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Beautiful Finish, Beautiful Weekend

Jackson Memorial Shore Group 4 championship baseball team
Jackson Memorial Shore Group 4 championship baseball team (Matt Manley)

After a brutal winter and late-starting spring maybe the weather gods are trying to make up for that because they have delivered three straight spectacular weekends to start the unofficial summer season.

North Avenue beach in Seaside Park
North Avenue beach in Seaside Park (Jane Williams)

This past one was a perfect “10” for any outdoor activities and I hit the North Avenue beach in Seaside Park Sunday for the first time this season. It was pretty warm on the beach but fortunately the ocean water temperature was warmer than what you usually find in early June and many took advantage, including yours truly. It’s always funny to watch adult’s tip-toe into the water like they are stepping into ice while little kids jump right in begin swimming.

For most of the spring those who follow high school baseball have talked about this season as being among the weakest in recent years when it comes to the Shore Conference. There just did not seem to be any real powerhouse teams and that was partly due to a lack of outstanding individual talent in terms of numbers.

Sure there were plenty of good players but not quite as many as we’ve been accustomed to and few teams could throw out more than one quality pitcher. Of course I say that knowing that over the weekend a record three Shore Conference teams won state championships as Jackson Memorial, Shore Regional and St. John Vianney capped their seasons with overall group titles in Toms River.

The Group 4 championship won was Jackson was their first since 1972 and it was a spectacular and somewhat unexpected ending to Frank Malta’s 10th season as Jaguars head coach. Jackson has had some very good teams in Malta’s tenure but a state crown had alluded them and there was no reason to think this would be the year that drought would end, especially in May when the Jaguars lost three games in a row.

However they got hot as the tournament began and with plenty of upsets in their bracket got to stay at home as they captured the South Jersey sectional before advancing to Saturday’s group final where they blanked Roxbury 2-0 behind a one-hitter from junior Brandon Janofsky.

A reminder that Pulitzer Prize winning author Dan Fagin will be speaking at Toms River High School South on Thursday night about his book “Toms River” which chronicles the dumping of industrial pollution and the cancer cluster that followed.
Fagin will appear in the school’s cafetorium from 6-8pm and his presentation will be followed by a book signing.

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