It's Round 2 for Gloucester Cath., Don Bosco

Posted: June 09, 2012

As the ball soared through the night air and over the right-field wall, Joe Purritano circled the bases and the Don Bosco Prep dugout emptied in celebration.

One thought buoyed the spirits of Gloucester Catholic's baseball players: This isn't over.

"They had our number in the first game, and it was a great game," Gloucester Catholic senior outfielder Joe Santone said. "We just want to give it back to them."

Gloucester Catholic coach Dennis Barth said he doesn't care if his team plays "The Little Sisters of the Poor" in the state finals. His program's goal every season is to win a state championship.

But there's something special about Saturday's Non-Public A clash between the Rams (27-4) and Don Bosco (24-3) at 2 p.m. at Toms River North.

These teams have eyed each other from a distance of 113 miles since March, when both were included in national rankings, generally regarded as the best two teams in New Jersey, and seemingly destined to meet on the final Saturday of the season.

The teams met on the night of May 6, but not in New Jersey: That game was played in Provident Bank Park in Pomona, N.Y., a shining new minor-league stadium that served as the stage for an instant classic.

In a crisp game that featured 11 seniors who have committed to Division I colleges, Gloucester Catholic took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 10th inning on senior third baseman Brett Tenuto's RBI triple.

But Don Bosco rallied in the bottom of the inning and won the game in walk-off fashion as Purritano, who has committed to Dartmouth, lifted a three-run homer over the short fence in rightfield for a 5-3 victory.

"We've heard of them [the Rams], but we've never seen them," Purritano told the Bergen Record that night. "That's a great team, but we wanted to show them that the boys from the North can play."

Gloucester Catholic has won 15 state titles, far more than any other program in New Jersey (Bishop Eustace is second with eight). But Don Bosco might be the best team the Rams have faced in their 20 appearances in the state finals.

"We haven't played the No. 1 team in the state before, but we did play Seton Hall [2000] and St. Joe's Montvale [1999]," Barth said. "We played Immaculata with [future Oakland A's player Jack] Cust and two other Division I players in 1995."

Don Bosco is No. 1 in the Newark Star-Ledger state rankings, No. 10 in the nation in USA Today's Super 25, and No. 1 in the Northeast in USA Today's regional rankings.

The Ironmen likely will start senior righthander Tommy Burns (9-1), who was drafted by Milwaukee in the 34th round Wednesday. Senior righthander Steve Lombardi, who has signed with Seton Hall, could pitch in relief.

Don Bosco, which has won 22 in a row, also has Division I players in first baseman Matt Dacey (Michigan), shortstop George Iskendarian (South Carolina), outfielder Mike Mecca (Villanova), and third baseman Grant Van Orden (Army).

Gloucester Catholic, which has won 10 in a row, has Division I players in infielders Tenuto (Stony Brook), Pat Kane (Old Dominion), Robbie Alessandrine (Monmouth) and John Brue (St. Joseph's), and designated hitter Joe Brooks (East Carolina).

The Rams, the No. 1 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, likely will start freshman righthander John Murphy (6-2, 1.44 ERA). Senior lefthander Dan Higgins and sophomore righthander Mike Mercer could work in relief.

The title game could serve as a defining moment for the seniors from both programs, as well as a fitting follow-up to what might have been the best game of the regular season.

Gloucester Catholic's players were right that night in early May: It wasn't over.

But it will be on Saturday.

"It was a great game the last time we played them," Barth said. "Hopefully, it will be a great game again."


Contact Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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