Last Updated: August 17, 2015
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Vincentown to celebrate Harry Thompson's career

Last Monday evening in the lovely village of Vincentown, an 80-ish man walked into the covered stands behind home plate at the local ball field. He said to another 80-ish man sitting there, “Harry told me you used to play for Mount Holly, and that I should come talk to you.”

It was fascinating stuff as they retraced games in Chatsworth, Mount Holly, Wrightstown, Juliustown and other towns long forgotten by the summer leagues.  For the next 15 or 20 minutes, the two strangers, remnants of the days when Burlington County had two men’s summer baseball leagues — the Burlington County League and the Rancocas Valley League — reminisced about different managers, teams and players from their glory days, some 65 years earlier.

At one point, one of them reached into his wallet and produced an old newspaper article of an all-star game between the BCL and the RVL, with a box score. That meant it was somewhere between 1947 and 1952.  The type was too small for the one old-timer, but the other read him all the names, on both teams. “He’s still around, works in boiler room at the hospital ... he has Alzheimer’s now ... he passed away last year ... “

Finally, the one said to the other, “Those sure were good times, weren’t they.” The other one agreed, adding, “Much better than the way it is today, that’s for sure.”

The common denominator here, of course, is Harry Thompson, the living legend of Vincentown. It was he who suggested those two chat the other night, at the field that is named for Thompson, while Thompson was managing his current team to a 2-0 lead in the 2015 RVL playoff finals against Cinnaminson, a series they eventually lost in five games.

Thompson has been a player for the Merchants since he was a 16-year-old attending Pemberton High School in 1947, the RVL’s first year. That’s 69 years ago. Last year the Merchants won their 1,000th game under Thompson, who this year celebrated 50 years as the team’s manager.  Thompson had a brief fling at professional baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but the Korean War and the draft got in the way.

In honor of his lifelong association with Vincentown, the Merchants Athletic Association of Vincentown and the Vincentown Council JR OUAM #17 is having a celebration of Thompson’s fabled career Saturday, from 1 to 5 p.m., at Bamboo Gardens, 134 Landing Street. Everyone is invited and tickets can still be purchased for $25 from Clarence (Butch) Sharp at 609-605-6800.While tickets are available, they are going fast.

Thompson played on RVL-winning teams at Vincentown in 1953 and 1954, taking over the managerial chores in 1965, while continuing to play. His teams won the RVL playoff titles in 1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1973, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2012.

The Merchants captured the prestigious Bridgeton Invitational Tournament in 1968 and 1982.

A big turnout is expected, and to enhance the chances of that, local musician Scott Gager has donated his services for the event. So come on down and there will be plenty of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, maybe even some Rascal Flatts, from the rising country star.

Defensive play of the year

Mike Wasco was a catcher at Riverside High School, converted into a first baseman at Stockton College and mostly patrolled left field this summer for the Cinnaminson Reds.  On Aug. 10 at Thompson Field, he flashed some sweet leather in Game 2 of the RVL finals vs. Vincentown. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Merchants’ Mike Ferrara sent a long foul ball deep down the left-field line. Wasco raced after it and, some 30 feet into foul territory, dove full length and came up with the grab. Moments later, he again raced across the foul line to snag Stefan Kancylarz’s opposite-field drive, although he caught that one standing.  “He came out of nowhere to get Ferrara’s ball,” Reds manager Brett Miller said.

RVL makes Channel 3

The CBS3 news truck was parked in the lot at Thompson Field on Wednesday night, with Emmy award-winning Natasha Brown in town to do a piece on Thompson. The Cinnaminson Reds didn’t cooperate that night, however, when they won Game 3.  The spot aired Friday night, after the Reds won the series three games to two. But that didn’t take away from Channel 3’s nice tribute to a living legend.

Chip off the old block

Ian Thomas made his grandfather proud. The youngster rode the bench and filled in occasionally at catcher during the regular season, but had just one hit. In the playoffs, his grandpop, Thompson, needed somebody when catcher Reid Pulford went lame in Game 2. Enter his grandson.  Thomas laid down a nice sacrifice bunt to help win that game, and started the last three games in the outfield, collecting three straight hits at one point.


RVL Notebook

August 17, 2015

Courtesy of Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times

Gibson came to pitch in Game 5

The Rancocas Valley Baseball League, commonly known as the RVL, is “big boy” baseball. And when you get to the big games, you want your big boys with the ball.  The Vincentown Merchants came out on the short end of this year’s playoff finals, losing 7-5 to the Cinnaminson Reds on Friday night at Thompson Field. The Reds, who finished fourth in the regular season, were just 20-17-1 for the season, but closed by winning the last three games of the best-of-five finals.

Vincentown pitcher Dave Gibson had a big effort, despite allowing seven runs. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound lefty, who drives up from Philadelphia for games, threw an amazing — are you sitting down? — 159 pitches in the game. Yes, that’s one hundred and fifty nine.  And if you thought Gibson might have been running out of gas at the end, guess again. He struck out cleanup hitter Mike Wasco in the fifth and sixth, and whiffed Connor Hall and John Dockins in the seventh. The league’s K-King finished the night with nine K’s.  “I went out there to talk to him and (catcher) Jimmy (Best),” manager Harry Thompson said. “Jimmy said, ‘Leave him in. He’s still throwing hard.’  “Gibby is a gamer. He won eight games and struck out close to 100 guys this year. And he’s the nicest kid. Some people went up to him after the game and said, ‘Are there any more like you down there?’ Gibby winked and said, ‘Why, are you trying to get rid of me?’ And they said, ‘No, we want to get more guys like you.’ “

Best’s solo homer in the first was the only scoring until the top of the third. After an error, Gibson got two more outs. But Geoff Gilbert (RBI), Wasco, Kyle Higgins (RBI) and Mark Wickersham (two-RBI) followed with hits and a 4-1 lead.  Vincentown came right back, loading the bases and scoring on Matt Weaver’s sacrifice fly. But Ryan Martin ended that threat when he picked the lead runner off second. Again Vincentown scored in the fourth on Frank Cerami’s double and Mike Ferrara’s single, making it 4-3.  Higgins then delivered perhaps the game’s key hit, an RBI triple to right-center that scored Gilbert, and Higgins continued home on an overthrow. Vincentown threatened again in the last of the fifth with two on and none out. Lefty John Bednarek, who helped Cinnaminson High win a state title a couple years back, came in to face two very tough lefties — Stefan Kancylarz and Best. He got a pop out and a double play grounder.

Cinnaminson made it 7-5 with another unearned run in the sixth — six of their seven runs were unearned — which was clutch because Bednarek quickly gave up a single to Weaver and a long homer to Cerami to start the home sixth.  Kyle Ballay finished up. In the seventh, with Kancylarz on second and one out, he caught Best looking at a third strike and got Weaver to fly out.  “That’s baseball,” Thompson said. “We had 13 errors in the last three games, and that’s not us. But you have to give a lot of credit to Cinnaminson. They are a really nice team, and they got hot at the right time.  “But we’ll be back, babe. I’ve had some guys saying they want to come back and play next year — Kevin Carty and Sam Pepper. Pepper can pitch, catch, play the outfield. He changes the complexion of games. He’s like (Burlington’s) Shaun Babula that way.

“Right now, I’m looking forward to another year or two, God willing. I love the RVL.” 

Dockins does it all for champion Cinnaminson

By Nick Italiano Correspondent, Burlington County Times

There are times when numbers can be deceiving.  For example, take John Dockins’ batting line from Friday night’s Rancocas Valley League championship finale: 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, a walk and a sacrifice bunt.  Somewhat underwhelming. But without him in the lineup, it’s unlikely that the Cinnaminson Reds could have come away with a 7-5 victory over host Vincentown and earn the franchise’s 18th overall title — the most in RVL history.  “The way (Merchants’ starting pitcher Dave) Gibson was throwing, I couldn’t see him well tonight,” said Dockins, who bats leadoff. “So I thought to myself, ‘Play some defense and see what happens.’ ”

What happened was that Dockins changed the entire complexion of the contest from his shortstop position in the game’s middle innings — starting in the bottom of the third.  With bases loaded and one out, Matt Weaver’s sacrifice fly cut Vincentown’s deficit to 4-2. The Merchants still had runners on first and second with two down.  “The man on second had a big lead out there, so I just figured I’d show inside move to keep him honest,” Reds starting pitcher Ryan Martin said. “Then I saw he was jumping, so I figured I’d go back to it. Good thing Dock was on the same page as me.”

The result was a pickoff for the third out.  “Ryan gave me a little head nod, so I was like ‘OK’ — his leg went up, I went to second and there was the ball,” Dockins said. “Out! Big time play.”

Justifiably “big time” — especially if you speculate after what occurred in Vincentown’s next at-bat in the fourth. Frank Cerami, at bat when the previous inning ended, doubled.  Mike Ferrara singled him home to trim the Reds’ lead to a run. Had that happened the inning before, Vincentown would have led by a run.

At that point, Dockins’ next creation killed a potential Vincentown rally with no outs and Ferrara at first.  “The batter hit like a hump-back line drive, and in my peripheral, I could see him holding the bat, thinking like I was going to catch it,” Dockins said. “Then I could see him not running, so I took a step back, bare-handed, flipped it to Greg (Gilbert), who threw it to first and there it was — double play.”

“That was one of the smartest plays I’ve ever seen on a baseball field — to pick up the batter not running out of the box, and being smart enough to let the ball drop to get the double play,” said Martin, who earned his first win of the season at the most opportune time. “Then in the next inning Dock turned another double play. He got us out of three innings.”

“It’s the little things that win you championships,” said Dockins, whose sacrifice bunt in the sixth moved Gilbert to third, from where he scored Cinnaminson’s final run on brother Geoff Gilbert’s sac fly.

“If Dock doesn’t do it at the plate, he does it in the field, day in and day out, every game,” Cinnaminson manager Brett Miller said. “We’re not here without him. He’s our MVP, no question about it.”

That accolade went one step farther. Dockins, a Cinnaminson resident who is in his final year of studying Sports Management at Kutztown University, was also named the playoff’s MVP.  Although Dockins’ final numbers were eye-popping — batting .413 with 28 runs, 18 RBIs, 17 walks and a .484 on-base percentage, his reaction to the MVP award somehow wasn’t surprising.  “I’m more worried about the team and winning championships, that’s what matters,” said Dockins, whose performance was one of several subplots among a group of players that reinforced the concept of team baseball.

The resilient and resourceful Reds staved off elimination on six occasions prior to winning a seventh time to earn the 2015 crown.  “The playoffs were fun. You come to the park knowing it could be the last game of the season six times,” said Kyle Higgins, Cinnaminson’s offensive star Friday with a 3-for-3 night that included a walk, a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Cinnaminson never hit the panic button even after losing the first game in each of its three postseason series. The Reds rallied to defeat Riverside in the first round and two-time defending champion Burlington in the semifinals, winning two games in each case.  “We just have a lot of guys that have a lot of experience playing high-level baseball,” said Higgins, whose squad lost its first two games to Vincentown in the best-of-five series only to rebound again by winning three games in three nights.  “When you have that experience, you just keep playing and trust — that when seven innings are over — you’re going to be the team that’s ahead,” Higgins said.

“You can’t write us off,” Martin said. “That’s why you got to play the game. And that’s why I love it.”

Cinnaminson completes comeback for title

By Nick Italiano Correspondent, Burlington County Times

Staving off elimination in seven consecutive playoff games, the Cinnaminson Reds captured the Rancocas Valley Baseball League championship Friday night with a 7-5 triumph over host Vincentown.  The fourth-seeded Reds used all facets of the game to earn the franchise’s 18th overall title — the most in RVL history.

Cinnaminson lost the first game in each of its three postseason series. The Reds rallied to defeat Riverside in the first round and Burlington in the semifinals, winning two games in each case.  In the best-of-5 title series, Cinnaminson lost its first two games to Vincentown before winning three times in three nights.  The Merchants, seeded second, got off to a good start in Game 5 as Jim Best cracked a solo homer in the bottom of the first inning.

But the Reds heated up in the top of the third by batting around and never looked back. With two outs, Cinnaminson bunched three straight hits, starting with Geoff Gilbert, who tied the game by knocking in Joe Sirolli. Mike Wasco and Kyle Higgins followed, with the latter hit scoring Gilbert with the go-ahead run.  A walk to Billy Dove loaded the bases for Mark Wickersham, who delivered a two-run single to cap the four-run rally.

Vincentown plated a run in the bottom of the frame and another in the fourth. Jim Hoff scored on Matt Weaver’s sac fly in the third and, in its next at-bat, Vincentown drew within a run after Mike Ferrara drove home Frank Cerami, who had doubled.  It took exceptional defensive work by Reds shortstop John Dockins to minimize the damage. A pickoff play with winning pitcher Ryan Martin ended the third. Dockins, who was named MVP of the playoffs, then spearheaded double plays the next two innings to eliminate threats by Vincentown.

In the Reds fifth, Higgins tripled home Gilbert and scored on an errant relay throw to third — extending the lead to 6-3. They added some insurance in the sixth on Gilbert’s sacrifice fly.  Cerami’s two-run blast closed the gap to 7-5 but the Merchants would get no closer. 

In its final at-bat, Vincentown did manage to bring the tying run to the plate, thanks to Stefan Kancylarz’s one-out single. But Cinnaminson reliever Kyle Ballay nailed down the victory with a strikeout and fly out.

Cinnaminson holds on, forces Game 5

August 13, 2015

Courtesy of Kevin Kolodziej, Burlington County Times

It’s time to start fresh.

When the Cinnaminson Reds defeated the Vincentown Merchants 7-6 in Game 4 of the Rancocas Valley League championship series Thursday under the lights at Vincentown’s Harry W. Thompson Field, they tied the best-of-5 series at two games each.

Vincentown won the first two games but Cinnaminson refused to quit and won its second straight elimination game of the series. This is the third straight playoff series in which Cinnaminson played in — and won — two elimination games.  “We were just joking around that we haven’t lost an elimination game yet these playoffs,” Cinnaminson’s Kyle Higgins said. “We’ve been behind in each series so far this year and we’ve come back. We’re looking to keep that going tomorrow.”

Game 5 is scheduled for Friday, 7:30 p.m. back at Thompson Field.

