High school baseball team won first-ever Group 4 state championship

High school baseball team won first-ever Group 4 state championship

The king of Somerset County is now the ruler of  New Jersey.

The most accomplished Bridgewater-Raritan High School baseball team ever punctuated its storybook 2024 season by reaching New Jersey’s summit.

On a beautiful evening for baseball, Saturday, June 8, Bridgewater-Raritan defeated Eastern Regional High School, 6-4, in the Group 4 title game at Veterans Park in Hamilton Township.  This is the first group title in the history of Bridgewater-Raritan High School.  
In the Group 4 championship game, Bridgewater-Raritan (30-3), ranked No. 4 in the state, exploded to an early five-run lead it never relinquished against Eastern Regional High School (25-7) under the brightest of lights.

While a mammoth grand slam by Eastern senior shortstop Sam Winsett 1-2, 4 RBI, R, HR, BB) made it a one-run game with one out in the top of the third inning, Bridgewater-Raritan’s junior starting pitcher, Owen Crimmins (3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 0 HB) kept the Camden County school off the board the rest of the way en route to a winning decision.

Junior Jack Lanum then recorded back-to-back outs on just seven pitches, with the tying run aboard for Eastern in the top of the fourth inning to set up senior closer Cory Rible (3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0 HB), who got an insurance home run from classmate Matt Fattore (2-4, 3 RBI, R, HR) on the first pitch of the bottom of the fifth inning to extend the Panthers’ lead to
two runs.

The reliable Rible, a nearly unhittable weapon out of the bullpen, was perfect throughout his 39 pitches during the final three innings with seven strikeouts, notably including one on his final pitch as a scholastic player to cap the 6-4 victory that led to an eruption knot the field by the Bridgewater-Raritan players and staff.

“You try to put a foundation in place that, when you have the pieces, those kids can go out there, be comfortable, and compete to the best of their abilities,” shared after the win by victorious Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Max Newill claimed.  “I didn’t throw a pitch. I didn’t make a play. I didn’t take an at-bat. It’s all the kids, but my assistant coaches and I take great pride in building a foundation from which they can succeed. The kids for the last few years, and then tonight, went to the mountaintop and the highest point that you can get. I want to think that’s because we have a strong foundation. We set the foundation, set the parameters, let the
kids play within them, and give them some freedom. As long as they do what they ask, we’re as
happy as we can be, and we had the talent this year to get all the way.”

As a result, 14 Bridgewater-Raritan High School Class of 2024 students closed their careers with the program’s most significant victory ever.

The seniors are  Frankie Verano, Michael Taylor, Matthew Baxter, Michael Lentini, Nick Turchi, Matt Fattore, Trevor Kelly, Devin Goldberg, Joe Spirra, Ben Dolan, Sam Matheson, Joey Letko, Cory Rible, and team manager Jayen Patel.

“This was always the goal,” said Verano, his squad’s lone four-year varsity letter winner, who saw the Bridgewater-Raritan program go a sparkling 85-29 over his four seasons on the team. “We were always going to work for it. That’s what we wanted, and we got it.”

The most accomplished senior class in Bridgewater-Raritan High School baseball history stamped their historic run to the top with the crown jewel of trophies on that Saturday evening in Mercer County.

Not only did the Panthers lock up another Skyland Conference Delaware Division title in April to begin 2024 and go a perfect 10-0 in division play, Bridgewater-Raritan rode that momentum toward its first Somerset County Tournament title since 1996. before pitching four shutouts in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 sectional playoffs en route to its first sectional title since 2010.

“This is really just a perfect ending, but we never doubted it with this team,” Verano, who had
one of the two extensive walks against Eastern, said. “We knew we were going to fight, and we did.”

After a robust celebration on the field when the game ended, Bridgewater-Raritan brought back its first Group 4 state championship trophy on its school bus, which received a hero’s escort and welcome back onto the campus of Bridgewater-Raritan High School by a sea of fire and police trucks blasting their sirens at about 10:45 on Saturday night.

“There is no other moment that can ever beat this,” concluded Taylor, ending his career with the Group 4 crown. “Winning the state championship for our last game of the year and my senior year is no better feeling. I love it. I loved every single moment of all four years, and it’s just a great way to end it all.”

The kings have spoken.