The coronavirus pandemic canceled the high school baseball season, but New Jersey players will return to the diamond in less than a week.
Last Dance organizers announced the pool-play schedule Tuesday night for its 222-team, statewide tournament.
The Last Dance Tournament starts next Tuesday. Each team will have three pool-play games through July 16. Sixty sites will be used statewide based on location, placing teams into 32 regions.
Most regions will have two groups of four teams. After two pool-play games, the team with the best record from each group will play for the regional championship July 16. The lower seeds also play the third pool-play game.
Other regions are just four teams, and the team with the best record after three pool-play games wins the title.
The 32 regional champions advance to the single-elimination rounds July 21-30. There will be two brackets — North Jersey and South Jersey — with 16 teams each. The North and South winners will play for the state title.
All single-elimination games will be played at minor league parks, including Yogi Berra Stadium (New Jersey Jackals/Montclair State University), TD Bank Ballpark (Somerset Patriots), Skylands Park (Sussex County Miners) and FirstEnergy Park (Lakewood BlueClaws), with the championship game at 7 p.m. July 30 at Arm & Hammer Park (Trenton Thunder).
Vineland, Ocean City, Holy Spirit, Egg Harbor Township, Cedar Creek, ACIT, Millville, Barnegat, Southern Regional, Pinelands Regional, Mainland Regional and Buena Regional are the local teams competing in the Last Dance.
Teams are not allowed to wear school-issued uniforms. Some teams could not have any affiliation with the school, and entered with different names.
The Last Dance is sanctioned by the United States Specialty Sports Association, not the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs most high school sports.
But the tournament must adhere to the NJSIAA’s summer coaching guidelines, which says coaches cannot coach their players Monday. So some teams will not be coached by their normal high school coach.
Ocean City will host the only region in the state with one group — a competitive, six team field with all Press-area teams.
The Raiders (Ocean City) earned the top seed. BPC Spartans (Holy Spirit) earned the second seed. Triple Crown Baseball (EHT) is No. 3, Mainland Regional is No. 4, Atlantic County RedHawks (ACIT) is No. 5 and Millville Lightning (Millville) is the sixth seed.
In the first pool-play games Tuesday, Triple Crown Baseball will play Mainland at 1 p.m. Ocean City will play Millville at 4 p.m. and BPC Spartans will play ACIT at 7 p.m.
After the three games, the team with the best record advances to the single-elimination rounds in the South Jersey bracket. There could be two that finish with the same record, which will result in a tiebreaker (fewest runs allowed).
EHC Pirates (Cedar Creek) grabbed the top seed, and Buena the fourth in the group at Williamstown. EHC Pirates and Buena will play at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Vineland, which entered as the Gamecocks, is the top seed in the Pitman B group at Glassboro High School. Vineland will play the Glendora Thunder (Triton Reg.) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Barnegat, which entered as B-Baseball, will be a host site, and grabbed the second seed. Also in that group is third-seeded Southern. Barnegat and Southern will play at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Pinelands is the second seed in the Bayville group. Barnegat-Bayville is also one region, and the top two from each group play July 16 to determine the regional champion.
LAST DANCE tournament POOL-PLAY SCHEDULE
Ocean City Region at Ocean City High School
Triple Crown Baseball (EHT) vs. Mainland Reg., 1
Ocean City vs. Millville , 4
BPC Spartans (Holy Spirit) vs. ACIT, 7
Millville vs. ACIT, 1
BPC Spartans vs. Triple Crown Baseball, 4
Mainland Reg. vs. Ocean City, 7
Triple Crown Baseball vs. Millville, 1
ACIT vs. Mainland, 4
Ocean City vs. BPC Spartans, 7
Williamstown Region at Williamstown High School
EHC Pirates (Cedar Creek) vs. Buena Reg., 4
Williamstown vs. Timber Creek, 7
EHC Pirates vs. Timber Creek, 4
Buena Reg. vs. Williamstown, 7
EHC Pirates vs. Williamstown, 4
Buena Reg. vs. Timber Creek, 7
Note: The team with the highest record wins the regional title and advances to the single-elimination rounds in the South Jersey bracket.
Pitman Region B at Glassboro High School
Game 1: Team SISU (Eastern Reg.) vs. Bulldogs (Glassboro), 3
Game 2: Vineland Gamecocks vs. Glendora Thunder (Triton Reg.), 5:30
GM1 Winner vs. GM2 Winner, 3
GM1 Loser vs. GM2 Loser, 5:30
Note: The two teams with the highest record after two games will play the two with the highest record from Pitman A
Pitman A and B crossover at Alycon Field
Pitman A No. 2 seed vs. Pitman B No. 2 seed, 4
Pitman A No. 1 seed vs. Pitman B No. 1 seed, 7 (winner advances to single-elimination rounds in the South Jersey bracket)
Note: The third and fourth seeds from Pitman A and B will play each other at 3 and 5:30 p.m., respectively, at Glassboro.
Barnegat Division at Barnegat High School
Game 1: B-Baseball (Barnegat) vs. Southern Reg., 10 a.m.
Game 2: Point Pleasant Borough vs. Point Beach Gulls (Point Pleasant Beach), 1
GM1 Winner vs. GM2 Winner, 10 a.m.
GM1 Loser vs. GM2 Loser, 1
Bayville Division at Leiter Field in Bayville
Game 1: Tuckerton/ Little Egg Harbor Baseball (Pinelands Reg.) vs. Donovan Catholic, 5
Game 2: TR East Raiders (Toms River East) vs. Central Baseball (Central Reg.), 8
GM1 Winner vs. GM2 Winner, 5
GM1 Loser vs. GM2 Loser, 8
Note: The two teams in each division with the highest record after two games will play each other. The top seed from Barnegat-Bayville play for the title and advances to the single elimination rounds in the South Jersey bracket.
Barnegat-Bayville Region crossover
July 16 at Leiter Field
Barnegat No. 2 seed vs. Bayville No. 2 seed, 5
Barnegat No. 1 seed vs. Bayville No. 1 seed, 8 (winner advances to single-elimination rounds)
July 16 at Barnegat H.S.
Barnegat No. 3 seed vs. Bayville No. 3 seed, 10 a.m.
Barnegat No. 4 seed vs. Bayville No. 4 seed, 1