Higgins was the lone Cinnaminson player to reach base in each of his four plate appearances. He walked twice, scored twice, was hit by a pitch and blasted a solo home run over the left field fence in the fourth inning.  Higgins said that he was looking for a good fastball to hit and was happy to put a good swing on it when he got one. When he connected, the crack of the wooden bat echoed across the field as the ball went soaring through the summer night’s sky.

It was a no-doubter.

“When you hit them like that, you know they’re gone and there’s no feeling like it, especially in the championship. It’s always nice to help out the team, especially in a big series like this,” Higgins said. “We have a lot of guys that have been around the block and understand that when you’re down, you still have to play the game. You still have to get 21 outs and at the end of the game, you just hope you’re ahead. We don’t really panic, we just kind of trust that it’s going to happen.”

The Reds broke the scoring open in the second inning when they batted around and plated five runs.  Kyle Ballay had a double and an RBI; Geoff Gilbert had a hit, a walk, an RBI and scored a run; and Mark Wickersham had a two-run single for Cinnaminson.

Winning pitcher Eric Gertie was solid throughout and struck out five batters during his complete-game victory.  It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing down the stretch. He gave up a two-run home run to Jim Best in the top of the seventh before retiring three of the final four batters he faced, leaving one runner stranded come game’s end.  “I wasn’t planning on giving that home run up, but luckily we had that cushion. Vincentown has a dangerous lineup, and it was good that we tacked on a few runs early,” Gertie said. “I tried to keep them in play, but their lineup is stacked and they got some hits on me and got some runs, but we were able to hold them off.”

Best was Vincentown’s top hitter on the evening and finished 3-for-3 with a home run, a walk, four RBIs and two runs scored. Frank Cerami went 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored, and Matt Weaver knocked in two runs for the Merchants.  “We feel pretty confident,” Best said. “In order to win tomorrow, it’s going to take a good effort from (Dave) Gibson. He’s our ace and I think he has it. He’s probably in the best shape out of anybody on the team, so if anybody has it, he does. And we’re going to have to hit, too.”

Game 3 of RVL Finals Postponed

August 11, 2015

Game 3 of the RVL Finals between Cinnaminson and Vincentown scheduled for tonight has been postponed.  The 3rd game of the series will be played on Wednesday, August 12th starting at 7:30pm at Harry Thompson Field in Southampton, NJ.  Vincentown currently leads the best-of-five series 2-0.

Vincentown takes 2-0 lead in championship series

August 10, 2015

Courtesy of Joe Tansey, Burlington County Times

Vincentown took a commanding lead in the Rancocas Valley League finals with a 2-1win over Cinnaminson at Harry W. Thompson Field.  Behind a stellar pitching performance from ace Dave Gibson, the Merchants earned a chance to clinch the series in Tuesday’s Game 3.

The Merchants almost took the lead on their home field in the top of the first inning as three batters reached base by way of a base hit. Leadoff man Stefan Kancylarz appeared to score on Reid Pulford’s single to left, but Kancylarz was called out in a bang-bang play at the plate.

Cinnaminson almost pulled ahead in the bottom half of the frame as its first three batters reached base. Gibson responded with a strikeout of Geoff Gilbert before forcing Kyle Higgins into a pop-up and inducing a fielder’s choice off the bat of Bill Dove.  “(Cinnaminson) can hit the ball. I knew I was going to catch contact. I tried to not let that faze me and keep throwing strikes,” Gibson said. “Just try to keep them off balance and throw all my pitches for strikes. That was the key for me.  “I try not to think too much when I’m out there, especially when the game is tight, (Cinnaminson pitcher Ryan Martin) was throwing was pretty good also."

Martin did the same in the second as he sat down three batters after the bases were loaded against him with no outs.

Cinnaminson found a breakthrough in the third inning off the bat of Gilbert, who brought in Kyle Ballay with a one-out single that deflected off Gibson’s glove before heading into center field.

Vincentown tried to knock on the door again in the fourth, but was denied by two spectacular defensive plays by Mike Wasco in the left field. WIth one out, Wasco dove into foul territory to end Mike Ferrara’s at-bat and three pitches later he chased down a fly ball off the bat of Kancylarz to end the inning.

However, that would be the last time the Merchants felt dejected about their plate appearances. After leaving seven men on base through the first four innings, Vincentown finally plated two runners in the fifth to give Gibson the support he needed.

Matt Weaver kicked off the two-run rally with an opposite-field triple to right. Weaver then slid into home on a wild pitch.

Jim Best, who was intentionally walked, moved to second on the wild pitch and scored on Frank Cerami’s RBI single to left with one out.  “(Martin and his) defense were playing pretty good. We did a good job of being resilient at the plate and staying in the game,” Gibson said. “Sometimes baseball is a marathon, you just have to stick with it. And we pulled through on offense.”

Cinnaminson attempted to level the score in the bottom half of the fifth, but Gibson once again reared back and got a key out. This time, he used a bit more power on his fastball to set Mark Wickersham down on strikes.  “I just wanted to throw a fastball low and in,” Gibson said. “I got the spot that I wanted and he didn’t catch up to it. I didn’t think he was expecting it on that part of the plate.”

Gibson closed the game with relative ease over the next two innings and finished off his victory by forcing Higgins into a 4-6-3 double play. 

The win handed Vincentown a comfortable feeling heading into Tuesday’s Game 3.  “It’s great. We’re in the driver’s seat,” Gibson said.

Vincentown Wins RVL Finals Opener

August 9, 2015

Courtesy of Nick Italiano, Burlington County Times

One could argue that losing the opening game in the Rancocas Valley League championship series might be exactly where Cinnaminson wants to be.

For the Reds, who dropped a 13-9 decision to Vincentown on Sunday night, the territory is all too familiar.  “We’ll stick to the pattern,” said Cinnaminson coach Brett Miller, whose squad advanced by defeating Riverside and Burlington in the first two rounds. “Lose the first game (of the series) and do our best to claw back into it. Just make it hard on ourselves.”

The Reds appeared poised to break that trend by scoring a pair of runs in their initial at bat. Mike Wasco tripled in John Dockins, who had walked, and scored on Geoff Gilbert’s single.

The lead lasted six Merchant batters long in the bottom of the inning with Stefan Kancylarz leading the charge.  “A player like Stef (Kancylarz) is rare,” winning pitcher Damon Valloreo said. “When a guy hits a home run to lead off the inning, you know good things are going to happen.”

They did as Reid Pulford’s single tied the game and Jesse Pappler’s two-run double gave Vincentown a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Jim Hoff capped the six-run rally with a two-RBI single.  “It gives me a lot of confidence knowing that I can be sub-par and I still have somebody there to pick me up,” said Valloreo, whose teammates added two more runs in the second on RBI singles by Jim Best and Frank Cerami.

The Reds cut the deficit to 8-5 in the third inning by capitalizing on three errors.

But the Merchants bounced back scoring five more times in the fifth on only two hits. Pulford’s bases-loaded single was the key hit, plating two runs.

Cinnaminson tried to come back in the sixth, using four walks, two hits and a hit batters to tally four more runs, but could get no closer.

The best-of-five series continues Monday night at Harry W. Thompson Field. The Merchants will start their ace, Dave Gibson, while the Reds will counter with Ryan Martin.


Cinnaminson outlasts Burlington, to meet Vincentown in finals

August 9, 2015

Courtesy of Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times

Who knows what the Rancocas Valley Baseball League’s championship finals will bring? But the title round will have a difficult time producing better and wilder baseball than the semifinals.  First, Vincentown advanced with two hard-fought wins over Pine Barrens earlier in the week. Then Cinnaminson rallied from one game down to beat two-time defending champion Burlington, in two wild and wooly games.

Eric Gertie, winless during the regular season and just barely eligible for the playoffs, won his second straight complete game on Friday night, 6-4 in eight innings, as the Reds advanced to meet the Merchants, starting Sunday at 5 p.m. But that was only possible after the Reds survived Thursday’s wet and wacky 13-12 victory, a game which they led 12-2 at one point.

But back to Friday, the Reds used four walks, a sac fly by Geoff Gilbert and an RBI hit by Bill Dove to score two runs in the top of the first. Gertie cruise-controlled through three innings before hiccupping in the fourth. He did strike out the side, but in between were hits by Marshall Harden and Vinny James, and a three-run home run by Garrett Mull, just over the left-field fence and the outstretched glove of Mike Wasco.

The Mets’ Sam Guckin threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, but he either tired or the Reds solved him the second time through the order. He was replaced by Shaun Babula after two hits and two walks brought in one run and left the bags full with none out. Babula had pitched a complete game on Wednesday and also took the mound during Thursday’s game.

Joe Sirolli’s sac fly put the Reds back on top, but an around-the-horn double play — Harden-Sean Gusrang-Matt Hill — got John Dockins to end the threat. In the bottom of the fifth, Babula singled, took second on an error and beat Wasco’s throw home on Justin McFadden’s hard single to left. But Dove threw out McFadden trying to steal.

The sixth and seventh innings featured great defensive plays.  First, McFadden roamed to deep right-center and tracked down Wasco’s long ball. In the bottom of the sixth, Wasco made a nice grab to rob Hill and Dove threw out James on a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play.

The top of the seventh ended when Mark Wickersham tried to score on Greg Gilbert’s hit to left, but Mull made a perfect throw to James to nail him. And the bottom of the seventh was where the game’s two biggest defensive plays happened.

With one down, Babula, who was 6-for-9 in the series, drilled a ball toward the hole. Third baseman Kyle Ballay made an amazing stop and threw him out by a stride. That was critical because Pedro Perez then doubled to deep right-center, which would very likely have scored Babula. After an intentional walk to Gusrang, Harden’s shot in the hole was fielded by Dockins, and, while Gusrang beat the throw to second, if the ball had gotten through to the outfield, Perez would’ve scored. McFadden then flew out.

In the eighth the Reds finally solved Babula, who hadn’t allowed a hit until Sirolli’s infield hit off Gusrang’s glove got the winning rally started. After a sac bunt, Ballay got another infield hit, Kyle Higgins was hit by a pitch and Wasco delivered an RBI single on a 2-2 pitch. Another run scored when a fly ball fell in shallow center field.

That was all Gertie, who struck out eight, needed as he retired the last three hitters in a row. Higgins punctuated the effort with a nice scoop of Dockins’ low throw.  “Eric was hurt most of the year,” Reds manager Brett Miller said. “He went to a doctor and when he said it was OK to throw, he called me and asked if he could pitch some innings to get eligible for the playoffs, maybe in a relief role. He’s a gamer. I kept asking him tonight if he was all right, and he said, ‘I’m good, but it’s your call.’ ”  Dockins, Ballay and Geoff Gilbert each had two hits, as did Babula and Harden.

As good as Friday’s game was, Thursday’s was one for the ages.  “I’ve been involved with over 500 games in the RVL, and never saw anything like it,” Miller said.  “Not sure I’ve seen anything like it,” said Babula, who has played at Class A, AA and AAA, independent and semipro ball. “Hits, errors, walks, clutch plays, questionable calls, it had everything.”

Even plenty of rain, which started as a first-inning mist and grew as the game went on.  “It was just never quite enough (for the umpires) to call it,” Miller said. “But it made it very tough for the pitchers — (John) Harvey, Shaun and Kyle (Ballay) — to grip the ball at the end.”

The Reds jumped on Max Newill with Wasco supplying a three-run double in the first and a three-run home run in the second. After Ryan Bell stemmed the tide, the Mets made it 12-6, then 12-8.

In the top of the seventh, Christian Rahman gave up a walk and a double to Harden, and was replaced by Ballay. Seven of the next eight batters reached, and the lone out was Gusrang’s bases-loaded drive that Geoff Gilbert caught at the wall in right-center. Casey Donahue’s double plated the final runs, but it was now a 12-12 game!  “I don’t think Kyle had allowed a run all year in relief,” Miller said. “It was just one single after another.”

In the bottom of the seventh, with the clock now well after midnight, three walks loaded the bases, bringing Babula in from center field to try and stem the tide. Greg Gilbert worked the count full before taking a ball four to force home the run.  “It was really close, that fourth ball,” Miller said.

Dockins had three hits, and Ballay, Wasco, Geoff Gilbert and Wickersham each had two. Babula and Harden had three hits, and Hill, Matt Fischer and Paul Guerrieri added a pair.


Both Cinnaminson and Vincentown are recent RVL champions. The Reds won in 2011 and the Merchants took the title in 2012.

RVL Semi-Finals: Vincentown Sweeps, Cinnaminson Forces Game 3

August 6, 2015

Courtesy of Joe Tansey Correspondent, Burlington County Times

Cerami lifts Vincentown into championship series

Vincentown used late-inning magic for the second consecutive night to clinch the first spot in the Rancocas Valley League finals.  The Merchants defeated the Pine Barrens Phantoms 6-5 thanks to five runs in the final two innings.  Vincentown won the best-of-three semifinal in two games.  Frank Cerami's three-run double in the top of the seventh gave Vincentown a 6-4 lead that withstood a Pine Barrens run in the bottom of the frame.

Vincentown will meet the winner of the series between Burlington and Cinnaminson. The Mets and Reds met in Game 2 later Thursday night, which ended too late for this edition.  If Cinnaminson won, the decisive third game would be Friday night at 6:30 (Saturday is the rain day). There will be a day off before the title series begins. 

The Merchants took the lead in the top of the first by way of a Matt Weaver solo home run to right-center off Pine Barrens starter Ronnie Krankowski. Pine Barrens countered in the bottom of the second as Vincentown reliever Eric Shugars tried to find a rhythm in place of the injured Dave Steig.

Krankowski and Alex Campbell were driven in by Trent Fiori and Connor Arsenault on two different types of singles. Fiori’s high chopper to second allowed Krankowski to score, while Arsenault singled to right to bring home Campbell.  “It took (Shugars) one inning to get in there and warm up,” Cerami said. “After that, he found his rhythm, found his groove and carried us through the rest of the game.”

With Krankowski remaining solid on the bump, Pine Barrens tacked on single runs in the fourth and the fifth. Arsenault brought in Campbell with a double in the fourth and Campbell scored Tyler Kaiser on a fielder’s choice in the fifth.  As the lights began to brighten the field, Vincentown started to chip away at the three-run deficit.

Pinch-hitter Jack Bujanowski knocked in Jesse Pappler and Reid Pulford brought in Cerami with RBI singles in the top of the sixth to make things interesting.  After Shugars retired the Phantoms in order in the bottom of the sixth, the Merchants brought the top of their order to the plate in search of a series-clinching victory. With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh, Krankowski tried to get out of one final jam against Cerami.

