, Tyler Wolf, Brian Bessinger, Kodi Doyle and Gabe Mastrangelo provide most of the offense.

Pitching: Kevin Joo, Jesse Fante and Jake Still are the starters; Bessinger, Frank Cerammi and Matt Leith provide relief.

Playoff history: The Riverside Bombers won the 1961 and 1963 RVL championships, and the Riverside Pirates Inn won in 2001.

Delran (12-14-2)

Hitting: Mark Wickersham, Ryan McFadden, Rex Workman, Kyle Ballay and Matt Ulmer are all solid veterans. Dan George, Justin McFadden, Mark DeJesse and TJ Maioriano have injected youth into the lineup.

Pitching: Eric Gertie, Max Newill and Jason Ronca are all grizzled veterans. Sean McChesney, Ballay and Wickersham are available if needed.

Playoff history: Won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008 and reached finals in 2010 and 2012; eight-time RVL champions

Pine Barrens (10-19-1)

Hitting: J.T. Triantos, Ron Krankowski, Bryan Henry and Eric Sellito are a rugged middle of the lineup. They’ll need help from Rich Powelson, Dylan Johannink, Brandon Triantos, Frank Canuso, Ryan Krupa, Spencer Bard, Rob Antonowicz and Mike Lamola.

Pitching: If the pitching — Mike Kondrath, Krankowski, Jim Caughlin, Sellito, Nick Henderson — is on, they are a dangerous opponent. Johannink is a game-saver.

Playoff history: The Pemberton Huskers won the 1959 RVL championship.

Cinnaminson (11-15)

Hitting: Greg Gilbert and Mike Osborne are solid DP combo, but they’ll need help from brothers Geoff Gilbert, Bobby Osborne, Frank and Joe Sirolli, and Mike and Tim Wasco, Greg Santuro, Matt Janulis and Chris McManus. (And maybe Ryan Mingin, if he’s healthy.)

Pitching: Ryan Varga is still the ace of the staff. Veterans Cory Mingin, John Meadus, Nick Melchiorre and Brett Miller, and newcomers Craig Carroll, Santuro and Clinton Hart could all see action.

Playoff history: Won in 2009 and 2011; 17-time RVL champs.

RVL Playoffs - Game 1 - Saturday, August 3, 2013: Pine Barrens 1, Burlington 0

Krankowski springs a stunner

Ron Krankowski turned the Rancocas Valley League playoffs upside down on Saturday morning.  The Pine Barrens Phantoms came into their quarterfinal series with the Burlington Mets as decided underdogs. After all, Pine Barrens was 10-19-1 during the regular season, while Burlington was 23-4-2.

Krankowski drove in the game’s only run while twirling a dominating three-hit, complete-game shutout. The Phantoms won Game 1 of the best-of-3 series at Harry W. Thompson Field.  Krankowski took the mound confident he could reverse the results of two close regular-season losses to the Mets.  “I knew we had a good shot (at winning) today,” Krankowski said. “We had a good lineup and I had a good group of fielders behind me.”

The three hits came early on as Krankowski was still finding his rhythm in the on-again, off-again Saturday morning drizzle.  In the second inning, Matt Fischer stroked a single to center but Krankowski forced a 6-4-3 double play by the next batter, Mike Kerns.  “When we are firing on all cylinders, we’re able to make some good plays in the field,” Krankowski said.

The Mets ot another hit in third third inning when Jon Reiner’s blast to left fell just short of the wall. Reiner had to avoid a tag by shortstop Brandon Triantos to make it into second base safely.  Once again, Krankowski found his way out of the jam as both Pedro Perez and Shaun Babula grounded back to the mound.  The final hit was Vinny James single to center with one out in the fourth inning that went right between Krankowski’s whickets. But the veteran righty then picked James off, with first baseman J.T. Triantos throwing to Ryan Krupa for the out.  “It’s all about getting ahead of guys (in the count),” Krankowski said. “I wasn’t doing that much my last few starts, but I did do that today.”

Krankowski delivered the Phantoms’ only run of the game in the third inning.  Rich Powelson singled with one out, then stole second. One out later, Krankowski came up against Babula, the Mets ace lefty. Krankowski stroked an RBI single to right.  There was a long way to go but that run took on an ever-larger importance as the game progressed.  “I guess you can say that the hit (made the win more special),” Krankowski said. “I just put my hands out there and tried to take it to right field.”

Krankowski faced one final jam in the fifth, after one-out walks to Garrett Mull and Matt Jolly. But he got Reiner to pop up to short, then got a nice play by first baseman Triantos, who made an eye-opening stop on a hard-hit ball by the dangerous Perez.  Krankowski retired all six batters that he faced in the final two innings.  Decided underdogs or not, the Phantoms can close out the Mets in Game 2 on Sunday.  “You have to enjoy this win for a few hours but I feel confident we can get the job done tomorrow,” Krankowski said.


In the 2009 playoffs, Krankowski — then pitching for Pemberton — upset Delran and Max Newill in the Saturday opener. After Delran got even on Sunday, Krankowski came back on two days’ rest and lost 2-1 to Jason Ronca. . . . Babula only allowed four hits, two in the first and two in the third. . . . Despite two of the league’s top strikeout pitchers throwing, there were only six strikeouts, four by Babula, who retired the last 12 in a row.

RVL Playoffs - Game 1 - Saturday, August 3, 2013: Mt. Laurel 15, Riverside 5

Mount Laurel bats come through for Ely

Justin Ely loves those Mount Laurel bats.  After barely making his way out of the first inning, the Mount Laurel pitcher ended up with a complete game and gave the Laurels a chance to close out the best-of-3 Rancocas Valley League quarterfinal series Sunday afternoon.  Saturday’s 15-5 win over Riverside came after Ely gave up four first-inning runs.  “The first inning, I didn’t really help out my defense too much,” Ely said. “I left too many pitches over the plate. I really settled in after that inning and started hitting my spots. The guys played well behind me and it’s much easier to pitch with a lead.”

Tyler Wolf doubled and Josh Sabol reached base on an infield error as Wolf scored. After a double by Tyler Freeman, another run scored when Jason Sabol reached on an error. Freeman scored on a passed ball before an RBI single by Brian Bessinger tallied another run as under-manned Riverside made it 4-0.  Mount Laurel went right to work getting back into the game. Mike Tobia had an RBI double. Niko Celia hit a sacrifice fly to left field. Then Tobia came around to score on a wild pitch. Just like that, it was a one-run game.  “We started out extremely sluggish, but it’s playoff time so we got our heads together,” said Cole Pewor, who had singles his first three times up. “We kept pounding the baseball and were able to wipe away that early deficit. I think the fact that we got behind early really woke us up and put a little fire under us.”

