Hudson Catholic began the season as one of the favorites in the league race, but the Hawks fell on some tough times recently, having lost to rival St. Peter's Prep, then Emerson and finally in shocking fashion to the Bruins, who have really hit their stride in recent weeks.
Although Emerson has been playing great in recent weeks and head coach Frank Clark is making his push to be the Hudson Reporter Coach of the Year this season, it appears as if it will come down to the two giants, namely state-ranked powers St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City and Memorial High School in West New York, for the Coviello title next Saturday afternoon as part of the Super Saturday quadruple header at Caven Point.
The Marauders, who have enjoyed an amazing 21-1 season this year, earned the regular season title and the first round bye. The Marauders are ranked No. 3 in the state this week, behind St. Joseph of Montvale and Seton Hall Prep. Pretty lofty competition, no?
The Tigers of Memorial, who were this corner's pre-season pick to win it all, are currently 21-2 and ranked No. 4 in the entire state.
Imagine that. Two of the top four teams in the entire state of New Jersey fighting for the same league title? That pretty much sums it up.
The Marauders have been as consistent as an offensive force you will find in the state this year. Every single one of the Marauders' hitters can hit the ball with power and authority. They are simply a bunch of mashers, through and through.
While pitchers Dave Bellotti and Chuck Comprelli have been steady and solid, it's the Marauders' lineup that has been the most impressive facet to the team. Catcher Nick Criaris has been proving to everyone that he deserves the attention as a possible high draft pick in the Major League Draft in a few weeks. And Mike Brown, the football star, is quickly becoming Mike Brown, the baseball star.
But you cannot rule out the Tigers, even if Prep won the first showdown between the two teams a few weeks ago, taking a 5-3 decision behind Bellotti's clutch pitching.
First and foremost, ace lefty Robinson Polanco has the ability to be a dominant pitcher in clutch situations. And as everyone knows, dominating pitching can shut down hitting in crucial spots.
With the way the playoffs have been spread out over a two-week span this year instead of compacted into a single week, the advantage has to lie with Memorial and the rest that Polanco as an ace will receive. Also, pitcher Steve Minguez is a very capable No. 2 pitcher.
On paper, you would have to favor the pitching prowess of the Tigers over the Marauders.
Plus, the Tigers have their share of quality hitters like Jesus Castano and Gus Lopez, guys who are proven contributors and solid leaders.
So, if we're going for a prediction here - and the Great Hagueini wants to jump out of his turban - we're taking Memorial on Super Saturday.
As for the HCIAA Seglio baseball, we're calling for a finale between dominant County Prep, which only lost its first game of the season last Saturday to a good Lyndhurst team, and Hoboken. It appears as if we'll get the showdown we all have been anticipating.
County Prep, under rookie head coach Mike Zadroga, Jr., has been steady all year long, with its veteran team of proven performers, guys like Kris Gonzalez, Steve Schindler and the versatile James Feminello.
But Hoboken has been playing better ball of late, thanks to the pitching prowess of senior John Quinones, who has accepted a scholarship offer to play at St. Peter's College in the fall, and the solid all-around play of football standout Vinnie Johnson, Jr. Another versatile athlete, Jonathan Gracesqui, plays a host of roles for the Red Wings.
So it looks like the Hurricanes are blowing and the Red Wings are soaring toward a Seglio title showdown.
Hagueini is going with County Prep.
In the softball ranks, how can you not pick a title game between two-time defending champion St. Dominic Academy, the regular season champs who rolled through the regular season unscathed with a 16-0 mark, and Holy Family Academy?
HFA, the Blue Devils' arch-nemesis, has now faced SDA in either the regular season, county or state playoffs nine times over the last three years - and each game has been decided by a single run, including last week's 11-inning 1-0 thriller that was played at Montclair State.
It should be a great pitching showdown between the crafty senior Leigh Ann Murduca and the rising star of the county ranks, freshman Grace Keller. That matchup alone would be worth the price of admission.
Hagueini likes the Blue Devils.
The wide one also knows that the people in North Bergen think they have a fighting chance to win the title. We have to see.
In the HCIAA Seglio softball, it looks as if it will be a rematch of last year's title game between four-time defending champion High Tech and upstart County Prep, which had a huge win last week, defeating Bayonne for the first time ever.
High Tech has a great pitcher in April Jacob. The Hurricanes can counter with a pitching force of their own in Danielle Gaffey. It should be a showdown to last a lifetime, but Hagueini is picking the Lasercats to make it five straight and 80 straight HCIAA Seglio Division wins. An amazing stat in its own right. So, make sure you attend the baseball and softball bonanza, the carnival known as Super Saturday next weekend. It should be something to behold, especially with all the drama involved.
- Jim Hague