On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Cerami knocked his double to left-center field, clearing the bases on a play that ended oddly. Thompson Field is Vincentown's home field but the Merchants were the away team Thursday night. Cerami momentarily forgot that fact and celebrated as if it was a walk-off victory.  “I had two strikes on me and I just tried to shorten up and put a good swing on it. I made good contact on it and it went,” Cerami said. “Of course we’re playing on our home field and I’m thinking it’s over. I was kicking myself after that mental lapse.”

Krankowski, who labored through the final two innings, was handed a vote of confidence by manager Gerry Lamola as he faced more pressure late in the game.  “The guy’s been in the league for eight, nine years and I had a reliever with not a lot of innings warming up. I had that choice or Ronnie,” Lamola said. “Nine times out of 10 you have to go with the veteran. If he strikes any of those guys out or forces them into a pop-up, of course it makes me look even better.”

With a two-run advantage behind him, Shugars stepped to the mound to finish off Game 2. Although he gave up an RBI single to Krankowski, the right-hander remained composed and closed out the victory.  “I knew that run didn’t mean anything. Luckily I got the strikeout (to end the game),” Shugars said. “Great effort all around. Frank hitting that gapper was huge. It was clutch.”

Vincentown and Burlington with Game 1 Victories in RVL Semi-Finals

Joe Tansey Correspondent, Burlington County Times

Best's home run makes difference for Vincentown

With Game 1 of a best-of-three Rancocas Valley League semifinal series tied in the bottom of the sixth, Jim Best stepped to the plate knowing exactly what he was looking for.  The Vincentown three-hole hitter, who previously flew out twice against Pine Barrens starter Nick Henderson, finally saw the fastball he wanted and knocked it over the right-center field fence to hand the Merchants a 3-1 victory Wednesday.

Most of the game at Harry W. Thompson Field was dominated by a pitchers’ duel between Henderson and Vincentown ace Dave Gibson.  Gibson conceded the first run of the game on a Ronnie Krankowski RBI single in the first inning, then began to settle down and throw his game.  “I knew (Henderson) was pitching pretty well so I tried to keep throwing strikes and stay low in the zone,” Gibson said. “Those guys were aggressive so I had to throw my changeup and curveball for strikes. My cutter was pretty good. They were getting on it a little bit, though, so I had to throw my offspeed for strikes.”

The Vincentown southpaw totaled 11 strikeouts in his complete game, helping the second-seeded Merchants to their 22nd win in 29 games.  Henderson also twirled a gem as he struck out six and kept the third-seeded Phantoms (16-16) in the game until the crucial sixth inning.  “He was awesome. He was spot on. He was mixing up his pitches,” Pine Barrens manager Gerry Lamola said of his starter.

Vincentown, which leveled the game on a James Hoff RBI single in the third, looked set to capitalize after Stefan Kancylarz led off the sixth with a base knock to right field.

Following Hoff’s flyout to right, Best stepped to the plate seeking a fastball.  “(Henderson) did a good job staying away from me all day,” Best said. “He was on the corner and a little bit off. I was looking for something out over the plate and I finally got one.”

Best smacked a 0-1 pitch to right-center to hand the Merchants a vital two-run lead heading into the seventh.  “We did talk about (Best) coming up in the later innings. We got him to pop up in the first two at-bats and I told (Henderson) in the later innings you’re going to have to pitch around him,” Lamola said. “He’s a young kid. He pitched great, but it’s a learning experience out there.”

Gibson went on to close out the game with a strikeout and two ground outs.  “(Best’s homer) put us right where we needed to be and I just had to throw strikes,” Gibson said.

Vincentown will head into Thursday’s Game 2 with a 1-0 advantage in the series, but confidence is still high in both dugouts.  “This is definitely a boost,” Gibson said. “We have the upper hand right now.”

Game time is 6:30 p.m. back at Thompson Field. If necessary, Game 3 would be Friday at a time to be determined.  “I got (Krankowski) on the mound (in Game 2). We think we’re going to take Game 2 and go straight to Game 3,” Lamola said.

Burlington 4, Cinnaminson 2

The Mets withstood a Cinnaminson comeback attempt in the final inning to take Game 1 of their semifinal series.  Burlington (28-3) scored three times in the bottom of the first and added an insurance run in the sixth. Shaun Babula struck out two but walked none and held the Reds to four hits through six innings before Cinnaminson got four hits in the seventh.

Matt Fischer and Pedro Perez each had two of Burlington’s eight hits. Geoff Gilbert had two for No. 4 seed Cinnaminson (15-15-1).

Babula started the early rally with a walk, stole second base and scored on a double by Perez. Sean Gusrang’s infield single moved Perez to third, and Gusrang filled the vacancy by swiping second. Vinny James hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 and Casey Donahue singled to score Gusrang.

Cinnaminson pitcher Ryan Martin kept Burlington off the board for the next four innings. Donahue led off the sixth with a walk, moved up on a wild pitch and, after Martin got two strikeouts, Fischer singled Donahue home. Martin got another strikeout to end the sixth and finished the night with eight Ks (three walks).

Gilbert doubled to start the seventh and, one out later, scored on Bill Dove’s hit. Greg Gilbert and Joe Sirolli followed with singles, loading the bases, and John Dockins hit a sac fly to bring the Reds within two runs. Babula retired Kyle Ballay on a pop-up to end it.

Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday at 8:45 p.m. If necessary, Game 3 will be Friday at a time to be determined.



RVL Playoffs: 'Boro, Riverside, and V-town Get Early Series Lead

August 1, 2015

Courtesy of:  Joe Tansey Correspondent, Burlington County Times

Parave helps Willingboro take series opener

All it takes is one at-bat to shift the momentum of a playoff series. Just ask Bill Parave.  Willingboro’s cleanup hitter had the key at-bat in a two-run seventh-inning rally that lifted the Townsends to a 2-1 win over Pine Barrens in the first game of their best-of-three Rancocas Valley Baseball League playoff series.  Game 2 is Sunday at noon back at Harry Thompson Field.

No. 3 seed Pine Barrens jumped into the lead in the first inning on an RBI double by pitcher Ronnie Krankowski. The home team appeared to have a second run coming its way in the bottom of the first, but Krankowski was tagged out at the plate on a strange play.  Alex Campbell hit a pop-up to the right of the pitcher’s mound that no Willingboro player was able to catch. Second baseman Mark Stumpf thought he had it, but then lost the ball in the sun. However, some quick thinking by first baseman Dan Hill allowed Willingboro to get out of the inning without any more damage as he fielded the ball on a hop and alertly threw out Krankowski trying to score.

For the next five innings, Krankowski and Willingboro starter Josh Machtinger faced little trouble on the mound.  Krankowski struck out six in his complete game, while Machtinger used four strikeouts, 10 ground outs and four fly outs to limit Pine Barrens to just five hits in six innings.  “The mentality you have to have is that you’re better,” Machtinger said. “You have to have that throughout the game. You have to throw strikes and hope everyone makes the plays that they did and have timely hits.”

Krankowski took a four-hit shutout into the top of the seventh. But with one out, Willingboro got back-to-back singles by Stumpf and Jeff Purcell.  Jon Wetzel then lined to Nick Henderson in left and Stumpf barely beat the throw to second for what could’ve been the third out. That’s when Parave stepped to the plate with the pressure on his shoulders.

During his 10-pitch plate appearance, Parave fouled off four pitches and worked the count full before he singled to right, scoring Stumpf with the tying run.  “I knew he was going to throw me a lot of sliders,” Parave said. “He’d been throwing them all day. So I was kind of sitting on a pitch over the plate.  “I felt like I had a couple but I kept fouling them off, so I knew I was on him. I was lucky enough to get a piece on one and float it into the outfield.”

Three pitches later designated hitter Jamie Schwantes singled to right, driving in Purcell with the winning run.  “It’s baseball,” Parave said. “Sometimes you’ll scorch one at a guy and sometimes you’ll bloop one into a hole. That’s the way the game goes.”

Those two runs set the stage for Hill, who took the mound for the bottom of the seventh and got three quick outs to save it.

The teams split four regular-season games, but Saturday’s come-from-behind win should give Willingboro plenty of momentum into Sunday’s Game 2. The Townsends will be the home team.  “We have to come in with the same mentality as today,” Machtinger said. “We have to be fighting (during) every at-bat and making every play.”

Riverside 9, Cinnaminson 1

Jason and Josh Sabol provided the big bats as the fifth-seeded Patriots rolled in their first-round game.  Jason was 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs, while Josh was 2-for-2 with an RBI.

Kevin Joo pitched a complete game, allowing four hits and striking out four.  Connor Hall was 2-for-3, including a double, for the No. 4-seeded Reds.

Game 2 is Sunday at 3 p.m.

Vincentown 4, Burlington Twp. 2

Damon Valloreo struck out 12 and Jesse Pappler had a key hit as the second-seeded Merchants rallied to beat the seventh-seeded Pirates in their playoff opener.

Township had taken a 2-0 lead helped by a two-out RBI double by designated hitter Eli Mireles. And lefty Chase Thomas made those runs stand up until the bottom of the fifth.

Jesse Pappler’s two-run single tied the game, and the go-ahead run scored on an error. The final run came off a reliever on a sixth-inning balk.

Jim Best had three hits for V-town, while Matt Weaver and Pappler each had two.


Game 2 is Sunday at 6 p.m.

RVL Playoffs Start Saturday

July 30, 2015

Courtesy of Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times


Whoever wins will be the league’s 69th champion, starting with the Indian Mills Indians way back in 1947.  The playoffs begin Saturday and Sunday with tripleheaders at Vincentown’s Harry Thompson Field. Games will be at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. both days in the best-of-three opening round.


At noon, it will be Pine Barrens facing Willingboro. The 3 p.m. game will be Cinnaminson vs. Riverside. And the 6 p.m. finale both days will be Vincentown vs. Burlington Township.


Burlington, which won the regular season with a 27-3 record, got a first-round bye. The Mets will play the lowest-seeded winner of the opening round in the semifinals next week.


Burlington and Vincentown (19-7, but 19-2 in games not against Burlington) are the clear favorites to reach the final. But don’t think an upset isn’t a possibility.  Burlington’s three losses were to Riverside, Cinnaminson and Pine Barrens, and it had close calls in wins over Pine Barrens (twice), Riverside (twice) and Cinnaminson. And Vincentown lost to Pine Barrens and Willingboro, and had narrow escapes against Riverside (twice), Cinnaminson and Willingboro. And Burlington Township, despite just one victory, has been playing solid ball the last few weeks.


So anything can, and most likely will, happen out at Harry Thompson Field over the next few weeks.  It is, after all, “August in V-town.”



Strengths: A deep pitching staff — Shaun Babula, Max Newill, Ryan Bell, John Harvey and Sam Guckin — and solid offensive and defensive team all around the field. Offensively, Babula, Pedro Perez, Sean Gusrang, Vinny James, Matt Fischer, Garrett Mull, Matt Hill, Marshall Harden, Justin McFadden, Paul Guerrieri and Casey Donahue provide plenty of bats. Matt Jolly, Ronnie Grant and Kyle Semmel are solid defensive role players.

Weaknesses: None.

Recent titles: 2010, 2013, 2014



Strengths: Harry Thompson, in his 50th year as manager, and 69th overall, replaced half his starting team after last year’s first-round playoff debacle, and the results have been positive. The Merchants lineup — Stefan Kancylarz, Frank Cerami, Jim Best, Jeff McGarry, Matt Weaver, Johnny Bujanowski, Jesse Pappler, Reid Pulford and either Mike Ferrara or Jack Bujanowski can be frightening, as their league-best 31 home runs shows. Pat Donnelly and Ian Thomas are solid defenders.

Weaknesses: While pitching is the team’s perceived weakness, a staff of Dave Gibson, Damon Valloreo, Dave Steig, Scott Wilhelm, Joe Argow, Eric Shugars and Adam Collis is not too shabby.

Recent titles: 2000, 2003, 2012



Strengths: A solid lineup, led by Tyler Kaiser, Austin Kurey and Ronnie Krankowski in the 2-3-4 slots. Alex Campbell and Cameron Bahr have been major bats in July. And the pitching staff of Krankowski, Alec Marconi, Matt Curry, Anthony Coniglio, Nick Henderson and Mason Anderson can be very good. Mike Follett, Conner Arsenault, Trent Fiori and Adam Goldstein round out the regulars.

Weaknesses: Depth is a concern, but the starting nine and starting pitching is not.

Recent titles: none



Strengths: Despite a series of season-ending injuries, Brett Miller can still put a solid starting nine on the field. Kyle Ballay has had a tremendous season, leading the league in doubles and walks. Bill Dove, Kyle Higgins, Connor Hall, Mike Wasco, Joe Sirolli, Geoff and Greg Gilbert, along with Mark Wickersham are all quality players. Pitching — Jim Goodwin, Clinton Hart, Christian Rahman, Greg Santora and John Bednarek — will, as it almost always is, be the key.

Weaknesses: The Reds have been devastated by injuries, starting with center fielder Frank Sirolli, who missed the entire season. Also out: John Dockins (ankle injury), Jeff Vitale (knee surgery) and pitching ace Craig Carrol (torn ligament in thumb). Dockins, a slick-fielding shortstop, was hitting .436 when he went down earlier this week.

Recent titles: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011



Strengths: Another team that is much improved when it puts its nine best players on the field together. Rich Stronski, Matt Speckmann, Mark Stumpf, Jon Wetzel and Dan Hill are elite players, and Bill Parave, Kellen Peter, Jose Martinez, Jamie Schwantes, Eric Danser, Mike Gulli, Bryan Bessinger, Nick Cancelliere and CJ McNutt aren’t far behind.

Weaknesses: Pitching is always a key in the RVL playoffs, and Hill and Kevin Faber are two good ones. But Connor McFarlane, Josh Machtinger and Parave will need to deliver quality innings if the Townsends are going to make a run.

Recent titles: none



Strengths: A scrappy team, and especially so when lefty Kevin Joo is on the mound. There are plenty of solid ballplayers — Henry Chou, Brett Knazek, Joe Knazek, Joe Gutowski, Taylor Zackman, Jason Sabol, Brett McLaughlin, Jon McGugan, Jeff Briggs, Taylor Steen, Josh Sabol, Cullen Carter, Eric Oliver, Stevie Stevenson, Jesse Fante, Don Strain, Tyler Wolf and Brandon Barnes.