Mount Laurel continued to tack on runs, tying the game on a Tobia fielder’s choice. They took the lead for good in the third inning when Paul Meagher drove a two-run single to left field. Two batters later, Pewor singled home Rich Ledbeater to give Mount Laurel a 7-4 lead.  “We got a lead and ran with it,” said normal No. 3 hitter Connor Hall, who was injured and coached first base.

Mount Laurel tacked on two more in the fourth. Capitalizing on an infield error and a perfectly executed double steal by Celia, who scored on the throw down to second base.  An RBI triple by Matt Szuckis highlighted a three-run fifth inning.  An inning later, Kevin Diamond put an exclamation mark on the day with a tremendous three-run home run that ricocheted off the top of the light tower in right field.  “That was the most impressive home run that I’ve seen in a long time,” Mount Laurel manager Dean Johnson said. “They’ll be talking about that blast for a long time to come.”


Freeman and Jason Sabol each had two hits for Riverside. . . . Freeman made a spectacular play to get a force at second in the second inning.

RVL Playoffs - Game 1 - Saturday, August 3, 2013: Willingboro 3, Delran 2

Stumpf delivers in clutch for Willingboro

Playoffs. Final at bat. Two outs. Down one. Runners on.

This was the moment Mark Stumpf was waiting for.  When the Willingboro second baseman stepped to the plate in the Rancocas Valley Baseball League quarterfinal against Delran, he delivered his first hit of the game.  The perfectly hit ball sailed just over the infielders, scoring John Walls from third to tie the game at 2. Seconds later, Ed Kaminski to score the winning run on an error — the throw ended up in the Willingboro dugout.

Willingboro won Game 1 of the best-of-3 series 3-2. Game 2 is Sunday at 5 p.m., again at Harry W. Thompson Field.  “When I was on deck I was just thinking I wanted a chance to get up there and do the job,” Stumpf said. “If you don’t want to be up there with the game on the line, you shouldn’t be playing the game. When I saw all of my teammates running at me, it took me a second to realize that we just scored and the game was over. Winning a game like that is exciting.”RVL Playoffs

Stumpf led off the Willingboro first with a walk and scored on Matt Speckman fielder’s choice grounder for an early 1-0 lead.  The scoreboard remained unchanged until the seventh, when Delran got back-to-back RBIs from Ryan McFadden and Kyle Ballay to take a 2-1 lead that would stand until Stumpf’s hit.  As tough of a loss as it was for Delran, it actually brings back memories of last year’s postseason. Last summer, Delran lost its first playoff game and rallied to make it to the championship series.  Delran’s confidence remains high.  “We still have another game to play tomorrow and we’ll be back at it again on Monday,” McFadden said. “We’re going to win tomorrow.”

McFadden essentially took center field away from ‘Boro and had two spectacular diving catches. Both of which he laid out full-extension to grab the ball just before it hit the ground, prompting applause from the fans surrounding the field.  Almost lost in the walkoff celebration was pitcher Connor MacFarlane. He threw a complete game with seven strikeouts while allowing just six hits.  “I was a little nervous at first because this is my first year in the league and it’s the playoffs,” MacFarlane said. “Once the third inning came around, I got into a little groove and got my release point down on my curveball down which was big.  “That was a great game and it was definitely a full-team win.”

RVL Playoffs - Game 1 - Saturday, August 3, 2013: Vincentown 12, Cinnaminson 3

V-town rolls in opener

Defending champion Vincentown limped into the Rancocas Valley League playoffs — going 8-5 after a 17-0 start. But if Saturday night is any indication, the Merchants are apparently ready to go again.  Joe Argow pitched a complete game six-hitter, Sam Pepper and Greg Miller provided plenty of hitting as Vincentown rolled to a 12-3 win over Cinnaminson, the 2011 champs.  

Pepper delivered two home runs and a double, driving in four runs. Miller — the league leader in hits, doubles, triples, homers and RBIs — had two singles plus a home run.  Ryan Williams, who finished the season on a hitting tear that included 10 consecutive hits at one point, added three doubles and Johnny Bujanowski was 3-for-4.

Greg Gilbert belted a two-run home run in the seventh for the Reds.

RVL Playoffs - Game 2 - Sunday, August 4, 2013: Mt. Laurel 8, Riverside 5

Mount Laurel advances past Riverside

It’s been a long time coming.  But for the first time since 2007, fourth-seeded Mount Laurel has finally advanced to the Rancocas Valley Baseball League semifinals after defeating fifth-seeded Riverside 8-5 on Sunday at Harry W. Thompson Field.  “We finally started hitting the ball and when we had to execute on small ball, we did,” Mount Laurel manager Dean Johnson said. “We were taking advantage of the opportunities given to us whether it was a passed ball, an overthrow to second base, whatever — we took advantage of it.”

Mike Tobia led the charge for Mount Laurel, going 4-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI. He earned the save after pitching the seventh inning, striking out two of the four batters he faced.  “A couple of the guys and I took batting practice before the game, which we don’t normally do, and I just got into a groove,” Tobia said. “We haven’t gotten past the first round in a few years. Usually, we’re all pumped and then all of a sudden we get knocked out — this feels awesome.”

Mount Laurel played solid baseball for six of the seven innings. But in the fifth inning, Riverside racked up all of its runs on six hits.  Trevor Sotell, Mount Laurel’s starting pitcher, allowed just one hit in the first four innings before Riverside got hot in the fifth.  “They were just hitting everything in that inning and they were gaining confidence,” Sotell said. “Any team gets better when they get confident. When that happened, we were dwindling, they took advantage of it and luckily we got out of the inning still up.”

Brian Black had a solid day at the plate for Mount Laurel, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs, a double and a run scored. Rich Leadbetter did his part, going 3-for-3 with a run scored, and Nike Celia went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and was hit by a pitch.  For Riverside, Matt Mann (one), Tyler Wolf (two) and Jake Reeder (one) all had RBIs in the fifth inning.  “We had a good ride, we played a good team and pitching was there on both sides,” Riverside third baseman Eric Oliver said. “The best thing I can say is that both teams hit, and it was a good baseball game by both of us.  “I thought we were going to take the lead in the fifth inning there, but sometimes things just don’t go your way.”

Last year, Mount Laurel was knocked out in the first round.  “We have no expectations for the next series except to come out and play hard,” Johnson said. “We’ll need to play solid defense because our pitching has been decent so far. But I’m excited to be back in the semifinals.”

