Baseball – NJSIAA Non-Public B Championship Preview: Ranney Aims for State Title No. 1
NJSIAA Non-Public B Championship
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Ranney (25-5) vs. Immaculata (14-12), 7 p.m.
Ranney at a Glance
Head Coach: Pat Geroni
Last Group Championship: Never
Probable Starting Pitcher
Nick Coniglio, Jr., RHP
A.J. Gracia, Jr., LHP
Marcello Mastroianni, Jr., LHP
Diego Tavarez, Jr., RHP
Jack Renaud, Jr., RHP
A.J. Gracia, Jr., CF
Charlie Chropuvka, Sr., RF
Brett Wehringer, Jr., SS
Lou Spadafora, Jr., C
Jack Tallent, Jr., 2B
Diego Tavarez, Jr., 3B
Glen Cantalupo, Jr., 1B
Ricky Nagy, Jr., LF
Road to the Final
Quarterfinal: Northeastern commit Nick Coniglio pitched a no-hitter on 64 pitches and the Panthers disposed of No. 8 Holy Cross Prep, 10-0, in five innings. Duke commit A.J. Gracia clobbered his 10th home run of the season and six of his teammates collected two hits apiece, with Delaware commit Charlie Chropuvka and Diego Tavarez each driving in two and Glen Cantalupo roping two doubles and picking up three RBI.
Semifinal: Gracia, Lou Spadafora and Chropuvka all homered during a 10-run first inning and the Panthers slugged their way past No. 5 seed and defending Non-Public B champion Holy Spirit. Gracia earned the win in relief, sending Ranney to its first ever sectional championship game.
Sectional Final: Chropuvka hit a game-winning, walk-off, three-run homer with none out in the bottom of the seventh to give Ranney its first ever sectional title with a stunning, 8-7, win over 20-time state champion Gloucester Catholic. Chropuvka’s homer capped a wild final two innings that saw each team put up multiple runs in each frame. After a fourth-inning homer by Brett Wehringer put Ranney ahead, 3-0, Matt Leahy tied the game at 3-3 with a three-run blast in the top of the sixth. The Panthers jumped back in front on a two-run home run by Spadafora, only to watch Gloucester Catholic score four times in the top of the seventh to take a 7-5 lead.
Immaculata at a Glance
Head Coach: Kevin Cust
Last Group Championship: 2010
Probable Starting Pitcher
Josh Thompson, So., RHP (7-2, 3.75 ERA, 52.1 IP, 68 H, 17 BB, 35 K)
Matt Warzeniak, Sr., RHP
Christian Martell, Sr., RHP
Aidan Rumain, Sr., RHP
Jayden Capindica, Fr. (.307, 3 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 16 R, 21 RBI, 5 SB)
A.J. Johnson, Sr. (.337, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 15 R, 15 RBI, 5 SB)
Christian Martell, Sr. (.329, 2 2B, 2 HR, 10 R, 10 RBI)
Jayson Labrador, Fr. (.329, 2 2B, 11 R, 14 RBI, 5 SB)
Troy Rabosky, So. (.212, 4 2B, 2 HR, 13 R, 15 RBI, 2 SB)
Josh Thompson, So. (.270, 2 2B, 15 R, 9 RBI, 3 SB)
Danny Ferguson, So. (.279, 3 2B, 11 R, 10 RBI)
Road to the Final
First Round: A.J. Johnson went 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBI and three pitchers combined on a two-hitter to lead the fifth-seeded Spartans to a 10-0 win over No. 12 Newark Academy. Josh Thompson led the trio of pitchers, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out five to earn the win.
Quarterfinal: Jayden Capindica went 1-for-3 with four RBI, which included a three-run double, as Immaculata outlasted No. 4 Morristown-Beard, 9-6. Matt Warzeniak allowed four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings to pick up the win and Danny Ferguson reached base three times, drove in two runs and scored two more.
Semifinal: Thompson pitched a complete game and went 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored at the plate to spark Immaculata to an 11-2 rout of No. 1 Rutgers Prep in the North Non-Public B semifinals. Warzeniak and Capindica each went 1-for-4 with two RBI in the win, with Capindica doubling for his hit.
Sectional Final: Capindica hit a two-run home run in the sixth and a game-winning, three-run hit with two out in the bottom of the seventh to carry Immaculata back from a 7-0 deficit to stun No. 6 Gill St. Bernard’s, 8-7, for the program’s first sectional title in 12 years. Aidan Rumain pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win in relief.
A Closer Look
Two of the wildest finishes in Friday’s sectional final round were games won by the two Non-Public B finalists. Ranney squandered two different leads before ousting Gloucester Catholic, 8-7, on a three-run walk-off home run by Chropuvka.
The North Jersey championship game was not back-and-forth, but it did feature one of the best comebacks of 2022. Trailing 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Immaculata scored three in the sixth and five in the bottom of the seventh to walk off with a stunning win over Gill St. Bernard’s. Freshman Jayden Capindica carried the comeback, swatting a two-run home run in the sixth to cut the deficit to 7-3 and later ending the game with a shot to the fence that cleared the bases with the tying and winning runs in an 8-7 Spartans triumph.
While Immaculata brings a higher senior count into Wednesday’s game, Ranney will be the more experienced team given how many big games this Panthers group has plaid together over the past two seasons alone. Five of Immaculata’s top seven hitters are underclassmen, while Ranney has three committed Division I bats in the lineup in Gracia (Duke), Chropuvka (Delaware) and Wehringer (Bucknell).
Ranney will also be buoyed by its three-headed pitching staff, which helped the Panthers survive the battle vs. Gloucester Catholic. A.J. Gracia carried the bulk of the load as Friday’s starter and is eligible to start again, while Nick Coniglio and Marcello Mastroianni will be more rested after coming on in relief – Coniglio in the sixth inning and Mastroianni in the seventh.
Playing on its hitter-friendly home field, Ranney has outhomered its opponents, 7-3, in three state tournament games, including 3-1 in the win over Gloucester Catholic. The dimensions at DeMeo Field will probably take the home-run ball out of play to a certain degree, but the Panthers have plenty of hitters in the lineup with legitimate power, as well as other ways to score runs.
Both teams in the Non-Public B final are a testament to competitive scheduling. Ranney plays in a Shore Conference Class B Central division that does not provide much resistance, but the Panthers played the likes of Don Bosco, Delbarton, Middletown South, Poly Prep, Ocean City and St. John Vianney, among others, during the season.
Immaculata, meanwhile, scored wins over Hunterdon Central and Red Bank Catholic during the season. Hunterdon Central will play for the Group IV championship on Saturday and RBC won the Shore Conference Tournament championship.
Immaculata has a strong baseball tradition, with three overall Group championships and the last coming in 2010 in Non-Public A. Ranney, meanwhile, is looking for its first ever group championship in baseball and with a junior-loaded team, the Panthers could be on the cusp of a major run beginning Wednesday night.
Prediction: Ranney, 8-3