Weaknesses: Depth of pitching behind Joo and Gutowski is a question mark. And they’ll need more timely hitting.

Recent titles: none



Strengths: The Pirates struggled once again, but they’ve been in most of their games lately, so they are resilient. Eddie Eifert, Eddie Hoffman and Eli Morales all hit around .300. And Wayne Feret, Matt Klish, Luke Hendricks and Dave Torres were close.

Weaknesses: No big masher in the middle of the order, and pitching has been shaky, although Connor Thomas, Matt Horton and Phil Dunbar have been solid down the stretch.


Recent titles: none

RVL Action Monday, July 27, 2015

Ballay's four hits spark Cinnaminson

Kyle Ballay went 4-for-5, with three doubles, two runs and an RBI, to lead Cinnaminson to a 7-4 victory over Burlington Township.  Bill Dove and Brett Miller each had two hits and one RBI for the Reds (12-13-1). John Bednarek went five innings to pick up the pitching win, allowing five hits and fanning five.  Dave Torres was 3-for-4 with an RBI for the Pirates, and Matt Klish contributed a double.

Pine Barrens 8, Riverside 6:

Cameron Bahr had three hits, including a home run, as the Phantoms held off the Patriots.  Ron Krankowski added two hits and Trent Fiori had a two-run single in the sixth for the winners (15-13). Brett Lyons went four innings for the win.  Jason Sabol had three hits for Riverside (10-16) and Brett Knazek delivered a two-run double.

Vincentown 5, Willingboro 1:

Damon Valloreo pitched six solid innings as the Merchants (18-7) won.  Matt Weaver had a single and an RBI double and Jesse Pappler added two hits for V-town.

RVL Playoffs

The starting times for the RVL playoffs tripleheaders Saturday and Sunday at Vincentown’s Harry Thompson Field will be noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. The matchups will be made official Friday. Regular-season champion Burlington gets a first-round bye.

Vincentown tops Cinnaminson

RVL Notebook

July 27, 2015

Courtesy of Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times

'August in V-town' is around the corner

This week starts with the final three days of the Rancocas Valley League’s regular season. And it ends with the start of the 2015 playoffs.  The opening two days of “August in V-town” has been one of the most enjoyable days of every summer for avid local baseball fans. It’s when just about every team shows up at full strength, hoping for that hot streak that will produce an RVL championship.

Until this year, the first Saturday and Sunday of the playoffs had featured a quadruple-header at Vincentown’s Harry Thompson Field.  With one less team in the league this year it meant a change in the format. Regular-season champion Burlington drew a first-round bye into the semifinals. The Saturday and Sunday games will feature 2nd place vs. 7th place, 3rd vs. 6th and 4th vs. 5th from the final standings.

Saturday’s pairings and starting times won’t be known until after a league meeting Thursday night at the Oneida Boat Club in Burlington.  As of Sunday night, the two through six seeds are up in the air, with Vincentown (37.5 points), Pine Barrens (34.5), Cinnaminson (29.5), Willingboro (29) and Riverside (27.5) all capable of moving up, or down, a couple of spots.

Vincentown has two more games, against Willingboro and Pine Barrens; Pine Barrens has games against Riverside and Vincentown; Cinnaminson has two games this week, against Burlington Township and Riverside; Riverside has three games, against Pine Barrens, Willingboro and Cinnaminson; and Willingboro has Vincentown and Riverside.

It will all depend on what games get played this week, since there are thunderstorms in the forecast all week.

Burlington has won three of the last five playoff titles — in 2010, 2013 and 2014. The Cinnaminson Reds captured the 2011 flag and Vincentown won it all in 2012.

A baby Stumpy

Mike Stumpf, the manager of the Willingboro Townsends, became a father last Monday morning when his wife Bree gave birth to Sebastian Juan Stumpf.  The youngster, the Stumpfs’ first child, came in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces and 21¼ inches.

Kerns earns start

Former Burlington Mets standout Mike Kerns, a key member of the 2013 championship team, got his first start of the season Thursday morning for the Camden Riversharks.

The catcher was moved to the active roster and went 2-for-3. Jeff Singer, another former Met, and also a member of the 2011 Cinnaminson champions, threw two more scoreless innings in the game.

RVL Action Sunday, July 26, 2015

Vincentown clinches second place

Dave Gibson pitched his sixth complete game of the season as the Vincentown Merchants clinched second place with a 6-3 victory over the Cinnaminson Reds.  The lefty (6-2) went all seven innings and allowed just one run after the first inning. He gave up five hits and struck out four. Jeff McGarry had two of the Merchants’ six hits.

The Merchants have won three straight games, and five of their last six.  Jim Goodwin, the first of four pitchers for the Reds, took the loss.  Cinnaminson shortstop John Dockins was injured during a play at second base and had to be helped off the field.  “He’s the last guy we need getting hurt,” said Reds manager Brett Miller, whose team has been without the services of standout center fielder Frank Sirolli all year.

Pine Barrens 6, Burlington 5:

Cameron Bahr’s two-run single in the bottom of the seventh lifted the Phantoms over the first-place Mets at Patty Bowker Field. Mike Follett and Austin Kurey singled to set up the game-winning hit.  Alex Campbell was 3-for-3, including a two-run home run in the first inning, and scored three times. Alec Marconi went 5 2/3 innings before his brother Brian worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth. Mason Anderson pitched the seventh and got the victory.  Pedro Perez had a two-run double and Paul Guerrieri an RBI double for the Mets.

Willingboro 14, Burlington Twp 5;  Willingboro 4, Burlington Twp. 1:

The Townsends swept the Pirates at Viereck Field, behind the solid pitching of Nick Cancelliere and Bill Parave. The ‘Boro has won four straight.

In the first game, Cancelliere picked up the pitching win against his former team. Dan Hill and Jeff Purcell each went 3-for-4, with Hill collecting a home run and Purcell a triple.  Parave won a pitchers’ duel from Connor Thomas in the second game when Willingboro pushed three runs across in the eighth inning. Parave knocked in the winning run with a base hit.

RVL Action Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hill gives Willingboro much-needed lift

Dan Hill pitched the shutout for Willingboro in a 3-0 win over Pine Barrens.  The victory is the second straight for Willingboro as the Townsends make a push for higher seeding in the upcoming league playoffs. Willingboro is 9-13-1 overall and holds sixth place.  Jon Wetzel and Mike Gulli had two hits apiece for Willingboro, with Wetzel hitting a triple and Gulli connecting for a double. ’Boro manager Mike Stumpf credited Kevin Faber’s defense at first base as another factor as the Townsends topped a hot team.  Pine Barrens had won five straight in moving into third place. The Phantoms are 13-13 overall.

Burlington 5, Cinnaminson 4:

The regular-season champions avenged a loss from two nights earlier and continued to fine tune for the playoffs. Burlington is 26-2 with two games to play before enjoying the break that comes with a first-round bye.  Sean Gusrang’s two hits featured a two-run homer and he had three total RBIs. Pedro Perez also had two hits and each scored two runs in support of winning pitcher John Harvey (six strikeouts, four walks). Matt Hill and Vinnie James had the other Burlington RBIs.  Kyle Higgins had two hits for Cinnaminson (11-12-1), which received RBIs from Joe Sirolli (triple), Greg Santora and John Dockins.

Vincentown 17, Riverside 8:

Home runs by Jim Best (a league-best ninth), Frank Cerami, Mike Ferrara and Matt Weaver powered the winners. Scott Wilhelm was the winning pitcher and Jeff McGarry worked the final two innings with three strikeouts as the Merchants (16-7) remained in control of the race for second place.

RVL Action Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Riverside rallies to edge Burlington Twp.

It was a competitive season series between rivals Burlington Township and Riverside.  Wednesday night was no different. The fifth and final meeting of the regular season ended with Riverside walking off with a 13-12 victory. Burlington Township had won the previous meeting, 11-7 on July 12 for its first win of the season.

In a game that featured some late-inning momentum swings, it was Brett Knazek who capped the Riverside rally with a two-out, two-run single deep down the right field line.

Burlington Township took a 12-9 lead into the bottom half of the seventh inning but the host Patriots scored twice and had bases loaded with no outs.

Reliever Matthew Horton induced a 1-2-3 double play to keep the score at 12-11. However, he wasn’t able to contain Knazek.  “Brett’s been seeing the ball well,” said Henry Chou, who went 3-for-4 on the evening and also pitched one inning-plus. “He was robbed twice earlier in the game. He was honestly just trying to get a single and he drove it pretty far.”

Knazek’s heroics would not have been possible without a stellar outing from Tyler Wolf, who came on in relief. Wolf entered with Township leading 12-9 heading into the fourth. The righty shut down the Pirates, allowing just four hits and no walks.  “I just featured fastball and curveball,” said Wolf, who also contributed at the plate with a solo home run. “I’m not really a pitcher so I just went out there and did what I could.”

Township was able to get ahead early on as they posted a five-spot in the first inning. An RBI single from Luke Hendricks that plated Wayne Feret to make it 1-0. After a David Torres walk and wild pitch, Eli Mireles added a two-run single to make it 3-0.

Knazek singled home Josh Sabol in the bottom of the first but Township put up four more in the second. Mireles singled home a run, Brian Eifert added a two-run single and Eddie Eifert followed with an RBI hit.  “They’re a good team that we can’t underestimate,” Jason Sabol said. “We underestimate them sometimes. I’m the oldest guy on the team (32) so I try and keep everyone focused.”

Riverside would score three in the second, thanks to RBI triples from Jason Sabol and Chou to make it 9-4. After three more by Township made it 12-4, the Patriots tallied five in the bottom of the third, highlighted by a two-run single from Jason Sabol to make it 12-9.

The score remained the same until that electrifying final inning, one that Riverside looks to propel from. The Patriots improved to 10-14.  “Good win here today,” said Chou. “This was the first game we actually played like a team. We can build off of this.”

Township built its lead with the help of Hendricks, Mireles and the Eiferts. Eddie Eifert was 4-for-4 with a double and two RBIs; Brian Eifert had two hits and four RBIs; Hendricks had three hits, scored three runs and batted in one; and Mireles had three hits and three RBIs, and scored twice.

RVL Action Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cinnaminson defeats Burlington in RVL

Home runs by Mike Wasco and Kyle Higgins helped Cinnaminson to a 12-5 win over Burlington.  Wasco went deep with two teammates on base in the sixth inning, extending the Reds’ lead to 9-5. Higgins connected in the third inning with a man on.

John Dockins had three hits and three RBIs, and Kyle Ballay had three hits for Cinnaminson (11-10-1). Jim Goodwin was the winning pitcher, allowing one earned run while working the second through fifth innings. Ballay pitched the final two.  Shaun Babula had four hits for Burlington, which lost for only the second time in 27 games. The Mets had already clinched first place and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Willingboro 7, Burlington Township 2:

Jon Wetzel’s three hits led the winners, who were coming off a tough 10-inning loss Monday night to Vincentown.  Connor MacFarlane was the winning pitcher as Willingboro improved to 8-13-1. Vinnie Vasapolli had a single and RBI for Township.

RVL Action Monday, July 20, 2015

Vincentown outlasts Willingboro

Jesse Pappler's bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 10th inning scored Jim Best and lifted the Vincetown Merchants to a 4-3 victory over the Willingboro Townsends.  The Merchants improved to 15-7, while the Townsends fell to 7-13-1.  Eric Shugars started for the Merchants and tossed six scoreless innings.  But the Townsends broke through for three runs against reliever Allan Smith in the top of the seventh.

Jack Bujanowski's pinch-hit single tied the game and forced extra innings.  Smith pitched scoreless ball the last three innings to earn the victory.

Pine Barrens 6, Riverside 5: Austin Kurey was 4-for-4 and the Phantoms (12-12) held off the Patriots (9-14).  Nick Henderson, in relief of Brett Lyons, tossed four innings to get the win. Anthony Coniglio pitched the seventh.  Down 6-1, Riverside rallied with three in the sixth and one in the seventh behind doubles by Joe Gutowski, Eric Oliver and Brett Knazek.

RVL Notebook

July 19, 2015

RVL stars fell short against Pendel

Several times it looked as though the Rancocas Valley League all-stars had built enough of a lead to win Saturday night’s game against the Pendel League all-stars.

But each time they let it slip away, with Pendel’s four-run bottom of the eighth inning providing a 9-8 victory at Kopper Kettle Field in Lower Southampton, Pennsylvania.

The game was not without offensive highlights for the RVL team. Second-year player Tyler Kaiser of Pine Barrens had a grand-slam home run, and Pedro Perez of Burlington was 3-for-3.  John Dockins (Cinnaminson), Jeff Purcell (Willingboro) and Sean Gusrang (Burlington) each had RBIs, while Austin Kuray (Pine Barrens) and Connor Hall (Cinnaminson) scored.  Last year was the first RVL-Pendel all-star meeting, and the guys from across the river earned a 7-7 tie with a late rally.

Singer joins Riversharks

Jeff Singer was basically lights-out this summer during his five appearances with the Burlington Mets, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when the lefty got the call to sign with the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League.  The 6-foot, 190-pound Singer allowed no runs in 10.2 innings, striking out 17. His WHIP was 0.84.

In his lone start, June 24 against Vincentown, the former JUCO National Player of the Year went all seven innings, allowing three hits and fanning eight in a 9-0 win.

In Camden he will join former Mets standout Mike Kerns, the Riversharks’ bullpen catcher.  Ironically, Singer was added to the ’Sharks to replace injured lefty Ryan Kulik, the former Cherokee and Rowan star.  Kulik, who pitched for Vincentown in the RVL, was a 2008 draft pick of the Cardinals, and played four years in their organization before joining Camden in 2013.

Did you know ... ?

Of the RVL’s original eight teams in 1947, only one — Burlington — survives to this day.

The final 1947 regular-season standings were:  Hainesport 18-8, Mount Laurel 18-9, Marlton 18-10, Indian Mills 15-12, Mount Holly 14-13, Burlington 11-15, Wrightstown 9-16, Juliustown 5-20.

Hainesport defeated Marlton and Indian Mills beat Mount Laurel in the semifinals.

Indian Mills then became the first RVL champion in a two-game sweep of Hainesport, taking the opener 9-8 and then romping 15-2 in the final.