RVL Playoffs - Game 2 - Sunday, August 4, 2013: Willingboro 2, Delran 0

W'boro reaches semifinal round

Willingboro reached the semifinal round of the Rancocas Valley Baseball League on Sunday for the first time since 2000 by eliminating Delran 2-0 at Vincentown. Willingboro swept Delran 2-0.  Craig Ricks tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out four. John Walls (two hits) singled in Ed Kaminski with two outs for the winning run in the fifth inning and then created the second run by getting caught in a rundown between first and second that plated Mike Stumpf.  Eric Gertie suffered the loss.

Cinnaminson forces Game 3

Cinnaminson tied the best-of-three series behind winning pitcher Craig Carroll, who pitched a complete game. He struck out eight, walked one, allowed six hits and one unearned run.  Carroll benefited from a four-run fourth inning. Ryan Mingin (sacrifice fly), Matty Janulis (RBI single) and Frank Sirolli (two-run single) led the way in the inning. Jack Bujanowski knocked in Cinnaminson’s first run in the first.  The teams will play the deciding game Monday night, following the Burlington-Pine Barrens deciding game, which starts at 6:45 p.m.

RVL Playoffs - Game 2 - Sunday, August 4, 2013: Burlington 8, Pine Barrens 5

Burlington rallies to stave off elimination

The Burlington Mets weren’t ready for their season to be over.  Down two runs and three outs from elimination in the Rancocas Valley League playoffs, the Mets rallied with four scores in the top half of the seventh inning and held Pine Barrens scoreless in the bottom to win 8-5.  The win evens the best-of-three quarterfinal series at one win apiece, with the third and final game taking place Monday evening.  “No matter what the score, what inning it is or how many outs there are, we don’t quit,” Burlington shortstop Pedro Perez said. “We always fight to the end.”

Perez came up with a spectacular game-ending defensive play at shortstop. Pine Barrens had the bases loaded with one out when Ryan Krupa came up to the plate. He drilled a high line-drive to shortstop, which was immediately swallowed up by a leaping Perez.  He then flipped the ball to second baseman Garrett Mull, who caught it bare-handed on the bag before the Pine Barrens runner could tag. If the ball had gotten through, it had enough power that it could have potentially tied the game.  “I was just trying to catch it and I actually snow-coned it — I thought it was going to come out,” Perez said. “Once I squeezed it and realized I had it, I threw it to ‘G’ at second base.”

Perez has made a reputation for his stellar defensive play over the years. With the season-saving play to end a playoff game, that reputation may have gotten a bit stronger.  Mull had himself a solid afternoon, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs, including a second-inning solo home run over the fence in left field. It was the only homer of the game.  “I got a middle-in fastball, put the barrel on it and sent it,” Mull said. “We came out flat today, put two runs on the board early and were just sitting on it. You can’t sit on a lead against a team like them. They put the ball into play and fought back.”

If not for the 12 total errors that took place, there’s no telling how the game would have turned out. Each team committed six errors.  “We made a lot of errors early to give them some runs and they made some late to help us out — we only had one hit and one walk in that last inning,” said Burlington center fielder Shaun Babula. “I feel like we could’ve had more than (eight) runs today, but (eight) was enough.”

Winning pitcher John Harvey threw a complete game with nine strikeouts, four walks and zero earned runs.  “We looked great all day, played an awesome game and we had it going into the seventh; the wheels just kind of fell off at the end,” Pine Barrens’ Chris Dellemonache said. “We’re going to have to bounce back and put together a full game tomorrow — not just six innings like we did today.”

RVL Playoffs - Game 3 - Monday, August 5, 2013: Burlington 13, Pine Barrens 2

Burlington moves on in playoffs

In their most important game of the year, the Burlington Mets showed the utmost confidence in one of their youngest players.  The Mets sent rookie pitcher Jon Wilkins to the mound in the final game of a best-of-three series during the opening round of the Rancocas Valley Baseball League playoffs against Pine Barrens.

The result: a complete game, six strikeouts, two walks, one earned run and a 13-2 victory.  “I don’t usually get nervous when I pitch, so it was just another game for me,” said Wilkins, a recent graduate of Life Center Academy who’s headed for West Chester (Pa.) University.  “I felt good out there. I had to come out grinding and I did,” Wilkins said. “My teammates got hot at the plate, too. Now we just need to come out strong next round and see what happens.”RVL Playoffs

The Mets will meet Willingboro in the semifinals, a best-of-three series scheduled to begin Wednesday. All RVL playoff games are played at Southampton Memorial Park.  The game was tight early on, with the score 1-1 through 3½ innings. But in the bottom of the fourth, No. 2 seed Burlington made it known that it has one goal in mind this year, and that’s to take home the trophy at the end of the year.

The Mets rallied for eight runs on seven hits in the home half of the fourth and added four in the fifth to put the contest out of reach.  “You can’t take anything away from (Pine Barrens), they played a great series,” Burlington second baseman Garrett Mull said. “We started out shaky tonight, but then we started hitting the ball. When you hit the ball, good things happen and it’s good to get out of the first round.”

It’s an especially tough loss for Pine Barrens. The seventh-seeded Phantoms took the series opener Saturday and were up two runs heading into the seventh inning in Game 2 before Burlington rallied for the win Sunday.  “Burlington has been a great team all year and we knew it was going to be a tough series,” Pine Barrens’ Ryan Krupa said. “We came out with high intensity the first two games but tonight it kind of got away from us. But that happens sometimes — that’s baseball.”

As Burlington moves one step closer to its ultimate goal, memories from last summer’s postseason are clearly in the back of each of the Mets’ minds.  A year ago, Burlington was the RVL’s best team for the majority of the year before being upset by Vincentown in the semifinals. Vincentown went on to win the title, then posted the league’s best record this (regular) season. The Merchants edged Cinnaminson 2-1 in Monday’s second game to win that series.  “Every team in the league works and we all love baseball — this is why we come out here and play, because we all want to win,” Burlington center fielder Shaun Babula said. “When Vincentown beat us last year, Game 1 in 13 innings was a fluke, them scoring 17 against us the next day was an absolute fluke and they think they’re better than they actually are. This year, we want to be the best.”

RVL Playoffs - Game 3 - Monday, August 5, 2013: Vincentown 2, Cinnaminson 1

Vincentown moves on to RVL Semi-Finals

Vincentown scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to reach the semifinals.  Jesse Pappler led off the fourth with a single and Mike Ferrara was hit by a pitch. With one out, Troy Foster hit back to the pitcher and into what appeared to be an inning-ending double play. But the umpire ruled that the Cinnaminson first baseman was off the bag and Pappler scored. Another hit by pitch scored the second run.  Frank Sirolli accounted for Cinnaminson’s run with a home run in the top of the fifth.  Zeke Boren picked up the win for the Merchants, going the first five innings and allowing four hits, with Kevin Carty and Greg Miller pitching an inning each.  Nick Melchiorre was the tough-luck loser, allowing five hits in four innings. Cory Mingin retired all six batters he faced. Sirolli and Mike Osborne each had two hits for Cinnaminson with Miller leading Vincentown with a pair of hits.

