The baseball state-championship games will have a new home in June.
New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association officials confirmed Tuesday that the group championship games will be played over two days this season at Veterans Park in Hamilton Township, Mercer County. The state championships have been held exclusively at three Toms River high schools since 2003.
“It’s a beautiful facility, and we think it’s going to be a great experience for the teams and fans,” Colleen Maguire, the NJSIAA’s director of finance, said of Veterans Park.
The games will be held June 9-10. There will be three games Saturday and three games Sunday, according to NJSIAA director Tony Maselli, who oversees baseball.
The June 9 games will be held at 1, 4 and 7 p.m., and the June 10 games will be at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., Maselli said.
“A baseball junkie now can watch all six games,” Maselli said.
The NJSIAA sponsors championship games in Groups 4, 3, 2 and 1 for public schools and Group A and B for non-public schools.
Previously, the NJSIAA held all six state-championship games on the same day, weather permitting, with two games at Toms River North High School, two at Toms River South High and two at Toms River East High.
Maselli said Veterans Park is a “more centrally located site” for the championships than Toms River. Maguire also noted that traffic sometimes was an issue for teams and fans traveling to Toms River.
“We were traveling to the Jersey shore area on a post-Memorial Day weekend,” Maguire said.
Maguire also said holding the games at Veterans Park would be a better financial deal for the NJSIAA as the facility in Mercer County would be charging the state organization less than the cost of holding the games in Toms River.
“Not by a lot, but the cost is going to be lower,” Maguire said.
Maselli said it was still to be decided which groups would be decided on Saturday and which on Sunday.
“However we set it up, we’ll probably do it on a rotating basis in the future,” Maselli said.
Maguire said that the NJSIAA has agreed to a one-year deal with Veterans Park for the 2018 championships and that the site of future championship games would be determined on a year-to-year basis, as is the case for most sports.
Toms River schools began hosting baseball state championships in 1994. All six title games have been held there since 2003.
South Jersey teams have been highly successful in state-championship play. Gloucester Catholic has won 18 titles – more than twice as many as any other program – with Audubon and Bishop Eustace tied for second with eight and Pennsville tied for fifth with seven.