Staff Report

The Cape-Atlantic League usually is very well represented in the high school baseball state playoffs, and this season is no different. Of the six South Jersey playoff brackets (four public, two non-public), the CAL will be featured in three of the finals.

St. Augustine Prep — a perennial state championship contender in Non-Public A — won a sectional title last year but came up short against St. Joseph-Montvale in the state championship game. The Hermits have been laser focused all season on getting back to that title game, and winning it this time. So far, Prep has taken care of business, beating eighth-seeded Notre Dame in the quarterfinals and No. 4 St. John Vianney 10-3 on Tuesday in the semis. The top-seeded Hermits take on No. 6 Christian Brothers Academy in Friday’s sectional championship game in Richland.

St. Augustine Prep currently is the No. 1 team in the state, according to the nj.com Top 20 rankings, as the Hermits are 25-1 and have notched 12 straight wins since their lone loss, a 5-2 setback against Vineland on May 9.

Lefty C.J. Furey picked up the win against Vianney, which means the Hermits should have ace Marco Levari ready to go on Friday against CBA. Levari has logged a team-high 40 innings this year and has allowed just 12 earned runs while posting 47 strikeouts and a 2.10 ERA.

Here’s a quick look at how the sectional tournaments have shaken out with championships set to be played on Friday at the higher seeds:

South Jersey Group 1: This bracket has been all sorts of chaos, as No. 1 Audubon and No. 2 Pitman both lost in the quarterfinals. That has opened the door for some higher seeds to reach the finals. Fourht-seeded Buena Regional made a run to the semis before being stopped by No. 9 Woodstown, and the Wolverines are the highest-seeded team to be playing for a title in the six South Jersey brackets. They’ll take on surprising Paulsboro, the No. 6 seed that took out No. 11 Wildwood, No. 3 Pennsville and seventh-seeded Schalick on its way to the title game.

South Jersey Group 2: Cedar Creek had what appeared to be a pedestrian 15-12 record entering the state playoffs, but a tough schedule meant a lot of power points and a No. 1 seed. The Pirates have lived up to the billing, blowing out Pleasantville in the opening round then slipping past No. 9 Pt. Boro, 1-0, in the quarterfinals. In Tuesday’s semifinal matchup with No. 4 Cinnaminson, Rutgers University recruit Christian Coppola fanned 10 as the Pirates topped — the Pirates — 5-3 to advance to the sectional championship game for the first time in program history. In 2019, Cedar Creek made it to the semifinals before a tough 2-1 loss at West Deptford ended its 16-win season. Creek takes on No. 3 Haddon Heights, which scored a pair of one-run wins to start the tournament before beating No. 10 Manchester, 10-3, in the semis.

South Jersey Group 3: Ocean City, the defending Group 3 state champion, had a sluggish start to this season, dropping four of its first five games. But since the Red Raiders’ spring break trip to Florida, the team has gone 17-4. The Red Raiders rode the arm of senior St. John’s commit Tommy Finnegan on Tuesday to a 4-1 win over No. 4 Cherry Hill West, setting up Friday’s championship game against No. 3 Delsea Regional, one of the hottest teams in South Jersey. Coach Joe Smith’s Crusaders have won 14 straight games since a three-game losing streak in late April.

South Jersey Group 4: Top-seeded Kingsway has been one of the best teams the state all season long, losing only to St. Augustine Prep (twice), Gloucester Catholic and Timber Creek. The Dragons will get the chance to prove they are the best team in this section on Friday, but it won’t be easy. Sixth-seeded Cherokee has won three straight and 6-of-8, including a dramatic 2-1 win over No. 2 Shawnee in Tuesday’s semifinals. The Dragons could go with sophomore lefty Joey Fanelli, who has posted a 1.24 ERA in 45 innings this year and had only two outings when he’s even given up a run.

South Jersey Non-Public A: This section really is St. Augustine Prep’s to lose, but don’t count on that. The Hermits have maybe the best and deepest lineup in the state, led by guys such as Ryan Weingartner (.461, 7 HR, 29 RBIs), Ryan Taylor (.427, 6 HR, 33 RBIs) and Kyle Neri (.369, 26 runs, 28 RBIs). They also have perhaps the deepest relief pitching corps in the state.

South Jersey Non-Public B: Laying chalk was a safe bet in this section, as No. 1 Ranney School will host No. 2 Gloucester Catholic in Friday’s championship game. Ranney is 24-5 and has won six straight, including a 16-8 win over Holy Spirit in the semis, while Gloucester Catholic has been playing well since scuffling in late April. The Rams lost four straight at one point, but since a 6-3 win over Williamstown on May 3 they have gone 10-3. Two of those losses came against teams playing for sectional titles, Delsea and Cherokee.

Recap: Here’s a list of the matchups:

SJG1: (9) Woodstown at (6) Paulsboro, Friday, 4 p.m.

SJG2: (3) Haddon Heights at (1) Cedar Creek, Friday, 4 p.m.

SJG3: (3) Delsea at (1) Ocean City, Friday, 4 p.m.

SJG4: (6) Cherokee at (1) Kingsway, Friday, 11 a.m.

Non-Public A South: (6) CBA at (1) St. Augustine Prep, Friday, 4 p.m.

Non-Public B South: (2) Gloucester Catholic at (1) Ranney School, Friday, time TBD