The semis will open on Wednesday night with Burlington playing Willingboro at 6:45 with the Vincentown-Mount Laurel game to follow.

RVL Playoffs: Semifinal round for the Final Four

After 10 games last weekend, four teams were eliminated from the Rancocas Valley Baseball League playoffs. The four teams left — Vincentown, Burlington, Willingboro and Mount Laurel — were the 1-2-3-4 teams during the regular season.  But they reached Wednesday’s semifinals — Willingboro vs. Burlington at 6:45 p.m., Mount Laurel vs. Vincentown to follow — in surprisingly different ways.  The 3-4 teams swept their quarterfinals, while the 1-2 teams were extended to a third game before triumphing Monday night.

Here’s a look at the matchups:

Willingboro vs. Burlington

Burlington has won eight straight over the ‘Boro boys, the last loss coming in the 2011 season opener by a 15-4 count.  Two very hot teams, with the Mets having gone 18-2-2 in the last 22 games and ‘Boro 17-5.  Burlington (25-5-2 overall) was extended to three games by Pine Barrens, and was three outs from elimination in Sunday’s Game 2 before rallying to win. An eight-run fourth inning broke open Game 3.  Willingboro (17-13) swept Delran in a pair of tight games, 3-2 and 2-0, behind lefties Connor MacFarlane and Craig Ricks.  Two deep pitching staffs, although the Mets have the bigger names. But ‘Boro’s guys keep them in the game.

Mount Laurel vs. Vincentown

After a 17-0 start, Vincentown has “cooled off” to 10-6 (a .625 win percentage). Mount Laurel has won six of its last eight, both losses being by a 6-5 score, to Riverside and Vincentown.  Vincentown won all three regular-season meetings, a 15-1 romp early, followed by 5-2 and 6-5 games.  V-town got a win from Joe Argow and a loss by Dave Stieg, forcing Zeke Boren to come through in Game 3 vs. Cinnaminson, which he did. With some help from Kevin Carty and Greg Miller.  Mount Laurel (17-12) used Justin Ely and Trevor Sotell to eliminate Riverside. Matt Szukics and Mike Cooper could be ready to go.

What you missed

If you missed the quarterfinals, here’s some of the defensive gems you missed:


  • Burlington’s Pete Perez drilled a blue dart seemingly headed to right field, but Pine Barrens’ J.T. Triantos made the play.
  • Riverside’s Tyler Freeman made a great stop on ML’s Mike Tobia’s hard grounder to short and turned it into a forceout.
  • Perez turned a potential tie game into a win as the Mets’ shortstop made a leaping, running grab of PB’s Ryan Krupa’s line drive to left-center and flipped to Garrett Mull for a Game 2-ending twinkilling.
  • Riverside’s Josh Sabol made a great stop and Jake Reeder made a backhanded grab of his throw to get ML’s Paul Meagher.
  • A Brandon Barnes-Tobia-Rich Ledbeater relay nailed Riverside’s Tyler Wolf at home. Cole Pewor ended that inning for ML with a nice play to rob Joe Gutowski.
  • Delran’s Ryan McFadden threw out MacFarlane with a nice tag by Mark DeJesse, who himself was cut down by a MacFarlane-Mark Stumpf-Dan Hill relay at third.
  • Vincentown’s Game 2 rally in the seventh was ended when Cinnaminson’s Greg Gilbert made a spectacular backhanded grab of Mike Osborne’s throw from the hole.
  • Eric Sellito was robbed of a possible triple when the PB slugger’s long drive to center field in Game 3 was caught — a la Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series — by the Mets’ Shaun Babula.
  • V-town’s Ryan Williams and Miller robbed Cinnaminson with several diving stops in Game 3.
  • If Babula’s grab wasn’t the play of the year, then it was Geoff Gilbert’s diving catch into foul territory against Danny Williams in Game 3.

RVL Semi-Finals: Game 1, Wednesday, August 7, 2013: Willingboro 4, Burlington 2

Willingboro takes semifinal series opener

Willingboro has had quite the turnaround season this summer.  After opening the year with seven straight losses, the squad now finds itself one win from the Rancocas Valley Baseball League championship series after beating Burlington 4-2 on Wednesday night at Harry W. Thompson Field.  The win marks the first time since 2011 that ‘Boro has defeated Burlington, with the Mets having walked away victorious from the last eight meetings.  “It was rough in the beginning of the year because we gave up a lot of close games in the sixth and seventh innings; we would be up in the beginning, then choke late,” Willingboro winning pitcher Tyler Bayley said. “After the first seven games, I think we figured out how to finish games out and that’s what’s helped us recently.  “This is the first time we’ve had a win past the first round ever so it means a lot to all of us here. We weren’t expected to do much this season at all and to be here is great.”

Bayley had himself a stellar performance from the mound, as well. He threw all seven innings, allowed three hits, struck out one and walked one. He had a no-hitter going through the first three innings and one of the Burlington runs was unearned.  “This was the first time I’ve gone seven in a while because I’m more of a relief pitcher but I felt strong by the end of the game and kept throwing my fastball,” Bayley said. “I was just trying to do my job, get ground balls and spread the ball through the infield. It was real intense and it feels great.”

Willingboro (18-13) struck first in the top of the first inning on a Jon Wetzel sacrifice grounder that scored John Walls from third.  In the fifth inning, ‘Boro was able to capitalize on two Burlington errors and brought across two runs for a 3-1 lead. Right fielder Connor MacFarlane then scored on a passed ball in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach.  Designated hitter Jared Turner was the lone Willingboro batter with more than one hit, going 2-for-3 with a run scored after reaching base on an error.  “With these games, it often comes down to who makes less mistakes,” Turner said. “Tonight, the defense made the plays we had to make and we scored when we could. We have more of a friendly rivalry with Burlington because they’re all good guys, but it was really nice to be on the winning side of one.”

Zach Skidmore doubled twice, while Vinny James and Matt Jolly each had a sacrifice RBI for Burlington (25-6-2).  Mets starter Carl Taylor went five innings with five strikeouts, three hits, three walks and zero earned runs.  “It’s not that frustrating because I know we’re better than that and I know my team’s behind me,” Taylor said. “We just have to hit the ball and I know we’re going to come out and win the next two games.”