The Indian Mills roster included Bob and Walt Abrams, Carl and Norm Adams, Frank Chappine, Mel Crain, Bob Erisman, Fred Garsan, Walt Gerber, Bill Lemmon, Dave New, Sam Pepper, Don Wells, Floyd Wells and Bill Wright.  Also that summer the RVL all-stars beat the American Legion all-stars 7-6.

75 years ago in the BCL

When the Burlington County League held its championship finals in 1940, Riverside was guaranteed to have a winner. The title series matched the Riverside Field Club, champion of the BCL’s American Division, against the Riverside A.C., who won the National Division.

The championship game was Sunday, Oct. 6, with a reported 1,500 fans in attendance. Dan Flagg (F.C.) pitched against Chet Nowski, and the teams were scoreless through six innings.  In the top of the seventh, with F.C. runners on first and third and two outs, catcher Fred Dyer faked a throw to second as the runner left and threw to third. But the throw was high and Spindle Bowers raced home with the game’s only run.

Flagg finished with 10 strikeouts and teammate Scrap Theurer, the league’s batting champion, was 4-for-4.

RVL Action Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pine Barrens tops Vincentown behind Marconi, Kaiser

The Pine Barrens Phantoms defeated the Vincentown Merchants 6-2.  It was the third win in the last four outings for Pine Barrens, and the first win over V-town after three losses.  “We finally beat (Dave) Gibson. He’d beaten us a couple of times this year,” Phantoms coach Gerry Lamola said.

In those two earlier meetings, Gibson gave up a total of nine hits and one run while striking out 15. He is now 5-2.  PB’s Alec Marconi improved to 5-2 with the pitching win, with Mason Anderson and Brian Marconi finishing.

Pine Barrens led 4-0 through three innings behind Austin Kurey (two hits, one RBI) and Cameron Bahr (two hits, two RBI).  But the Merchants made it a 4-2 game on fourth-inning solo home runs by Frank Cerami and Johnny Bujanowski.

Tyler Kaiser, who homered on Tuesday and again (a grand slam) in Saturday’s all-star game, opened the fifth inning with yet another round-tripper.  “That was a big hit for us,” Lamola said. “We’re starting to play some good ball.”

There are 10 days left in the regular season, which ends on Wednesday, July 29. The RVL playoffs are set to begin on Saturday, Aug. 1, at Vincentown’s Harry Thompson Field.  Burlington has already clinched first place and will get a first-round bye into the semifinals. But places two through six are up for grabs, depending on the next 10 days.

RVL Action: Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pendel All-Stars 9, RVL All-Stars 8:

In the second meeting between the leagues, the Pendel scored four times in the bottom of the eighth inning to win at Kopper Kettle Field in Lower Southampton, Pennsylvania.  The RVL led 5-4 after three innings, and 8-5 after seven.

RVL Action: Friday, July 17, 2015

Lefty Kevin Joo earned his fourth win of the season as Riverside defeated Willingboro 4-3 at Bob Kenney Field.  Riverside (8-13) had lost three straight, and five of its last six. Taylor Steen continued his hot hitting with a two-run double, while Henry Chou contributed a triple.  Willingboro (7-11-1) has lost four and tied one in its last five starts.

RVL Action: Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cinnaminson tops Riverside in RVL

Cinnaminson built a 6-0 lead on its way to a 6-3 win over Riverside.  Bill Dove and Kyle Higgins each had two hits and batted in one run as Cinnaminson evened its record at 10-10-1. John Dockins scored two runs and the Reds used the pitching-by-committee approach to get through this one  Riverside scored its three runs in the fifth inning. Taylor Steen had a double and batted in two of those runs.

Pine Barrens 9, Willingboro 8: Anthony Coniglio walked with the bases loaded in the bottom half of the seventh, lifting the Phantoms (10-12) to victory. Coniglio was the winning pitcher.  Connor Arsenault and Austin Kurey doubled and had RBIs in Pine Barrens' second win of the night.

Earlier, the Phantoms finished a 3-0 victory over 'Boro in a game suspended by rain Wednesday. Nick Henderson pitched the first four innings for that win, and Matt Curry worked the last three.  They combined on a four-hitter, and Henderson contributed one RBI. Cameron Bahr had two hits, one RBI and scored two runs. Willingboro received a double by Rich Stronski.

Burlington 8, Burlington Township 3:

Sean Gusrang had three hits and scored three runs to lead the winners (25-1), who had already clinched first place and the league's playoff bye.  Garrett Mull had two hits and scored two runs, Justin McFadden had two hits and two RBIs, and Matty Janulis had a double and two RBIs. Winning pitcher Ryan Bell had six strikeouts and no walks in five innings.  Brett Hoffman, Eddie Hoffman and Vinnie Vasapolli scored the Township runs and accounted for three of the Pirates' seven hits.

RVL Action Monday, July 14, 2015

Babula lifts Burlington past Pine Barrens

Shaun Babula made a difference with his arm and his bat in Burlington’s 2-1 win over Pine Barrens.  Babula bunted for a single to score Garrett Mull with the winning run in the bottom half of the seventh inning. That allowed Babula to win his pitching duel with Ronnie Krankowski.  The victory boosted Burlington’s record to 24-1. Babula pitched a four-hitter, struck out eight and walked none. Krankowski had one strikeout and allowed seven hits but kept his team close by not allowing a walk.  Babula and Matt Hill had two hits apiece for Burlington. Home runs accounted for the scoring prior to the seventh inning.  Vinnie James hit one in the second to give the Mets a lead. Tyler Kaiser answered in the fourth for Pine Barrens (8-12).

Cinnaminson 3, Willingboro 3:

The teams played seven innings before being halted by darkness. The tie stands.  Kyle Ballay doubled in the fifth inning to pull Cinnaminson (9-10-1) even at 3-3. Josh Machtinger had two hits for Willingboro (7-8-1), including an RBI double in the third for a 3-1 lead.

RVL Action Monday, July 13, 2015

Krankowski, Marconi power Pine Barrens

Ronnie Krankowski drove in five runs, including three on a bases-clearing double, to power Pine Barrens to an 11-2 victory over Burlington Township at Patty Bowker Field.  Krankowski was 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly, and Trent Fiori added a two-base hit. That backed the three-hit, 10-strikeout pitching of Alec Marconi, who improved to 4-2.  The Phantoms, who snapped a three-game skid, are 8-11.

Vincentown 12, Riverside 3:

Stefan Kancylarz was 4-for-4 with a home run, a double and five RBIs to power the Merchants. Jim Best was 2-for-5 with a triple and three RBIs.  Eric Shugars went the first six inning and picked up his first win, with Allan Smith pitching the seventh.

Burlington 6, Willingboro 1:

Veteran John Harvey pitched a three-hitter and struck out seven as the Mets rallied late to win.  Harvey and 'Boro's C.J. McNutt (three hits allowed) were locked in a 1-1 tie through five innings. The Mets scored two in the sixth and three in the seventh off a reliever.  Justin McFadden's two-run homer broke the tie, before Sean Gusrang drilled his seventh homer with two aboard. Marshall Harden and Sean McNeil each had a pair of hits for the Mets (23-1).

RVL Notebook

July 13, 2015

Courtesy of Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times

RVL all-stars take on Pendel

The Rancocas Valley Baseball League will take an all-star team Saturday to Kopper Kettle Field in Southampton, Pennsylvania, to face an all-star team from the Pendel League.  (1985 Bridgetown Pike, Feasterville, PA.  Click for link to map).

The RVL and the Pendel are both in their 69th season, having started in the summer of 1947. Last summer, for the first time, they met in an all-star game with the result being an extra-innings 7-7 tie at Vincentown’s Harry Thompson Field.

First-place Burlington, which is 22-1 after Saturday night’s 11-7 win in the Fireworks Game at Vincentown, dominated the RVL starters. The Mets had the top vote getters at catcher (Vinnie James), second base (Sean Gusrang), third base (Matt Hill), shortstop (Pedro Perez), center field (Shaun Babula) and had the top two pitchers (Babula, Max Newill) plus Nos. 5 (Ryan Bell) and 6 (Jeff Singer).

The other starters include first baseman Tyler Kaiser and right fielder Austin Kurey from Pine Barrens, slugger Jim Best of Vincentown in left field, and Rich Stronski of Willingboro in center field (Babula opted to be a pitcher).

Here is the complete roster for the RVL:



(First listed was voted a starter)

Catcher: Vinnie James (Burlington), Reid Pulford (Vincentown).

First base: Tyler Kaiser (Pine Barrens), Matt Fischer (Burlington), Matt Klish (Burlington Twp.).

Second base: Sean Gusrang (Burlington), Stefan Kancylarz (Vincentown).

Third base: Matt Hill (Burlington), Alex Campbell (Pine Barrens), Jeff Pursell (Willingboro).

Shortstop: Pedro Perez (Burlington), John Dockins (Cinnaminson).

Left field: Jim Best (Vincentown), Ron Krankowski (Pine Barrens), Connor Hall (Cinnaminson).

Center field: Shaun Babula* (Burlington), Rich Stronski (Willingboro), Tyler Zachman (Riverside).

Right field: Austin Kurey (Pine Barrens), Frank Cerami (Riverside).

Pitcher: Shaun Babula (Burlington), Max Newill (Burlington), Ron Krankowski (Pine Barrens), Dave Gibson (Vincentown), Ryan Bell (Burlington), Jeff Singer (Burlington), Joe Gutowski (Riverside), Kevin Joo (Riverside), Dan Hill (Willingboro).

* opted to pitch rather than play the field


The Pennsylvania-based Pendel League consists of: Glenside Hawks (G), Horsham Astros (H), Huntingdon Valley Athletics (HV), Liberty Bell Patriots (LB), LOMA, Northampton Orioles (N), Philly Bandits (PB), Upper Moreland Rebels (UM) and Warminster Warriors (W).


(First listed was voted a starter)

Catcher: Casey Rothwell (HV), Anthony Mirabelle (LOMA), Pat Brennan (Glenside).

First base: Bobby Argeros (W), Kevin Teta (H), Kris Bornholdt (HV).

Second base: Elliot Snyder (HV), Mike Deleo (LB).

Third base: Mike Woltemate (LOMA), Steve Sable (W).

Shortstop: Eric Spiedel (W), Tim Lecompte (LOMA).

Outfield: Darnell Muse (HV), Dustin Kology (LOMA), Sean Welsh (W), Mike Koelzer (W), Corey Kramer (LOMA), Justin Forktus (N).

Designated hitter: Sean Byles (N), Joe Stoll (N).

Pitcher: James Brown (W), Josh Teson (LOMA), Drew Gerhart (N), Don Bradley (LOMA), Marty Martens (W), Jesse Leary (G), Tom Hellwarth (LOMA), Tom Miller (LOMA), Evan Gillespie (PB).


RVL Action Sunday, July 12, 2015

Burl. Twp. snaps long losing streak

The Burlington Township Pirates snapped a 35-game regular-season losing streak with an 11-7 victory over the Riverside Patriots at Viereck Field.  Township’s last win was on June 22, 2014 — 4-3 over Pine Barrens. But the fourth-year Pirates had lost three previous meetings with Riverside. Ironically, Riverside is now the only team to lose to B.T., and the only team to beat first-place Burlington.

Lefty Chase Thomas got the pitching win, going 5 1/3 innings before the heat wore him down. Righty Dennis Dennis Stewart came in to get the save.  “We got pretty good pitching tonight,” BT coach Ed Eifert said. “We’ve been giving up 14, 15 runs a game, and it’s tough to beat anybody doing that. We’ve been playing better ball lately. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

Ed Hoffman led the BT attack with three RBIs, including a two-run single. Phil Dunbar had a two-run single and Matt Klish, who will be playing in the RVL-Pendel All-Star Game this Saturday, had a single and a two-run double.  Cullen Carter and Joe Gutowski had two-run doubles and Don Strain had three hits for the Patriots (7-11).

Vincentown 7, Pine Barrens 0:

Lefty Dave Gibson tossed a four-hit shutout, striking out eight, as the Merchants (13-6) returned to the win column.  Jim Best belted his RVL-leading eighth home run, a two-run shot in the sixth. Matt Weaver and Johnny Bujanowski each had two hits.  Austin Kurey and Cameron Bahr doubled for Pine Barrens, which has lost three in a row and fell to 7-11.

RVL Action: Saturday, July 11, 2015

Burlington 11, Vincentown 7:

Saturday night was the annual Fireworks Game between Rancocas Valley League rivals Burlington and host Vincentown. And there were plenty of firecrackers and sparklers, etc., that went off from 9:12 to 9:28. But the real fireworks came later, in the fifth inning, when the Mets scored eight times and the Merchants came back with five of their own.

When the smoke finally settled, the Mets (22-1) had won a game that didn’t end until 12:45 Sunday morning.  Pedro Perez and Ronnie Grant had three hits each and scored twice, with Grant driving in two. Garrett Mull had two hits and scored twice, while dh Anthony Perez had two hits and drove in two runs. Max Newill went all seven innings, striking out seven to pick up his league-leading seventh win.

Matt Weaver had a two-run double for the Merchants in the first inning, and home runs by Jim Best and Johnny Bujanowski (with two aboard) were the fifth-inning highlights.

RVL Action: Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cancelliere sparks Willingboro to win

Nick Cancelliere entered Tuesday with one hit in eight at-bats.  The Willingboro nine-hole hitter used his second hit of the season to punctuate a six-run rally in the team’s 6-3 win over Riverside.  Before Cancelliere stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the first, Jamie Schwantes, Dan Hill and Drew Rodriguez crossed home on walks and hit batsmen.

With his team already up by three, Cancelliere drove a single into left-center field that drove in Rodriguez and Bryan Bessinger.  “Honestly I don’t even bat,” Cancelliere said. “So it felt pretty good to get an AB. It was nice that we got two RBIs out of it too.  (The hit) feels pretty good. With the playoffs coming around, it’s good to know we have guys on the bench that can produce some offense.”

One batter later, Riverside starter Dan Hornyak left the mound after conceding his fifth walk of the inning.  Willingboro ended the inning with six runs in support of starter Connor McFarlane, who used the start as a confidence booster following a rough outing two weeks ago.  “I told (my catcher) on the first pitch, I have no idea where this is going,” McFarlane said. “(The win) definitely is a big confidence builder.  I always pitch better with the lead. I hadn’t pitched in two weeks and I didn’t do so hot my last time out.”

McFarlane gave up three runs on five hits in his five innings.  “I tried to throw strikes,’’ he said. “I did well in the first inning. The second inning I walked two guys and the third I came out and tried to throw a little more over the top and I found my control. I felt good from there.”

