Staff Report

Last summer was the first season of the brand new South Jersey South Shore Baseball League. President Joe Bunting wanted to have an all-star weekend, much like the major leagues, complete with a home run derby. He was hoping the guys involved could at least hit enough dingers to keep the crowd interested prior to the all-star game.

All Joe Gallagher of the Ocean City Water Dogs did was blast an eye-popping 49 home runs through several rounds — including a “swing-off” in the championship round with former Holy Spirit standout Dom Boselli of the Ventnor Bay Sox. Boselli also finished with more than 40 home runs as balls were flying into the woods beyond the high left-field fence at Birch Grove Park in Northfield.

Needless to say, the 11 contestants this year have a lot to live up to.

The SJSSBL Home Run Derby kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Birch Grove Park, and it will be followed by the All-Star Game — a nine-inning celebration of the league’s best players — at 7 p.m. And this year there’s a fun new twist, as some “future stars” will have a home run derby themselves at 4:45 p.m. Members of the Northfield, Linwood and Somers Point Little Leagues will do battle, with a shortened fence, of course.

The Home Run Derby for the big guys will have an interesting twist. Each of the 11 teams has a representative, and all 11 will hit in the opening round, two minutes each. The No. 1 seed — Mike Blackiston of the Somers Point Captains, who led the league with seven homers in 21 games this season — will get to choose when he hits in the first round. From there, only four hitters will advance into the semifinals, which features another two-minute hitting session per batter. That will be followed by the finals, during which each of the two final batters will get three minutes to compete. In each round, a batter is allowed one timeout.

Here’s the representatives for each team, listed by their seeds: 1. Mike Blackiston (Somers Point Captains). 2. Omar Hernandez (Ventnor Bay Sox). 3. Caden Dulin (South Jersey Surf). 4. Michael Tallarida (EHT Eagles). 5. Denny Brady (Buena Blue Dawgs). 6. Julian Costa (Northfield Cardinals). 7. Matt Rivera (Egg Harbor City Knights). 8. Mark Elliott (Ocean City Water Dogs). 9. Matt McIntire (Absecon Outlaws). 10. Dan Gavlick (Hammonton Hot Shots). 11. Andre Boyer (Galloway Mustangs).

PLAYOFF PICTURE: The SJSSBL playoffs are scheduled to resume on Monday night at the home field of the higher seed. All four top seeds advanced to the best-of-3 semifinals, so No. 4 Northfield Cardinals take on No. 1 South Jersey Surf at Birch Grove Park at 7 p.m. (those two teams share the same home field during the regular season) while No. 3 Absecon Outlaws travel to No. 2 Buena Blue Dawgs. The semifinal winners begin a best-of-5, Monday-through-Friday series on Monday, Aug. 1.