RVL Semi-Finals: Game 1, Wednesday, August 7, 2013: Mt. Laurel 0, Vincentown 9

Pepper leads Vincentown past Mount Laurel

Sam Pepper batted in the first run and didn't allow any as Vincentown began its Rancocas Valley Baseball League semifinal series Wednesday with a 9-0 victory over Mount Laurel.  The best-of-three series continues Thursday at Southampton Memorial Park. Mount Laurel and Vincentown will take the field after the completion of the 6:45 p.m. game between Burlington and Willingboro.  Pepper finished with eight strikeouts in a three-hitter as Vincentown improved to 28-6 overall. Jack Bujanowski was 4-for-4 and scored two runs, and Jesse Pappler had three hits (two doubles) and two RBIs.

Vincentown scored three runs in the first inning. Pepper tripled to center field, scoring Bujanowski; Ryan Williams' sacrifice fly scored Pepper; and Pappler's first two-bagger scored Greg Miller.  Bujanowski led off a four-run fourth inning with a hit and was one of two runners who scored on a double by Johnny Bujanowski. Miller scored on a wild pitch and Pappler hit his second double of the night for a 7-0 lead.  Williams' second sac fly of the game made it 8-0 in the fifth inning and Danny Williams singled in the sixth, scoring Pappler.

RVL Semi-Finals: Game 2, Thursday, August 8, 2013: Burlington 7, Willingboro 0

Babula blanks Willingboro to keep series alive

Burlington did it again.  For the second straight series, the Mets found themselves one game from elimination. And for the second straight series, they won Game 2 to keep their championship hopes alive.  Thursday night, Burlington blanked Willingboro 7-0 to even their best-of-three Rancocas Valley Baseball League semifinal series at one win apiece.  “We didn’t play defense yesterdRVL Playoffsay and we had great defense today,” winning pitcher Shaun Babula said. “Our defense was awesome tonight and that was the difference. This is what we came here to do; now we’ve got to play tomorrow.”

The deciding game is scheduled for Friday at Harry W. Thompson Field. Game time depended on the outcome of Thursday's later game between Mount Laurel and Vincentown, which ended too late for this edition). If that series also goes to Game 3, Burlington and 'Boro will meet at 6:45 p.m. and the Mount Laurel-Vincentown game would follow. If Vincentown clinched Thursday night, then the Mets would meet Willingboro at 7.

Babula was essentially flawless. In fact, in six of the seven innings, he was perfect. When all was said and done, he finished his complete game with five strikeouts and one walk — while allowing just one hit, to Willingboro pinch hitter Jamie Schwantes in the sixth.  “I felt very good out there tonight,” Babula said. “I wasn’t frustrated when they got the hit on me because Jamie’s owned me for years. I kind of laughed when they put him up the plate and he got me. But what are you gonna do?”RVL Playoffs

The Mets (26-6-2) got on the board early after a two-run double from left fielder Vinnie James in the top of the first. The ensuing batter, second baseman Garrett Mull, then sent James home with a single to put Burlington up 3-0.  Burlington’s bats remained quiet for the most part until the sixth inning, when the squad was able to tack on three more runs. Centerfielder Kyle Semmel cracked a single that scored two, and two batters later, Pedro Perez sent Semmel home with an RBI double. The Mets added a run in the seventh.

Perez had his best game hitting-wise of the playoffs thus far. Despite going 0-for-2 in Game 1 while batting ninth, the Mets showed a lot of confidence in their young shortstop and put him second in the lineup Thursday.  After all, he’s been making contact this postseason; the ball just hadn’t found the gap. Thursday night, it couldn’t have worked out any better.  Perez finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and scored after being hit by a pitch in the first inning.  “I wasn’t hitting the ball as hard as I did yesterday, but they were dropping tonight and that’s just how baseball is sometimes,” Perez said. “It’s pretty good to come out with the win. Tomorrow, we just need to come out here and play the same baseball we’ve been playing.”

Willingboro (18-14) knows it’s the underdog but embraces that role.  Fourth-seeded 'Boro took down second-seeded Burlington in Game 1, halting an eight-game losing streak to the Mets dating to 2011. And there’s no way this group of guys is giving up now.  “Shaun’s the best pitcher they’ve got and it’s always tough when you’re going up against him because you know he’s going to throw strikes and you know he’s going to come at you,” Willingboro catcher Mike Gulli said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get many to drop today, but any time you can put nine guys out on the field to make a play, you’ve got a chance. If we hit the ball next game, we’ll be OK.”

RVL Semi-Finals: Game 2, Thursday, August 8, 2013: Vincentown 7, Mt. Laurel 3

Vincentown advances to RVL title series

Vincentown maintained its hopes of repeating as Rancocas Valley Baseball League champion Thursday night with a 7-3 victory over Mount Laurel.  Vincentown swept the best-of-three semifinal series in two games. The Merchants (29-6) advance to the championship series, a best-of-five event scheduled to start Sunday.  Burlington evened its series against Willingboro with a 7-0 win Thursday, so their deciding game is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m.  All RVL postseason games are played at Harry W. Thompson Field in Southampton and all games in the title series are slated for 7 p.m. starts.

Vincentown scored four runs in the top half of the seventh inning. Dan Williams' single broke a 3-3 tie in the Merchants' favor after three walks loaded the bases.  Troy Foster followed with a two-run single and Sam Pepper doubled to score another insurance run. Pepper finished the game with three hits, Williams had two hits, two RBIs and scored three runs, and Foster had two RBIs.

Mount Laurel erased a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Vincentown starter Joe Argow had retired the first 10 batters he faced.  Cole Pewor singled, took second base on an overthrow and scored on a single by Mike Tobia. Kevin Diamond singled, Bryan Black doubled (Tobia scoring) and Niko Celia hit a sacrifice fly to score Diamond with the go-ahead run.

Vincentown drew even in the sixth when Williams scored on a wild pitch with older brother Ryan Williams at bat. Dan Williams had singled, moved to second when Foster walked, then taken third when Pepper hit into a fielder's choice, Mount Laurel getting the out at second.  

Kevin Carty replaced Argow on the mound in the fifth inning and retired five batters in a row, getting the win when Vincentown pulled ahead in the seventh. Greg Miller worked the bottom of the seventh to save it.  Mount Laurel made it interesting, and had runners on second and third when Miller recorded a strikeout to end it. Brandon Barnes doubled and singled for Mount Laurel, which finished 17-14.

RVL Semi-Finals: Game 3, Friday, August 9, 2013: Burlington 5, Willingboro 2

Burlington took this semifinal series against Willingboro by winning the third and final game by the score of 5-2Burlington Mets vs. Willingboro RVL Baseball. The Mets got the scoring started in the third inning on RBI singles by Zach Skidmore and Matt Fischer. Burlington scored three more in the fourth on an RBI single by Pedro Perez, an RBI ground out by Zach Skidmore, and a steal of home plate by Pedro Perez. Matt Speckmann accounted for both Willingboro runs with an RBI single in the fourth inning and a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. John Harvey went the distance to pick up the win for the Mets. Connor McFarlane took the loss for Willingboro. 