“It was pretty impressive considering he was hurt after his last start and he got lit up by Cinnaminson,” Canclliere said. “It was nice to see one of our guys to do well out there.”

Riverside’s three runs came in the second after McFarlane put the first two batters on base through walks.  Jason Sabol’s sacrifice fly drove in Jesse Fante for the first Riverside run and Tyler Wolf followed with a two-run single to bring home Henry Chou and Stevie Stevenson.

The visitors stranded five runners from the third inning on against McFarlane, Bessinger and closer Hill.

Willingboro moved to 7-7 with the win, while Riverside fell to 6-10.  “If we can beat teams like Riverside like this without all of our guys, I think it shows we’re going be tough in the playoffs when we have all of them together,” Cancelliere said.

RVL Action: Monday, July 6, 2015

Burlington overpowers Vincentown

The Burlington Mets entered Monday’s game against Vincentown with plenty of confidence and left with even more following a 10-1 victory.  The Mets (20-1) came into the game figuring they would receive a strong performance on the mound from southpaw Shaun Babula.  The extra confidence boost came in the form of an offensive barrage early in the win.

Babula, who scattered three hits in six innings, started the first Burlington rally with a single to center leading off the first.  Babula, Matt Fischer and Pete Perez all reached base to start the first frame, and each crossed the plate for a 3-0 advantage.  “Shaun set the tone for us, getting on base and stealing a couple bases,” cleanup hitter Vinny James said. “After that, the middle of the order had guys on all day.”

James, who went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, knocked in two of the three runs with a single to left field. Perez brought in Babula with a double.  “First at-bat was a first-pitch fastball inside,” James said. “I was able to get my hands around (the pitch).”

Justin McFadden provided the hosts with their fourth run on a solo home run in the bottom of the second.  In the third, the Mets chased Vincentown starter Scott Wilhelm from the mound with a five-run rally that was highlighted by James’ two-run homer to left.  “(On the) second at-bat I saw a couple off-speed pitches and saw them pretty well,” James said.  It gave me a little more confidence against the fastball. He tried to sneak a fastball in with two strikes.”

After two runs scored on a hit batter and a walk, Perez brought in Matt Jolly with a single to right, finishing off a successful inning.  “Vinny’s been swinging the bat great all year, Petey’s been awesome,” Babula said. “The whole lineup is coming together.”  Perez plated the 10th run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth.

With a nice lead behind him, Babula was able to work quickly and finish off the Merchants (12-5) in fine fashion. The lefthander struck out eight, including five in the fifth and sixth.  “I felt good. That was the first time I saw those guys (this year),” Babula said. “They have a brand new lineup. I was trying to keep them off balance and honest.”

“Shaun’s our guy out there. We’re really confident with him on the mound,” James said. “He works fast so guys like to play defense behind him. Fischer caught a good game. When Shaun’s on the mound, we always like to swing the bats and get in and get out. We seem to play pretty well behind him.”

Jeff Singer entered in the seventh and closed out Burlington’s 20th victory with three strikeouts.

RVL Notebook

July 6, 2015

Hoffman has deep roots

The “Golden Jubilee” of the Burlington County Baseball League was a 64-page newspaper-style love letter to the first 50 years of adult/town baseball in Burlington County (1898-1948).  If you’re an old-time baseball fan, or a fan of old-time baseball, or both, this is your Roseta Stone. The editor of this project, and it had to be a huge project, was Russell L. Hoffman, who served as the BCL’s secretary-treasurer.

The Jubilee has over 200 photos, including all the Burlington County Baseball League champions, starting with Beverly, which won the titles in 1898 and 1899 under manager Alvin Spooner.  There are stories, photos and box scores for every year. And there are many individual stories about some of the more interesting characters who played in the BCL.

Did anybody know that the Pemberton Huskers downed the “famed” Burlington Shamrocks 3-2 in Pemberton to win the 1919 flag? It was a best-of-three final, with Pemberton winning the opener 6-2 and Burlington taking the second game 5-4.  All the scoring in the title game was in the first inning, before pitchers Newman of Pemberton and Gillece of Burlington tossed all goose eggs the rest of the way.

The title game was played on Saturday, Oct. 4. The Jubilee reported that “the series was a lively one and many individual scraps took place.”  Years later, again according to the Jubilee, veteran BCL umpire George (Skimmer) Adams, who was the Shamrocks’ manager, claimed that the Huskers had used “ringers” to win the title

There are also articles about some of the county’s legendary ballplayers, including major leaguers Russ (Lena) Blackburn, George Case, Eddie Miksis, Harry (Socks) Seibold, Gorby Smith and Hal Wagner.

How about the first night baseball game in New Jersey — it was played on Aug. 16, 1901, at the old East Burlington grounds, with Burlington outscoring Florence 15-11.

Or John Hargrove’s 15-inning, 25-strikeout, no-hitter that kicked off the 1945 season as Mount Holly edged the Columbus A.C. 1-0 on May 6.

It’s all there, and so much more.

And if you want to connect the past to the present, there’s a story on page 27 about Riverside’s 5-2 championship-game victory over Vincentown in 1947. Playing on that V-town team, although not in the championship game, was a 17-year-old named Harry Thompson. Now, 68 years later, the same Harry Thompson is the Merchants’ manager and has the V-town field named after. (And he has an original copy of the “Golden Jubilee.”)

Further connecting the past to the present, Hoffman’s great grandson is Brett Hoffman, a first-year catcher for Burlington Township in the Rancocas Valley League, which merged with the Burlington County League in the early 1950s.  “No, I haven’t read it (the Jubilee),” the younger Hoffman said. “But I knew that he had something to do with the old RVL or BCL.  I really like playing in the league. I like the team and the competition is a lot better than high school.”

The younger Hoffman played his high school ball at Maple Shade, hitting .300 as a senior with one home run and 15 RBIs. He caught all but four innings for the Wildcats. Next year he will be at Penn State-Abington.  “He’s doing a good job for us at catcher,” Burlington Township coach Ed Eifert said. “He’s still got to work on his hitting, but that’s the same thing for any high school kid coming into the RVL.”

Big week for V-town

The Vincentown Merchants (12-4) appear to be the only team capable of catching the Burlington Mets (19-1) in the battle for first place — and a first-round playoff bye.  The teams are scheduled to meet twice this week — Monday, 6:15 p.m., at Life Center Field and Saturday, 9:30 p.m., in their annual Fireworks Game at Harry Thompson Field in Vincentown.

Bridgeton Invitational XLIX

The 49th Bridgeton Invitational baseball tournament will be held July 31 through Aug. 17 at Alden Field.  The Camden Reds of the Tri-County League won the 2014 tournament. Previous champions in the field include the Cecil County (Maryland) Braves (2013) and the Susquehanna (Pennsylvania) Assault (2012).

RVL Action: Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pappler home run wins for Vincentown

Jesse Pappler hit a home run in the top of the seventh inning, lifting Vincentown to a 4-2 win over Riverside.  The Merchants were the visiting team although the game was played at V-town.  Pappler connected with Pat Donnelly on base, breaking a 2-2 tie. Dave Gibson got the win in relief as the Merchants won for the ninth time in their last 10 games. Vincentown is 12-4 overall.

Mike Ferrara and Reid Pulford had two hits each for Vincentown. Ferrara walked in the seventh (Donnelly pinch-ran) to set the stage for Pappler.  Gibson worked the last four innings and struck out eight, allowing two hits and one (unearned) run. Riverside left fielder Eric Oliver threw out a runner at the plate in the sixth, keeping the Patriots (6-9) even until Pappler connected.

Burlington 5, Willingboro 0:

Winning pitcher Max Newill worked into the sixth inning and Jeff Singer went the rest of the way in a combined two-hitter for the league leaders (19-1).  Newill struck out seven and Singer added two Ks. Dan Hill of Willingboro (6-7) matched Newill for three innings before Burlington scored a run in the fourth, and two each in the next two frames. Hill fanned seven in his time on the mound.  Sean Gusrang had two hits and scored two runs. Ronnie Grant, Matt Hill and Vinny James batted in runs.

RVL Action: Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Steig helps Vincentown to RVL triumph

Dave Steig pitched a one-hitter for Vincentown in a 10-0 win over Cinnaminson.  Steig worked all seven innings. He had one strikeout but was around the plate (two walks).  The Cinnaminson hit was by John Dockins in the sixth inning.

Vincentown strengthened its hold on second place, boosting its record to 11-4.  Cinnaminson is third at 7-10.  The Merchants were aided by Frank Cerami, who was 4-for-5 with a home run. Cerami had three RBIs and scored three runs.  Jim Best had two hits and two RBIs. He hit his sixth home run of the season, taking the league led in that department.

Pine Barrens 13, Burlington Township 2:

Cameron Bahr had three hits and three RBIs as the Phantoms improved to 6-8. Austin Kurey added three hits and two RBIs, and Ronnie Krankowski also had three hits.

Nick Henderson got the win for Pine Barrens, sponsored by American Sheds and Mall Chevrolet. Henderson pitched four innings, struck out nine and allowed one hit — Eddie Eifert’s double that scored both Township runs. Anthony Coniglio followed Henderson to the mound and fanned five in three hitless innings.

RVL Action Monday, June 29, 2015

Riverside hands Burlington first loss

By Joe Tansey Correspondent, Burlington County Times

It took five tries but Riverside finally knocked Burlington from the ranks of the unbeaten.  The Patriots defeated the Mets 6-5. Burlington entered the game with an 18-0 record.  “There was a lot of motivation to win, especially because every time we’ve played them, they’ve beaten us,” winning pitcher Kevin Joo said. “We needed one from them at least.”

The Patriots raised their record to 6-8, having four previous meetings. RVL teams are scheduled to meet each other five times, so this was Riverside’s last chance until a possible playoff matchup.  Joo scattered eight hits over seven innings and struck out five. He conceded a run in the bottom of the first inning by way of a Vinny James sacrifice fly.

The visitors struck back for a pair of runs in the second. Cullen Carter, who went 2-for-4 with two doubles, hit his first two-bagger with one out in the second. Stevie Stevenson moved Carter over to third with a sacrifice bunt before Joe Knazek knocked Carter in with a single to right-center field.  Knazek crossed the plate two batters later on Jeff Briggs’ single to center.

Carter ignited a second Riverside rally in the fourth with a double to left-center. What followed was a four-run, four-hit inning that put Riverside in the lead for good.  “I was trying to sit on the fastball. I was seeing the ball well today,” Carter said. “I was just trying to jump on the first pitch like I did in the second at-bat. (Burlington starter Ryan Bell) threw a curveball, left it up a little bit.”

Joe Knazek, Henry Chou, Briggs and Taylor Steen strung together a streak of four consecutive RBI hits to extend the advantage to 6-2.  “The guys followed up right behind me,” Carter said. “Those were the two big innings (for us). That’s what you’re supposed to do.”  “The run support was great,” Joo said.

With a four-run lead, Joo still had to face a dangerous Burlington lineup for four more innings. Despite conceding two runs in the fifth on a double by James and another on a solo home run to left from Matt Fischer in the sixth, Joo held on for a complete game victory. 

“Kevin pitched a very good game,” Burlington manager Ric Babula said. “We had a chance, but we didn’t do anything with it.  “We didn’t expect to go undefeated anyway. To go undefeated, you not only have to be good, you have to have a little luck involved. Today the luck wasn’t there.”

Vincentown 6, Willingboro 2:

Stefan Kancylarz was 3-for-3 (home run, double) with two RBIs as the second-place Merchants improved to 10-4.  Mike Ferrara had two hits, including a home run. Damon Valloreo pitched all seven innings for the win, allowing three hits (no earned runs or walks) with eight strikeouts.

Cinnaminson 10, Pine Barrens 4:

Joe Sirolli’s three hits helped the Reds (7-9) win for the third time in two nights.  Mark Wickersham had two hits and three RBIs, and Connor Hall had two hits and scored two runs. Jim Goodwin worked 5.2 innings for the win.  Connor Arsenault hit a three-run homer and Alex Campbell was 3-for-3 for Pine Barrens (5-8).

RVL Notebook

June 29, 2015

Courtesy of Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times

Gusrang homecoming cause for celebration

Sean Gusrang was a key player in 2010 when the Burlington Mets captured their first Rancocas Valley Baseball League title since 1951.  Both Gusrang and the Mets were off to a good start in 2011 when the slugger got the opportunity to go west to play professional baseball. He spent the past 3½ summers playing infield and outfield for the Traverse City (Michigan) Beach Bums in the independent Frontier League. He hit 25 home runs during his time in Michigan and had a .249 average in 846 at-bats.

With slugger Zach Skidmore -- whose bat helped the Mets win RVL titles in 2013 and 2014 -- relocating to Chicago for a new job, Gusrang's return to New Jersey, and the RVL, this summer was well-timed for Keith Babula's club. Gusrang's bat has been a key in the team's 18-0 record -- although super-strong pitching hasn't hurt. And his defensive work at all four infield positions -- he was an all-Big East first baseman at Seton Hall -- has been sparkling.

Playing in all 18 games through Friday, the Burlington City High graduate leads the league in five of the nine main offensive categories: hits (21), doubles (6), home runs (5, tied with Vincentown's Jim Best), RBIs (27) and walks (11).

Three of the departments he's not leading -- average (.447), runs scored (21) and triples (1) -- he is second. Austin Kurey of Pine Barrens is tops in hitting at .486, while Mets' teammate Shaun Babula leads in runs scored with 23. Babula also leads in stolen bases with 14. Dennis Stewart of Burlington Township is tops in triples with two.

Fireworks Game

Burlington will face Vincentown in a Fireworks Game at Harry Thompson Field on Saturday, July 11, at 9:30 p.m.  The teams are currently first (Mets 18-0) and second (Merchants 9-4) in the standings.  Last year V-town won an 8-6 slugfest as Johnny Bujanowski and Ryan Williams belted home runs.

All-Star games

The Rancocas Valley League will face the Pendel League in an all-star game for the second straight year. The game will be Saturday, July 18, 5 p.m., at Kopper Kettle Field in Southampton, Pennsylvania.  In last year's inaugural meeting, the teams played to a 7-7 tie.

All-star teams from the Morris County Majors and the Jersey Shore League will face each other on Wednesday, July 15, 5 p.m., at FirstEnergy Park, home of the Lakewood Blueclaws.

