In softball, there are two teams remaining in the hunt - namely longtime rivals High Tech and Hoboken - and they're getting together for the North Jersey Section 2, Group I sectional title, the crown won last year by Hoboken.
It will be the fourth time that the two teams have played this season, twice in the regular season and then in the HCIAA Seglio Division championship game two weeks ago.
Hoboken has one win over High Tech this season. The Lasercats have captured the last two meetings. It's a showdown of epic proportions.
It guarantees that Hudson County will definitely have a state sectional softball champion for the second straight year. The Red Wings won last year, ending a drought of state softball champs in Hudson County dating back 20 years to 1987, when North Bergen won in Group IV.
Now, there will be a Hudson County state sectional champion for a second straight year.
The showdown for the state crown will only help to intensify the already intense rivalry between the two schools. You have Hoboken's ace pitcher Raquel Roder going up against Erica Colon, who is also a Hoboken native. You have High Tech's coach Ravon Anderson, a Hoboken High School football legend, going up against his former mentor Carmine Ronga. Anderson and Ronga once served on the same staff at Hoboken, then Ronga stepped down for one season and Anderson took over, leading the Red Wings to the HCIAA Seglio title.
A year later, Ronga wanted his job back, so Anderson was displaced and he headed to High Tech, where he's guided the Lasercats to three straight HCIAA Seglio Division titles.
Needless to say, there's some fire and ice between the two schools.
"All the girls know each other," Ronga said. "I'd say it's a friendly rivalry, but it's certainly a rivalry."
And now, it will have a state championship on the line to add to the intensity between the two programs.
There are three baseball teams still standing, namely Memorial in North Jersey Section 1, Group IV, surprising Weehawken in North Jersey Section 2, Group I, and St. Mary's of Jersey City in Non-Public B North.
Both Memorial and Weehawken advanced to their respective sectional championship games with bizarre circumstances spanning Tuesday and Wednesday.
In the case of Memorial, the Tigers faced Livingston in the sectional semifinal Tuesday and took a 7-2 lead after five innings. That's when Mother Nature played a bad trick on veteran head coach Tony Ferrainolo and the Tigers, when a thunderstorm hit Miller Stadium in West New York.
Since it was an official game, but not played to completion, the two teams had to come back again Wednesday and finish the game, with the Tigers prevailing, 8-3. The final two innings took about a half hour to complete, so Memorial, now 22-5, was slated to face Bloomfield for the sectional title Friday in Bloomfield.
Ferrainolo has amassed 696 victories over his brilliant coaching career, but it's not known whether he ever before had to earn a single victory over the span of two days.
Because ace pitcher Michael Kuzirian pitched only five innings Tuesday, he was scheduled to pitch against the power-hitting attack of Bloomfield again on Friday, at least for five innings. Dario Zaldana and Juan Castillo will be ready if Kuzirian needs help.
The Tigers' talented left side of the infield in third baseman Randy Estrella and shortstop Felipe Morobel will have to play huge roles if the Tigers want to advance to play another week.
It's been a solid year for the Tigers, somewhat surprising, so a win over state-ranked Bloomfield would not be shocking now.
As for Hudson County's other team playing for a sectional crown, no one could have ever predicted that the Indians of Weehawken would be battling BCSL National foe Lyndhurst for the title.
After all, the Indians had fallen on some tough times in recent years. But veteran coach Anthony Stratton believed in his young team and they came of age this year, led by the play of pitcher/slugger Andrew Nasti and a host of role players who simply play hard every single pitch, every at-bat, every inning.
And as for how the Indians got there, it's even more amazing. The Indians faced Ridgefield Tuesday and fell behind by a 9-2 score when the rains came. Since the two teams had only played three innings Tuesday, the game had to be replayed from the beginning, unlike the Memorial situation.
So a day later, Nasti pitches the Indians to a 5-1 victory and the state sectional showdown with rival Lyndhurst.
"It's unbelievable," Stratton said. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world and we're the luckiest team. Sometimes, you need luck and we had it. We did a little Indian rain dance in the dugout. It started to get dark and I was praying for rain. We've come back all year, but it was 9-2 and I didn't think we were coming back then."
Thank God for the rain.
It marks the first time that Weehawken has played for a state sectional title since 2003. Weehawken will get the chance to win its first state title in decades.
"I'm really proud of them," Stratton said. "They have a great understanding of the game. The big thing we learned, the game is never over. We've been down before and won and that helped us grow as a team."
None bigger than the one-day turnaround, being down one day and on the road to a championship the next.
Rueben Vacquero had three hits with two doubles and three RBI in the win over Ridgefield. Edgar Montilla had two hits and played a tremendous defensive game.
"He's always positive, upbeat, even keel," Stratton said.
So are the Indians, who live to play another day. - Jim Hague