Doren, a Prep graduate (Class of 1976), was of course very familiar with the players who comprised the Maroon and Silver roster for the Last Dance World Series, having coached most of them during the fall.
“Pat (Laguerre, the Prep head coach during the regular season) called me and asked me if I would be interested in coaching the team in the summer,” Doren said. “I knew my wife could live without me for a few weeks, but I would be happy to do it.”
As it turned out, the experience was even better than Doren could have imagined.
That’s because not only did the Maroon and Silver enjoy themselves during their time together, but they managed to do very well on the field.
Maroon and Silver won all three games in their pool play, defeating Hudson County rivals Dickinson, Union City and finally Bayonne, knocking off the program that defeated the Marauders in the Hudson County Tournament championship game in 2019.
“They had a blast,” Doren said. “It was a once in a lifetime chance for them and it was the same for me.”
Doren said that the majority of the Last Dance World Series roster was on the fall ball squad that he guided to the championship of the Governor Livingston league in Berkeley Heights in 2019.
Maroon and Silver defeated Bayonne in the championship game of the four-team section, 7-0. It capped Maroon and Silver’s total domination in that section, winning the three games by a combined score of 21-1.
Junior Teague Mulcahy pitched three scoreless innings in the win over Union City.
But the Bayonne game meant a lot.
“No question, it’s a heated rivalry, so it was a good win for us,” Doren said. “The goal for us was to get to the next round and we achieved that goal with a good win. Then we started to dream a little.”
Matt Moreira was the pitching star in the win over Bayonne, pitching five scoreless innings. Sophomore Nick Rappa, perhaps the biggest surprise in the tourney and certainly a pitcher to watch in the future, firing the final two innings.
“With Matt, we knew what he could do,” Doren said. “He makes his pitches count, so we decided to stretch him out a little. He’s a headsy pitcher, a thinking pitcher. I always like to put the ball in his hands.”
Doren liked the way his pitchers performed, considering that they hadn’t pitched competitively in over four months.
“They limited their walks,” Doren said. “They threw the ball crisply. They got the ball and fired it back quickly. The goal was to let all the players play and the pitchers pitch. I really didn’t even have to manage. It was up to them. I let them play. But no pitcher was going to go more than three innings. We weren’t going to risk anything.”
Maroon and Silver then faced Ridge in the round of 32 and came away with a thrilling 6-5 victory to move on to the overall Round of 16 (tournament quarterfinals).
The Maroon and Silver had a daunting task in the state quarterfinals, namely the Tidal Wave, who performed during the regular season as the Delbarton Green Wave, the defending No. 1 team in all of New Jersey, the defending NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 state champions. The Tidal Wave were the No. 1 overall seed in the Last Dance World Series.
Incredibly, the Maroon and Silver were just one out away from advancing to the Elite Eight, winning 6-3 with one out remaining. But the wheels came off the bus then, and they lost 10-7. This came after they had a 4-2 lead after four innings before a torrential rain hit them at Skylands Park in Augusta in Sussex County. The game was resumed a day later at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium, but the home field advantage didn’t come into play, as Maroon and Silver were eliminated.
“It was a learning experience for the underclassmen,” Doren said. “They all knew before the game what they were up against.”
The Maroon and Silver were in a bit of a bind, considering ace pitcher Zach Oswald was hit by a pitch in the Union City game, causing the George Washington University-bound Oswald to suffer a broken hand. Ray Ortiz and Kyle Hoog, the Maroon and Silver’s other top Division I recruit seniors, were also unavailable due to injuries and college commitments.
Doren said that Chris Cerbone, another graduated senior, hit the ball well all tournament. He heads off to college baseball on a fine note.
As for the returning Maroon and Silver players, Ryan King, a first baseman/outfielder, was a solid hitter. Catcher Joe Vuolo also played well.
“He’s really improved his game,” Doren said of Vuolo. “We knew he could play well defensively behind the plate, but he really hit the ball well.”
Ulises Ferraz is another Maroon and Silver player who performed well.
“He has a very bright future,” Doren said of Ferraz.
So does infielder Jack O’Donnell, who already has the poise and look of an All-Hudson County player. Shortstop Roddy Hernandez also looked very good.
“Those kids made solid contributions,” Doren said. “I was very proud of them.”
So the Maroon and Silver came one out away from the Elite Eight. In any case, they won four games and got a chance to play together again, a chance that didn’t seem possible once the pandemic reared its ugly head.
“It’s an excellent feeling,” Doren said. “The kids were having fun. It just didn’t work out in the Delbarton (Tidal Wave) game. But the way the schedule worked out, facing the Hudson County teams and then getting another win. It was a great way to send our seniors off.”
Doren credited the assistance he received from C.J. Cerbone, Nick Camilleri and Vinny Sita as assistant coaches.
“They were tremendous help,” Doren said. “They were all very familiar with the players.”
All three are recent St. Peter’s Prep standouts. Chances are that a lot of those who were given the chance to shine at the Last Dance World Series will do so next spring.
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