The Senior American Legion baseball regular season is only about a month long. So once it gets going in late June, it becomes a sprint to the finish line in mid July.
It feels like the 2019 campaign only just got going in central New Jersey. But now the regular season is already ending…this week.
The Mercer County American Legion League and the Pyramid Baseball League regular seasons will both be over by the weekend. Barring inclement weather, the MCALL regular season is scheduled to end on July 17. The Pyramid’s regular campaign closed on July 16.
Now both leagues are looking ahead to the District Tournament, which will only feature 16 clubs this summer. Bids are so scarce that the Pyramid League is only getting two.
The bracket is not yet finalized. But here’s a look at which teams in the centraljersey.com coverage area should get in, and at how the others are finishing out their 2019 campaigns.
Hillsborough is on a tear, but it may be too little, too late.
Coach Matt Mosko’s club has won six of its last eight games after starting the season at 2-5. But even with an 8-7 record overall, Hillsborough only finished in third place in the Pyramid Baseball League standings.
Since only two Pyramid League squads will get into the District Tournament field, the Raiders would need a team from another league to deny a bid.
A week ago, though, Hillsborough stood at 4-6 and its chances looked slim. The fact that the team finished strong is a credit to Mosko and his hungry young roster.
A lot of these kids will be competing for open spots on the Hillsborough High School varsity baseball team next spring. That should create healthy competitions across the diamond.
Hopewell Post 339
As usual in recent years, Hopewell Post 339 is golden. The defending MCALL champion has gone 15-1 in its last 16 games, improving to a 21-3 record and a first place pole position in the league standings.
Coach Mike Coryell’s club is certain to earn a District Tournament nod and will be a strong contender to win the whole thing.
Hopewell continues to get contributions from its entire roster. In an 8-7 victory over Bordentown Post 26 on July 10 at Hopewell Valley Central High School, Kenny Tagliareni hit a walk-off single, Andy Blake stroked a bases clearing double and Marc Porpora went 3-for-3 with two doubles.
Lawrence Post 414
At 15-9, Lawrence is in a strong position to qualify for the District Tournament. Lawrence sits in fifth place in the MCALL standings, but the league is on track to receive six bids.
If it makes the postseason, Lawrence will make its opponents feel very queasy. The Lawrence Township squad is capable of exploding for crooked numbers, and it has on a bunch of occasions this summer.
Lawrence has scored six or more runs in 10 of its 15 victories in 2019.
Allentown has gone 5-3 in its last eight games to improve to 11-11, positioning itself for a District Tournament bid. Six MCALL teams are slated to make the field, and Allentown is in sixth place in the Mercer County League’s standings.
Coach Justin Ely’s team is playing its best baseball at the right time, having outscored three recent opponents during a three game winning streak by a combined margin of 28-5. Ely said a couple weeks ago that his club just needed a fuller roster to start playing better. It appears that Ely is getting that fuller roster on a more regular basis.
South Brunswick Post 401
South Brunswick Post 401 is just 2-7 in its last nine games, falling to 8-14 overall and to ninth in the MCALL standings.
As it stands right now, the Monmouth Junction club would need its league to get three extra bids to the District Tournament, a highly unlikely possibility.
South Brunswick did at least beat a good Allentown club, 7-6, on July 12.
West Windsor-Plainsboro is 9-14 and in eighth place in the MCALL standings. West Windsor-Plainsboro still has a chance to get a District Tournament slot, but it would need the MCALL to receive a couple extra bids.
But even if it misses the playoffs, West Windsor-Plainsboro still got hot in early July and made a solid run at the second season. The team was absolutely raking during its streak, too.
In its first seven games of July, West Windsor-Plainsboro went 4-3 and scored at least nine runs in all four victories. It exploded for 13 runs in the last victory of that stretch, a 13-12 decision over Ewing on July 10.
Hightstown Post 148
Hightstown Post 148 is most likely not going to make the District Tournament field. The Hightstown Borough squad is just 6-15 and in 10th place in the MCALL, meaning it would need almost half the playoff teams from other leagues to deny their bids.
Hightstown was a not so bad 5-9 after a 13-5 victory over Trenton Post 93/182 on July 5. But a late season cold streak, in which the team went just 1-6, doomed its playoff chances.
Princeton Post 218
Princeton Post 218 stands at 4-18 in MCALL play and in 12th place in the league standings.
But Princeton can at least hang its baseball hat on a couple impressive victories from this season. It beat a good Lawrence club, 10-9, back on June 5. It also topped Ewing, 14-12, in a slugfest on July 7.
Princeton was clearly at its best this summer when its lineup was on.