RVL Action Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cinnaminson sweeps RVL twinbill

The Cinnaminson Reds jumped from sixth place to third place in the standings, taking a doubleheader from host Burlington Township 12-2 and 11-6 Sunday.  In the opener, Clinton Hart took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before allowing Dennis Stewart’s two-run triple. Greg Gilbert was 3-for-4 and drove in two runs for the Reds, who had lost six in a row.  Greg Santoro went all seven innings for the pitching win in the second game, backed by two hits each by John Dockins and Kyle Ballay. Wayne Feret was 3-for-4 and Phil Dunbar had two hits for Township.

RVL Action Friday, June 26, 2015

Pine Barrens edges Riverside

Tyler Kaiser had three hits and scored two runs as the Pine Barrens Phantoms edged the Riverside Patriots 3-2.  Austin Kurey added two hits to support winning pitcher Matt Curry (5 innings, three hits, 1 run) and reliever Anthony Coniglio (2 innings, 1 unearned run). Alex Campbell had two RBIs for the winners, on a pair of sacrifice flies.  Jonny McGugan drilled a triple and scored the first Riverside run, and also pitched three strong innings allowing no earned runs.

RVL Action: Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Singer helps Burlington remain unbeaten in RVL

Jeff Singer pitched a shutout and knocked in two runs in the first inning launched Burlington to a 9-0 win over Vincentown.  Singer went the distance, allowed three hits and two walks, and had eight strikeouts. Burlington is undefeated in 17 games and halted Vincentown’s winning streak at six.  Sean Gusrang doubled with two outs in the first inning and scored on Vinny James’ single. A walk to Matt Hill with bases loaded brought home the second run.  Five runs in the third broke it open, two scoring on an infield single by Ryan McFadden. The Mets added two runs in the fifth.  Burlington turned two double plays, both involving Pedro Perez, Gusrang and Matt Fischer.  A highlight for Vincentown (9-4) was a relief stint by Eric Shugars. He worked three hitless innings and struck out four.

Willingboro 4, Cinnaminson 3:

Rich Stronski doubled twice and scored two runs in helping Willingboro move past .500. The Townsends have won five of their last seven and are 6-5 overall.  Matt Speckman had three hits and one RBI for Willingboro. Winning pitcher Dan Hill struck out eight.

RVL Notebook

June 22, 2015

Courtesy of Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times

Wednesday's matchup is worth a visit

Vincentown’s Harry W. Thompson Field is Burlington County’s old-school Field of Dreams. And the Merchants’ new light grey uniforms, with those mesh hats, do nothing to take away from that image.  You look at Mike Ferrara and Jack Bujanowski and Stefan Kancylarz as they warm up before a game, and you half expect Ray Liotta to come walking out of the corn fields across Red Lion Road, and introduce himself as Shoeless Joe Jackson.

But there’s something else to the dream this summer in Vincentown. The 2015 season is the 50th anniversary season of Harry Thompson being the team’s player-manager. In fact, the 85-year-old Thompson has been a part of Vincentown since the Rancocas Valley Baseball League opened in 1947. He was a 16-year-old at Pemberton High when he debuted with the Merchants.

The Merchants A.A. operation is a very local oriented operation, and very old school. Most of its fans are on social security, and the team is supported by the town’s merchants, especially Allen’s Oil & Propane — conveniently located across the street from Thompson’s house on North Main Street.

The natives were a little restless last summer when the Merchants were an underachieving 11-15 bunch. And it got worse when they were swept in the first round of the playoffs by Riverside.  Thompson had been through this before, and he released some talented players and brought in a bunch of new blood this summer. And the results have been pretty good so far. The Merchants are 8-3 and sit in second place behind unbeaten Burlington (16-0). And guess who’s coming to V-town this Wednesday night?

You don’t like to build up one game out of the 30 on the schedule, and Riverside will visit the Merchants Monday night, but ...  “We’ve got a pretty nice little ballclub,” Thompson said the other day. “I think our pitching matches up with anybody’s, and I like our team in the field, too. Defensively we can play with anybody. We’ve got boys who want to be here.”

The pitching has been key for V-town. Lefty Dave Gibson is 4-0 and leads the league in strikeouts with 41. Dave Steig, Damon Valloreo, Joe Argow, Allan Smith and Scott Wilhelm are all solid, with possible depth coming from Nick Alloway, a 2010 Twins draftee and a former part of the Brooklawn Post 72 American Legion dynasty.

And the team in the field is deep, with Ferrara and Pappler at first, smooth Stefan Kancylarz at second, Matt Weaver at short, and Frank Cerami or Pat Donnelly at third.

The Bujanowskis, father Jack and son John, give Thompson two clubs in the middle of the lineup. And don’t forget Eric Shugars, Adam Collis and Ian Thomas. 

But the two new additions that have meant the most are catchers Reid Pulford and Jim Best, a pair of 2008 Shawnee High graduates.  Pulford was a four-year starter at Shawnee, and also was Steig’s catcher when West Chester University won the NCAA Division 2 national championship in 2012.  Best plays wherever he’s needed, to keep his bat involved. He played catcher at George Washington, but for Thompson he’s usually in left field. His home run on Thursday night reportedly landed near the Vincent Fire Company. Because of his job at a baseball academy, Best doesn’t get to some games, but he’s tied (with Burlington’s Sean Gusrang) with a league-best five home runs, in just 19 at-bats.

Before Thursday’s game against Pine Barrens, Ferrara sarcastically joked about the “crowd” at the game. That should not be a problem Wednesday night. The Merchants and the Mets are the Hatfields and McCoys of the RVL. They are also — on paper, and on the field so far — the two best teams.

Babula, Perez, Gusrang, James, Guerrieri, Mull, Donahue, McFadden, Fischer, Hill, Jolly, Semmel in powder blue. Kancylarz, Cerami, Bujanowski (Sr. and Jr.), Best, Pulford, Weaver, Pappler, Ferrara, Donnelly in light gray. If you like baseball, Thompson Field is where you’ll want to be Wednesday night.

Eye openers

Our weekly look at top defensive plays is replaced this week by a rare steal of home by Garrett Mull of Burlington on Friday night.  During the Mets’ five-run third inning, Mull was on third with one out and Paul Guerrieri at bat. He timed Kevin Faber’s delivery and broke for home. Guerrieri aided the cause by squaring around fake a bunt, and Mull dove head-first under the tag of Jose Martinez.

RVL Action Friday, June 19, 2015

Burlington boosts record to 16-0

Five runs in the third inning sparked Burlington to a 6-2 win over Willingboro.  Ryan Bell pitched the first five innings and recorded his fifth win this season, allowing two runs as Burlington improved to 16-0. Bell struck out six, walked two and permitted five hits. Jeff Singer worked a scoreless inning in relief, striking out the side.

The Mets’ big third inning was highlighted by a steal of home by Garrett Mull. Burlington also capitalized on two errors in the third.  Shaun Babula had two hits and scored two runs. Paul Guerrieri and Sean Gusrang contributed RBIs as the Mets clinched a winning season with 14 games left on their schedule.  Josh Machtinger batted in both Willingboro runs and Jamie Schwantes doubled for the Townsends (5-5).

RVL Action Thursday, June 18, 2015

Vincentown wins fifth straight

Vincentown took control in the later innings for a 7-1 win over Pine Barrens.  The game was 1-1 before Vincentown scored three times in the bottom half of the fifth inning. Stefan Kancylarz singled home the go-ahead run, John Bujanowski followed with an RBI single and Reid Pulford hit a sacrifice fly.  The Merchants put it out of reach in the sixth on a three-run home run by Jim Best, whose five round-trippers share the league lead with Burlington's Sean Gusrang.

Kancylarz, Jack Bujanowski and John Bujanowski (double) had two hits apiece as Vincentown boosted its winning streak to five games. The Merchants are 8-3 overall and hold second place in the league.  Winning pitcher Dave Gibson worked all seven innings, struck out seven, walked two and allowed five hits. Gibson has four wins, all complete games, and has permitted four runs this season. 

Alex Campbell had two hits for Pine Barrens (3-6) and Austin Kurey's single batted in the Phantoms' run.

RVL Action: Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Riverside downs Pine Barrens

Joe Gutowski pitched six strong innings and allowed just one run as the Riverside Patriots downed the Pine Barrens Phantoms 6-4.  Henry Chou had two hits and a couple of RBIs for the Pats (4-6), while Taylor Steen also banged out two hits and knocked in a run.  Austin Kurey had two singles for the Phantoms (3-5), and Trent Fiori added an RBI double.

Burlington 8, Cinnaminson 2:

Max Newill won his league-best fifth game and Casey Donahue was 3-for-3 as the Mets improved to 15-0.  Newill fanned eight in six innings and allowed two unearned runs. Garrett Mull and Shaun Babula each scored twice.  Cole Pewor had three hits, Mike Wasco two and Mark Wickersham added a double for the Reds (4-7).

RVL Action: Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Willingboro 10, Burlington Township 3: 

Jason Kelmer and Rich Stronski hit home runs, helping the Townsends improve to 5-4. The pair combined for four hits, five RBIs and four runs scored.  Josh Machtinger pitched five innings for the win and struck out five. Brian Eifert’s RBI double was a Township highlight.

RVL Action: Monday, June 15, 2015

Best leads Vincentown power surge

Jim Best hit home runs in the first two innings Monday night, igniting Vincentown to a 10-3 win over Pine Barrens in the Rancocas Valley baseball league.  Best went deep for a two-run shot in the first inning and added a grand slam in the second. Jesse Pappler contributed a solo blast, also in the second inning.  Best finished 3 for 3 with the six RBIs, and Pappler and Stefan Kancylarz had two hits apiece as the Merchants improved to 7-3. They’ve won their last four.  Dave Steig benefited from the Vincentown attack and worked all seven innings for the victory. He struck out six and walked one. Pine Barrens is 3-4.

RVL Notebook

June 15, 2015

Courtesy of:  Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times

Burlington sets pace into backstretch

In the spirit of horse racing’s Triple Crown season — the 2015 Rancocas Valley Baseball League season has passed the one-third pole and as it heads for the backstretch, here’s how things are shaping up.

Burlington: The Mets are trying to Secretariat the field and earn the first-round bye that comes with finishing first in the regular season. But they’re also at least peripherally looking at a possible undefeated season — they are 14-0 after Sunday night’s win over Cinnaminson.

Vincentown: The Merchants haven’t quite kicked into gear yet, and there may be some turmoil boiling under the surface. But Harry Thompson’s club has won three straight, thanks to pitchers Joe Argow, Dave Steig, Dave Gibson and Damon Valloreo. Matt Weaver has been a great addition.

Cinnaminson: Another team that hasn’t played its best ball yet. But on paper the Reds have a lot of talent, strong pitching and the offense is led by hit machine Connor Hall, a pickup from defunct Mount Laurel, and shortstop John Dockins.

Willingboro: Mike Stumpf’s club is always pretty good. And if/when it gets pitching it’s very good. Kevin Faber gave the Townsends nine very solid innings in Wednesday’s wild win at Cinnaminson. And veteran Jon Wetzel continues to bang out hits, collecting five that night.

Pine Barrens: The Phantoms are one of those “on any given night” teams. Second-year player Tyler Kaiser has provided a nice bat. And teammates Austin Kurey, Phil Shallenberger, Alex Campbell and Connor Arsenault make for a potent attack. Mike Follett is solid in center field.

Riverside: Joe Gutowski (.700, 7-for-10) and newcomer Taylor Zackman have been the Patriots’ main offensive threats. The Knazek brothers, Joe and Brett, are solid, dependable guys. When the Pats get good pitching, they are much better.

Burlington Township: The Pirates are still looking for that breakthrough victory. Eddie Hoffman, Eli Mireles and Matt Klish have given Ed Eifert some consistent hitters.

Tough week

Tom (T.J.) Johnson, the older brother of former Mount Laurel coach Dean Johnson, passed away late Wednesday night after a long illness. He had spent his last 40-plus years as a paraplegic.

Then came word Thursday that Betty Babula, the mother of RVL president Ric Babula and grandmother of RVL players Keith and Shaun Babula, had passed at age 87.

Eye opener

Pedro (Pete) Perez has been a regular at shortstop for the Burlington Mets since his sophomore year in high school. So the fact that he made this week’s “eye opener” shouldn’t be a surprise.  Thursday night the Rutgers Camden junior-to-be robbed Alex Campbell of a sure base hit. The Pine Barrens catcher drilled a ball that just eluded a diving third baseman Matt Hill. But Perez backhanded the ball, turned and, leaping in the air, fired across his body to Sean Gusrang for the bang-bang out.

Kerns a Rivershark

Mike Kerns was a standout on the Burlington Mets’ 2013 championship team. Then he signed with the Roswell Invaders in 2014 and played in the independent Pecos League.  The catcher was back on the Mets’ roster this season until signing last week to play for the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

RVL Action: Sunday, June 14, 2015

Riverside outslugs Burlington Township

Riverside contined its hot play, taking a 13-8 slugfest from Burlington Township.  The Patriots (3-6) have now won three of their last four games. Dan Hornyak went all seven innings to earn the pitching win. Brett Knazek had three hits, including two doubles, and Jeff Briggs contributed a two-run double.  Eddie Eifert had two doubles, including one for three RBIs for the Patriots while Luke Kendricks and Eddie Hoffman each added two hits.

Burlington 11, Cinnaminson 4: 

Sean Gusrang slammed his league-best fifth home run during a six-run sixth inning as the unbeaten Mets pulled away late to beat the Reds. Gusrang, who drove in four runs, is now hitting over .500 and has a slugging percentage over 1.100 through 14 games.  Shaun Babula pitched the first five innings to earn his fourth win, tying Ryan Bell and Max Newill.  Babula had two hits, two RBIs and scored three runs. Pedro Perez, Gusrang and Matt Fischer each had a pair of hits, and Paul Guerrieri and Justin McFadden scored two runs each.  Gregg Gilbert had a double for the Reds (4-6).

RVL Action: Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pine Barrens victorious in RVL

Pine Barrens used a balanced attack in a 13-2 victory over Burlington Township.  Alex Campbell had three hits, batted in two runs and scored a pair as Pine Barrens improved to 3-2. Tyler Kaiser doubled twice, scored two runs and had three RBIs, and Austin Kurey was 2-for-2 and scored three runs for the Phantoms.  Alec Marconi worked the first four frames to get the mound decision in the five-inning contest. He scattered four hits and allowed one earned run.  Matt Klish (double) and Tyler Diaz had the RBIs for Burlington Township.