 Click here to see the photo gallery. (Courtesy of Tri-County Sports Online)

Burlington vs. Vincentown in best-of-five final

There were definitely moments when a Burlington vs. Vincentown final in the 2013 Rancocas Valley Baseball League playoffs looked like it might not happen.  Burlington was down to its final three outs in Game 2 of the quarterfinals before rallying to oust pesky Pine Barrens. And the Mets needed three games — including Friday night’s 5-2 win over Willingboro in Game 3 of the semis — to reach the final.

Vincentown had similar problems in the opening round, not eliminating Cinnaminson until a 2-1 victory in raucous Game 3. And V-town was tied at 3 with Mount Laurel going to the seventh inning of Game 2 before advancing.  But, starting Sunday night at 7, it will indeed be the Burlington Mets (27-6-2) against the Vincentown Merchants (29-6) in the best-of-five finals. It’s like the RVL’s ancient days: the River vs. the Country.  Games will follow Monday and Tuesday, with Wednesday and Thursday the “if necessary” dates. All games are at Harry W. Thompson Field in Southampton.

The Merchants finished first in the regular season with a 25-5 record (.833 win percentage) while the Mets were close behind at 23-4-2 (.827).  There is no doubt who will get the ball for Vincentown, as Dave Stieg is well rested and ready. The righty pitched a four-hitter in a 3-2 win over the Mets on June 14, and a five-hitter in a July 25 loss. Merchants co-ace Joe Argow owns a pair of victories over the Mets.

Since Burlington used Carl Taylor on Wednesday, Shaun Babula on Thursday and John Harvey on Friday, who their starting pitcher will be Sunday is up in the air. Jonathan Wilkins is one possibility. He pitched well in a 3-0 loss to V-town on July 16.  Or they could bring Taylor back on three days’ rest, although he was hit hard in an 8-2 loss on May 27. There is also the by-committee approach they used in the 2-1 victory on July 25 with Kevin Gunter, Mark McCouch, Twocas Elliott, Sean McNeil and Wilkins (that game was 0-0 until the seventh).

The teams feature some outstanding players, led by center fielders Sammy Pepper (V-town) and Babula, and shortstops Ryan Williams (V-town) and Pedro Perez.  The Merchants have the league’s leading hitter in Johnny Bujanowski, his ageless hitting-machine father Jack, along with Greg Miller, who leads the RVL in everything offensively except batting average and runs (he’s fourth and second, respectively). There’s also red-hot Jesse Pappler, slick-fielding Danny Williams, Troy Foster behind the plate and Kevin Carty wherever he’s needed.

The Mets feature look to veterans Zach Skidmore, Vinny James, Matt Fischer, Paul Guerrieri and Garrett Mull, plus youth in Mike Kerns, speedy Kyle Semmel and Matt Jolly.  Vincentown won the championship in 2012, while Burlington won it all in 2010. The Merchants ousted the Mets in the 2012 semis, winning 8-6 in 12, and 17-3.

In Friday’s semi, Harvey allowed just six hits and one earned run, while striking out five.  Skidmore and Fischer had RBI hits in the third off Connor MacFarlane. Then after Willingboro got within one on Matt Speckmann’s RBI single in the fourth, the Mets put up three in their half of the inning.  A walk and Semmel’s bunt single set up Perez’s RBI single and another run scored on Skidmore’s ground out. After James walked, he got caught in a rundown as Perez raced home.

Speckmann’s sacrifice fly plated Mark Stumpf in the sixth and ‘Boro threatened in the seventh when Mike Gulli singled and John Walls doubled with one out. But two fly outs to shallow center ended the threat.  Speckmann had two of Willingboro’s six hits. Fischer topped Burlington with three hits.

RVL Finals: Game 1, Sunday, August 11th: Burlington 8, Vincentown 2

Gunter pitches Burlington to Game 1 victory

Kevin Gunter just wasn’t feeling it.  Prior to the first game of the Rancocas Valley Baseball League championship series, the scheduled starting pitcher for the Burlington Mets was contemplating pushing his start date back a day.  “I just felt like crap,” Gunter said. “I made a call to (manager) Keith Babula telling him he may wanna push me back.  “Luckily, when I got out here and warmed up, I ended up feeling pretty good.”

“Pretty good” may be a pretty big understatement.  Gunter went the distance Sunday, striking out four and allowing just two earned runs in Burlington’s 8-2 victory over the Vincentown Merchants at Harry W. Thompson Field.  “It’s a good win anytime you can beat Vincentown,” Babula said. “They know how to swing the bats, now we just need to keep playing.”

Gunter — who had pitched just 7.1 innings all year — kept a Merchants’ offense that had scored 31 runs in their last five games in check.  “I was just trying to throw strikes, get strike one,” the righty said. “It helped a lot that we came out and scored a couple runs early to set the tone.”

Playing the top scoring team in the RVL, Burlington displayed its own offensive prowess, recording more runs on the Merchants than any team had since July 29.  The Mets brought one run across in the first when Vinny James scored on a fielder’s choice, then six in the second highlighted by Pedro Perez’s two-run double and Zach Skidmore’s three-run home run.  Burlington added its last run in the sixth off Shaun Babula’s RBI single.  “When we were able to score those runs early, it set the tone,” Gunter said. “Then when we had our success on the mound, and that set the tone for the rest of the day.”

John Bujanowski’s two RBI singles — one in the fifth and one in the seventh — marked Vincentown’s lowest run total since suffering a 5-1 defeat to Cinnaminson on Aug. 4, the Merchants’ first loss of the 2013 playoffs.  Manager Harry Thompson blamed the team’s struggles to having faced Gunter for only one inning in the regular season.  “This is the first real time we’ve faced this kid,” Thompson said. “You wish you’d faced him before, you wished you batted against him but we’re not crying, we’ll be all right.”

Thompson said if his team is to get back to its winning ways, it’ll have to do what got it here in the first place.  “We need to play ball the way we’ve played all year. We’ve scored in double figures in 12 to 15 games this year,” Thompson said. “We’ve been hitting the ball, we didn’t do that today.  “We’re all right, we’ll come back, I promise that.”

Game two of the RVL finals will be played Monday at Harry W. Thompson Field in Southampton, with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.

RVL Notebook: Burlington County Times - Monday, August 12th, 2013

RVL notebook: Triantos, Williams earn scholarships

The Rancocas Valley Baseball League’s Scholarship Selection committee has announced its two $500 award winners for the 2013 season.