RVL Action: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cinnaminson picks up victory

Cinnaminson regained its winning ways Tuesday with a 15-3 triumph over Willingboro.  Connor Hall and Mark Wickersham had two hits and two RBIs apiece, helping Cinnaminson halt a losing streak at three games. That followed a 3-0 start for the Reds.  Clinton Hart pitched six innings and struck out four in picking up the win. Willingboro (3-4) received a big game from recent addition Jeff Pursell, who was 3-for-3, batted in a run and scored one.

Vincentown 7, Burlington Township 0: 

Lefty Dave Gibson had 16 strikeouts, allowed one walk and one hit as the Merchants won for the second time in two nights.  Stefan Kancylarz led off the bottom half of the first inning with a home run to launch Vincentown to its fifth win in eight games. Reid Pulford doubled, singled and had two RBIs.  Burlington Township foiled Gibson’s bid for a no-hitter when Matt Klish singled in the seventh inning.

RVL Action: Monday, June 8, 2015

Burlington 3, Pine Barrens 0:

Sam Guckin went the 7-inning distance, allowed three hits and no walks, and struck out three in recording the win for the Mets (12-0). Guckin, a Riverside High School senior, is a two-time member of the Burlco Carpenter Cup team.  Sean Gusrang hit two home runs to account for Burlington’s three runs. Speaking of the Carpenter Cup, Gusrang was a participant during his time at Burlington City High (2004-07).  Austin Kurey’s triple was a highlight for Pine Barrens (2-2).

Vincentown 7, Riverside 6:

Stefan Kancylarz, Johnny Bujanowski and Jim Best belted home runs as the Merchants (4-3) held off the Patriots (2-6).  V-town led 6-0 behind Damon Valloreo, but the lefty tired in the fifth and Eric Shugars threw the last three innings to get the save.  Riverside had a run in and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh when Shugars got a strikeout to end the game.

RVL Notebook

June 8, 2015

Courtesy of:  Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times

Tough night gets better for Shallenberger

Last summer, Phil Shallenberger provided some nice play at shortstop to help the Pine Barrens Phantoms win 17 games and enjoy their best season in the Rancocas Valley Baseball League. Patty Bowker Field was a fairly short trip for the assistant baseball coach at Cairn University in Langhorne Manor, Pennsylvania.  But Shallenberger recently got a new job at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. He sadly informed Phantoms coach Gerry Lamola of his situation and both made plans to move on.

Then the 27-year-old Shallenberger found out that he didn't have to show up for the new job until early July. Lamola was happy to find out he'd have a shortstop and leadoff hitter, until the end of June anyhow.  But around 9:30 last Wednesday at Cinnaminson's Memorial Park, Shallenberger might've been wishing he'd left early for Tennessee. The Phantoms were trailing the Reds and errors, mostly by Shallenberger in his season debut, were the main reason.

But he hung in there and in the top of the seventh inning, with two outs and his team down a run, he drilled a 2-2 pitch from Alex Sankey to the base of the fence in dead center field for a three-run double. Pine Barrens hung on for a 10-8 victory.  "I had played at Cinnaminson before, but the three errors was a combination of the field conditions and shaking the rust off," said Shallenberger, who threw with his Cairn players during a season that had ended in early May.  "They were plays I should have made but just wasn't able to come up with them. Our pitchers threw great and we let them down in the field."

But all's well that ends well, or something like that. Shallenberger finished the evening with three hits and six ribbies. It was offensively the kind of effort Lamola expected from his shortstop. Shallenberger's RVL debut season in 2014 saw him hit .311 with 24 runs (second on the team), 23 hits (fourth), six doubles (third), two triples (first) and a team-best 10 stolen bases. He struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings of shutout relief.  "The guys are a blast to play with and I wanted to have a little fun with them before I started my new job," he said. "The guys in front of me (Wednesday) did a great job of getting on base against a tough pitcher (Sankey) with a walk and a clutch hit by Trent Fiori. I was just looking to barrel something up for a base hit and not try to do too much. But I got a pitch I could handle and was able to get the guys in.

"We should have had the game well in hand at that point ... but it was nice to make up for the mistakes I made in the field."

Eye openers

Thursday's Vincentown-Burlington matchup did not lack for superior defensive plays.  You had Merchants first baseman Jesse Pappler looking like Gil Hodges, scooping at least four balls out of the dirt for an out.  The Mets' Sean Gusrang looked like he'd played second base his whole life (he hasn't), ranging far, far to his left to grab a ball hit by Jack Bujanowski and toss him out in a bang-bang play at first.

But the play of the evening had to be by V-town shortstop Matt Weaver. Burlington's Pedro Perez ripped a bullet that looked like a sure single to left field. But third baseman Frank Cerami dove and deflected the ball toward Weaver, who fielded it and threw off-balance to just nip the speedy Perez.

RVL Action Thursday, June 4, 2015

Willingboro gets past Pine Barrens

Kevin Faber pitched the first five innings for the win and Erik Danser finished Willingboro’s 3-1 win over Pine Barrens.  Danser also helped offensively, batting in two runs as the Townsends won for the second time in five games this season. The loss was the Phantoms’ first after two wins.

Burlington 6, Vincentown 3:

Vinny James’ three-run home run in the first inning propelled the unbeaten Mets to their 11th win. James finished with four RBIs.  Garrett Mull added a two-run homer and Casey Donahue had one RBI. Ryan Bell pitched all seven innings, allowing three hits and one walk.  Matt Weaver hit a two-run homer and Allan Smith batted in the other run for Vincentown (3-3).

Riverside 8, Burlington Township 1:

Two runs in the bottom of the second inning gave the Patriots the lead for good. Stevie Stevenson was the winning pitcher as the Patriots recorded their first win after five losses to start the season.  Riverside scored a run in the first inning before Township tied it in the top of the second, Eddie Hoffman knocking in Chase Thomas. Hoffman finished 3-for-3 but the Pirates suffered their eighth setback in as many games.

RVL Action: Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pine Barrens 10, Cinnaminson 8:

Phil Shallenberger’s three-run double in the seventh inning lifted the Phantoms over the Reds (3-2), in a sloppy game that saw the teams combine for 10 errors.  Shallenberger had three hits and six RBIs. Austin Kurey was 3-for-3 with two runs scored, and Conner Arsenault was 2-for-3 with three runs for the winners. Alec Marconi got the pitching win with three scoreless innings in relief of his brother Brian. Anthony Coniglio earned the save.  Greg Gilbert had two hits and scored twice for the Reds.

RVL Action: Monday, June 1, 2015

Newill leads Burlington to 10th win

Max Newill allowed three hits and one unearned run as the Burlington Mets defeated the Riverside Patriots 8-1.  Newill (3-0) struck out four and walked one to help the unbeaten Mets to their 10th victory. Dan Hornyak took the loss for the Patriots (0-5).  Casey Donahue had a double and three RBIs, while Pedro Perez had a double and scored twice, and Vinny James and Sean Gusrang both had RBIs.

RVL Action Sunday, May 31, 2015

Burlington tops Cinnaminson, moves to 9-0

The Burlington Mets improved to 9-0 with a 10-2 victory over the Cinnaminson Reds at Memorial Field. The Reds dropped to 3-1.  Lefty Shaun Babula allowed three hits and no runs over the first six innings to win his third game.  Sean Gusrang and Pedro Perez led the attack against losing pitcher Christian Rahman. Each had a single, double and home run, with Gusrang knocking in three runs and Perez two.  Paul Guerrieri added a two-run double and Matt Fisher had a pair of singles.  In a quirk of the schedule, the two powerhouses are scheduled to meet June 14 and June 17 at Memorial Park, and then not again until the final week of the season, July 21 and 23 at Life Center Academy, home of the Mets.

Vincentown 12, Burlington Twp. 1:

The Merchants (3-2) were without some of their big guns — Greg Miller, Jesse Pappler, Mike Ferraro and the Bujanowskis — but Harry Thompson’s “kiddie corps” came through.  Lefty Dave Gibson went the route, allowing six hits and one run for his second win. The Merchants gave him a quick lead in the top of the first when Stefan Kancylarz walked and Frank Cerami smacked a home run.  Leading 5-0, Matt Weaver’s three-run double iced the victory.

All-Star Game

The RVL will once again play the Pendel League in an all-star game this summer. Last year’s inaugural meeting at Vincentown’s Harry Thompson Field ended in a tie.  This year’s game will be held July 18, 5 p.m., at Kopper Kettle Field in Southampton, Pennsylvania.  The Pendel League includes: Glenside Hawks, Horsham Astros, Huntingdon Valley Athletics, Liberty Bell Patriots, LOMA, Northampton Orioles, Philadelphia Bandits, Upper Moreland Rebels, Warminster Warriors.

For whom Bell tolls

On a team that is deep with veteran pitchers — Max Newill, Shaun Babula, John Harvey, Pedro Perez, Jon Wilkins, Kevin Gunter, Marshall Harden and Andy Noga — the early-season staff leader is Ryan Bell.  The two-year Burlington County College pitcher has taken the ball three times for the defending league champion Mets and the results have been spectacular. He’s 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA, having allowed just five hits in 16 1/3 innings with 12 strikeouts. He’s hit more batters (3) than he’s walked (2).  And Bell’s shutout Thursday evening against the Willingboro Townsends was over in 90 minutes.


RVL Action Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pine Barrens gets a victory in first game

The Pine Barrens Phantoms finally opened their 2015 season, knocking off the Burlington Township Pirates 11-2.  Ron Krankowski pitched the first two innings, and five relievers went one inning apiece. Dennis Stewart had an RBI triple and Matt Klish collected two hits for B.T.  Cameron Bahr went 4-for-5 with two RBIs for the Phantoms, who also got two hits each from Krankowski and Austin Kurey. Matt Curry contributed an RBI double.

Cinnaminson 10, Riverside 3:

Geoff Gilbert had three hits, including a double, and batted in two runs as the Reds improved to 3-0.  Kyle Ballay had a double, single and two RBIs for Cinnaminson in a game halted by darkness after six innings. Jim Goodwin got the win by working the first four frames. He struck out four and allowed no runs.

Burlington 4, Willingboro 0:

Ryan Bell set down the Townsends on just four hits in a game that took 90 minutes to play.  Paul Guerrieri and Justin McFadden each had two hits for the Mets (8-0) while Sam Guckin and Pedro Perez knocked in runs. Jeff Purcell was 3-for-3 with a double for Willingboro (1-3).

RVL Action: Monday, May 25, 2015

Mets improve to 7-0 behind Newill, Gusrang

Max Newill pitched a complete game and Sean Gusrang provided the big bat as the Burlington Mets knocked off the Vincentown Merchants 5-4.  Newill allowed four earned runs and walked four, striking out five as the Mets improved to 7-0. Damon Valloreo took the loss.  Gusrang had a double and four RBIs.  Andrew Lydon hit a home run for the Merchants (2-2) and scored twice.

RVL Notebook

May 25, 2015

Courtesy of Bruce Johnson, Burlington County Times

Pine Barrens finally gets to play first game

By the time Pine Barrens plays its first game, the rest of the Rancocas Valley League will have played from four to eight games.  Hopefully, it won’t rain Thursday so the Phantoms’ game at Burlington Township will go off as scheduled — 2½ weeks after the league opened up May 11.  Of course, the late start will mean very few days off — 15 games in June and 14 in July — until the RVL playoffs take place in early August.  Gerry Lamola’s club is coming off its best season, going 17-10-1 last year to finish in third place.  Although missing a couple of key players from last season, the Phantoms do return solid players like Ronnie Krankowski, Tyler Kaiser, Eric Sellito, Nick Henderson, Alex Campbell, Cameron Bahr and Mason Anderson.

Do as he says, does

Bill Parave, who had four hits and was the winning pitcher in the Willingboro Townsends’ opening win, is an assistant coach at Penn State-Abington.  The Merchantville native played at Pennsauken High and Camden County College before attending Abington. He hit .399 as a player last spring.  Also on the Abington coaching staff is Dan Hill, a current Willingboro RVLer.

Hennigan is a Loon

Dan Hennigan, 25, who played shortstop on the Burlington Mets’ 2010 championship team, has spent the last few summers playing Independent ball.

He impressed someone in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ scouting system, because he was recently signed and added to the roster of the Class A Great Lakes Loons. The Midland, Michigan-based Loons play in the Midwest League.

Happy birthday

Shaun Babula’s birthday Thursday night was pretty much business as usual for the 38-year-old lefty.  He tossed a six-inning, three-hit shutout as the Mets defeated the Willingboro Townsends 6-0. He also opened the game with a base hit on the first pitch.  Babula is in his sixth year as an assistant baseball coach at Penn State-Abington, where he also is the Assistant Director of Development and Alumni Relations.

Memorial Day game

The Burlington Mets will put their unbeaten record on the line Monday night when they visit Harry Thompson Field to play the Vincentown Merchants at 7 p.m.

According to the RVL’s website, this is at least the seventh straight year the teams have played on Memorial Day. Vincentown won in 2009, Burlington won in  2010, Vincentown took three straight from 2011-13, before Burlington won in 2014.

RVL Action: Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Harvey leads Burlington to sixth win

John Harvey struck out 13 and allowed four hits in for Burlington’s 6-1 win over Burlington Township.  Harvey’s gem paced the Mets to their sixth win without a loss. Kyle Semmel was 3-for-3; Shaun Babula, Sean Gusrang and Justin McFadden had two hits each. Matt Hill had two RBIs and Pedro Perez scored two runs.  Township’s run was batted in by Eddie Kotch.

RVL Action: Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Babula leads Burlington to fifth win

Shaun Babula pitched a three-hitter for Burlington in a 6-0 win over Willingboro.  Babula struck out five as Burlington boosted its record to 5-0. The Mets are two-time defending league champions.  He also was one of three Mets with two hits. Justin McFadden was 2-for-2 and scored two runs, and Matt Hill was 2-for-3 with one RBI.

RVL Action: Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Cinnaminson posts second victory

Connor Hall hit a grand slam in Cinnaminson's 14-2 win over Burlington Township.  Hall had three hits and Mike Wasco homered as Cinnaminson won for the second time in as many games. Wasco had two hits, walked twice and batted in four runs.  Jim Goodwin was the winning pitcher in relief, allowing one hit and striking out four in three innings.

RVL Action: Monday, May 18, 2015