Jonathan (J.T.) Triantos of the Pine Barrens Phantoms won the award in memory of Alvin Townsend. Ryan Williams of the Vincentown Merchantrs won the award in memory of Jason Siddell.  Triantos is a 2012 graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and will be attending Rutgers-Camden School of Law. He hit .486 for the Phantoms after graduating F&M as its all-time hits leader. He is a graduate of Sacred Heart High in Vineland.

Williams is a junior Health and Exercise Science major at Rowan University, where he is a member of the baseball team. In his second year in the RVL, the slick-fielding shortstop hit .400 with 21 RBIs in the regular season. He is a graduate of Seneca High.

The RVL started its scholarship program in 2004. Originally, one scholarship was awarded to a member of the Vincentown Merchants club in appreciation for use of the baseball field during the playoffs. In 2007, it was decided to award only one scholarship to any member of RVL baseball.

In 2008, the RVL returned to its two scholarship format, awarded to any current member of a RVL baseball team, one of which was awarded in memory of Jason Siddell. Siddell was a member of the Cinnaminson club for seven years and passed away unexpectedly Jan. 4, 2008. Starting in 2009, both RVL scholarships were awarded in memory of former RVL players. In addition to the Siddell award, the other scholarship was awarded in memory of Alvin Townsend. Townsend was the regular right fielder for the Willingboro Baseball Club from its inaugural year in 1999 until his tragic passing Aug. 10, 2008.

Previous winners of RVL scholarships:

2012: Sean McNeill (Burlington) and Jim Goodwin (Cinnaminson)

2011: Kyle Semmel (Burlington), Stefan Kancylarz (Vincentown)

2010: Eddie Eifert (Burlington), Matt Szuckis (Mount Laurel)

2009: Ron Krankowski (Pemberton), Frank Sirolli (Cinnaminson)

2008: Billy Guarino (Willingboro), Johnny Bujanowksi (Vincentown)

2007: Kyle Ballay (Delran)

2006: Ryan Mingin (Cinnaminson), Kevin Carty (Vincentown)

2005: Bret Jenkins (Mount Laurel), Andrew Lydon (Vincentown)

2004: Geoff Gilbert (Cinnaminson), Matt Dunaway (Vincentown)

Just wondering ...

• If any team in recent years has ever had a better defensive outfield than Cinnaminson’s trio of Joe Sirolli, Frank Sirolli and Geoff Gilbert?

• If the Phillies’ Cliff Lee pitched against Burlington’s Shaun Babula in a seven-inning game, would it even last an hour?

• If somebody hit Vincentown’s Williams brothers, Ryan and Danny, 50 ground balls each, who would miss first? Or would either ever miss?

• If anybody else has noticed the resemblance between league president Ric Babula and “The General” in those car insurance commercials?

• If Greg Miller wore a pro team’s uniform instead of Vincentown’s, would that make him even better?

• If there was a Comeback Player of the Year, would it go to Delran’s Mark Wickersham?

• If anybody “reloads” faster than Harry Thompson? Vincentown has lost Al Roach, Andrew Lydon, Alan Hasher, Owen Boles, Chris Murray, Bubba DiFabio, Damon Valloreo, Dan Hayduk and Stefan Kancylarz over the past few years, and finished first in the regular season with a 25-5 record.

• Instead of a hockey player’s “playoff beard,” Willingboro catcher Mike Gulli went with “English sideburns.” Was he trying to look like Sean Connery’s portrayal of Daniel Dravot in The Man Who Would Be King?

• If there’s a more exciting/electric/eccentric player in the league than Vincentown’s Sam Pepper?

• If Autumn in V-town has a better defensive position than center field? Guys like Sirolli, Ryan McFadden, John Walls and Babula are amazing.

• How the RVL would do if its playoff champion met the winner of the playoff champs from Jersey’s Atlantic County, Salem County, South Jersey Tri-County, Jersey Shore, Morris Majors and North Jersey Met leagues, and Pennsylvania’s Pen-Del, Perkiomen Twilight, Blue Mountain and Lehigh Valley Tri-County leagues in an end-of-season tournament? It would be similar to the old Tournament of Champions that ran from 1954 to 1992. And a single-loss tournament could be done in one weekend.

Why no Gilder in RVL?

Co-worker Phil Chappine mentioned Gilder Field recently, and it got me wondering why the RVL doesn’t still have a team there.

Bordentown annually fields one of the top teams in the Mercer County American Legion League. What do those kids — and others in Mercer County — do after they age out? A team with players from Bordentown, Steinert, Florence, Hamilton, West Windsor, Hightstown, Allentown and New Egypt playing in the RVL, with a field like Gilder, would be a perfect fit. (And another reason to visit the Russ Ayres Hot Dog Stand on Route 206 South.)

Book on semipro ball

The book “Covered Wooden Grandstands,” an anecdotal history of semipro baseball in New Jersey, and beyond, is for sale at Harry Thompson Field’s refreshment stand throughout the RVL playoffs. Cost is $25.

There are features on the RVL’s Harry Thompson, Shaun Babula, Rocky Petrone and Jack Bujanowski, and something from every county in New Jersey.

Next week

In the final RVL notebook of the 2013 season, we will select our all-RVL first and second teams, along with an attempt at ranking the playing fields.

RVL Finals: Game 2, Monday, August 12th: Burlington 4, Vincentown 6

Vincentown evens series

After two games of Rancocas Valley League championship play, it’s suddenly a brand new series.  Because when the Vincentown Merchants took down the Burlington Mets 6-4 on Monday night at Harry W. Thompson Field, it evened the series at one win apiece.  Now, instead of a best-of-five series to determine this year’s RVL champion, it comes down to a best-of-three to determine who will take home the trophy.

The series continues Tuesday night with Game 3 starting at 7 p.m. Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday with Game 5, if necessary, slated for Thursday. All games are at Thompson Field.  “This is a huge rivalry and this is a huge win for us because if we lost we would’ve been down two games to none,” Vincentown starting pitcher Sam Pepper said. “Next game, we’re going to have to hit because we’re a hitting team and when we don’t hit we don’t win — it’s as simple as that.”

Pepper threw six strong innings and allowed six hits, striking out two and walking one.  “I was only on three days’ rest so we were questioning whether I was going to start or not,” Pepper said. “I felt good warming up and I actually felt better than I did three days ago.”081313jL rvl title series c1

The Merchants’ offensive charge was sparked by a four-run fifth inning. Pepper went 0-for-2, but scored twice following two walks. Kevin Carty, Greg Miller and Troy Foster each had an RBI for Vincentown (30-7).  “We’re a hitting team and we lead the league in every offensive category,” Pepper said. “We can’t rely on the long ball. We need to hit gap-to-gap, hit singles and we have to play small ball a lot better than we are right now.”

After Burlington led off the bottom of the final inning with back-to-back singles, Pepper was moved from the mound to center field, as third baseman Greg Miller was handed the ball to attempt to close the game out.  Miller faced the top of the Mets’ lineup with no outs and runners on first and second. He struck out the first two batters, walked the next two to give Burlington its fourth run and induced the final batter to pop out to shortstop Ryan Williams to seal the victory.  “It’s fun to be out there and I was just trying to close the door for Pepper,” Miller said. “He pitched a great game and gave us the opportunity to win. This is a huge for our morale because now it’s a three-game series and we’ll see who the best team is.”

For Burlington (28-7-2), it may have been a worst-case scenario.  The Mets were up 2-0 with ace lefty Shaun Babula on the mound in the fourth inning. But midway through the frame, Babula reinjured the hamstring that has bothered him in recent weeks.  Babula did not return to the game following the fourth, but said the injury will not prevent him from playing later this week and finishing out the series.  “It’s pretty frustrating because we had a two-run lead and I was cruising, but I’ll be back,” Babula said. ”They had a big inning and we fought back. We’ve got a team full of guys with a lot of pride. We’ll be fine.”

RVL Finals: Game 3, Tuesday, August 13, 2013: Burlington 12, Vincentown 2

Burlington regains lead in championship series

It rained so hard Tuesday morning that Noah’s ark was accepting reservations.  The Burlington Mets shoRVLwed their appreciation to the grounds crew that got Harry W. Thompson Field ready for Tuesday night’s Rancocas Valley Baseball League playoff game. Burlington scored 10 runs over the last five innings in a 12-2 victory.  The win gave the Mets a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five RVL championship series. Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Harry W. Thompson Field. If necessary, Game 5 would be Thursday at the same time and site.


Burlington pitcher Carl Taylor went the distance for the win, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits while striking out six. Taylor permitted only three hits after the first inning.  “My team needed me very badly tonight,” Taylor said. “This is the biggest game in the series and we are the top two teams in the league. Taking the series lead in Game 3 is crucial. For me personally, it was nice to see that I can still pitch with the big boys.”

Six runs in the top half of the third inning put Burlington (29-7-2 overall) up for good. Vinny James’ second sacrifice fly of the night scored Shaun Babula with the go-ahead run. Babula also scored on James’ earlier sac fly.  Walks to Mull and Matt Fischer preceded a two-run single by Paul Guerrieri for a 5-2 lead. Kerns followed with his second home run in two games, this one a three-run shot to boost the Mets’ advantage to 8-2.  The teams traded a pair of runs in the first inning. Burlington scored its two in the top half of the frame. After James sent Babula home for the first time, Garrett Mull followed with a single to score Pedro Perez, who’d walked.  Vincentown (30-8) answered in the bottom of the first when an infield error brought home Sam Pepper, who singled. Johnny Bujanowski then knotted the score at 2 with a single to right field, scoring Danny Williams.

Taylor worked out of further trouble by inducing a 1-6-3 double play off the bat of Ryan Williams.  “I threw a slider down and away, I worked fast and kept my defense awake, but that double play certainly helped,” Taylor said. “My defense was awesome tonight and I’m glad we were able to really feed of that double play early on.”

Mull joined Kerns with three RBIs apiece. Mull’s two-run single in the fourth extended the lead to 10-2 and Zach Skidmore’s two-run homer in the seventh wrapped it up. Skidmore has three home runs in the series.  “I’m just trying to see the ball and hit it through the middle,” Kerns said. “I got a pitch up in the zone on a 1-2 count and threw my hands at it. I’m seeing the ball well and am working on driving the ball.  “I’m confident we can close things out tomorrow night. We’ve got (John) Harvey on the mound. He’s pitched phenomenal all year long. We’re going to approach Game 4 like any other game.”

RVL Finals: Game 4, Wednesday, August 14, 2013: Burlington 2, Vincentown 0

Harvey in control as Burlington claims crown

Put it in the books: The Burlington Mets are the Rancocas Valley League champions for the second time in team history.  John Harvey struck out 10, walked two and allowed six hits in the Mets’ 2-0 victory over Vincentown on Wednesday night at Harry W. Thompson Field.  Zach Skidmore hit a home run to lead off the bottom half of the sixth inning and Burlington added an insurance run. Vincentown’s Vern Powell singled to start the top of the seventh before Harvey retired the next three batters on a groundout and two strikeouts.  Burlington won the best-of-five title series in four games and finished 30-7-2 overall. But the Mets saw it as more than just a game or series. It was about revenge.  081513jL rvl playoffs c1

Last season, Burlington finished first in the regular season but was knocked out in the semifinals by Vincentown, which went on to win the title. The Merchants then posted the league’s best record this regular season.  Although the Mets had to wait a year to earn their payback, they couldn’t be happier.  “We’re a team with a lot of pride and we didn’t like the way we were bounced out last year,” Burlington’s Shaun Babula said. “We’re a team that pitches well and plays defense and that’s what won us the series.”

Solid, consistent hitting up and down the Burlington lineup didn’t hurt, either. Skidmore earned the Most Valuable Player award after hitting a home run in each of the four games.  “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then,” Skidmore said. “If I didn’t hit it there, we have the heart of the lineup behind me and I know they’re going to come through because they have all series. We have a tough team and we never give up.”  081513jL rvl playoffs c1

Five batters later, Mike Kerns drilled an RBI single to score Garrett Mull from second to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. Kerns had hit a home run in each of the the previous two games.  Shortstop Pedro Perez finished the finals 11-for-15 (.733 average) with five walks and was essentially a vacuum at shortstop, swallowing up everything in his vicinity.

The top of the sixth was almost ugly for Harvey. With one out, he allowed back-to-back hits to Vincentown’s Sam Pepper and Kevin Carty. Harvey then struck out the next two batters to dismiss himself from the jam.  “That was a big inning for me and I was just thinking that I needed to throw good pitches and hit good spots,” Harvey said as teammates dumped water on his head following the game. “Vincentown is a good hitting lineup, I was trying to keep them off balance and I felt good out there.”

For Vincentown (30-9), it’s disappointing, seeing as the Merchants led in every offensive category for the majority of the season.  “I don’t know what happened,” Vincentown manager Harry Thiompson said. “I can’t explain it; we just didn’t come through with the bats.  “It’s disappointing but Burlington’s a good ball team. I still think that we’re the better team, but they beat us. We had a great year, and hopefully we’ll be here again next year. We’re not going to give up.”

Burlington Mets: 2013 RVL Champions

2013 RVL Champions:  Burlington Mets 



2013 RVL Finals MVP:  Zach Skidmore 


RVL President Burlington Mets Manager Ric Babula Receives Trophy from RVL VP, Dean Johnson