Prep repeats as Hudson County Baseball Tournament champs

When the high school baseball season began, there were very few people who thought that the Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep would be able to repeat as the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournament champions.
That list included Prep head coach Pat Laguerre.
“We didn’t think we were the best team coming into the season,” Laguerre said. “We lost nine seniors to graduation. That’s a lot. It’s a lot to replace.”
But Laguerre went to work with his roster that was depleted by graduation.
“We tinkered here and there to get the right combination,” Laguerre said.
Last Saturday at Weehawken Stadium (of all places), the Marauders faced Union City, with the county tournament title on the line.
Sure enough, the Marauders, who were the tourney’s top seed, managed to get just enough pitching and just enough hitting to come away with a 7-6 victory and take the Hudson County Tournament title for the second straight time, for the third time in four years and the fourth time in the last six campaigns.
That sounds like a dynasty in these parts.
“To repeat is always nice,” Laguerre said. “They should be really proud of themselves. This was a great performance.”
The win came for the Marauders with a pitcher who wasn’t even part of the team last year and a slugger who was only thought of as a pitcher.
A year ago, Nick Cerbone was on the sidelines, still nursing the aftermath of Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. While the Marauders were enjoying a county title, Cerbone was relegated to the position of spectator, something Cerbone didn’t enjoy.
“I really didn’t like watching last year,” Cerbone said. “It wasn’t fun.”
But when starting pitcher Dylan Connors couldn’t make it into the fourth inning Saturday and the Marauders trailing, 4-3, Laguerre called upon Cerbone to come in as a reliever. Cerbone, last week’s Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week, took the ball with the county championship hanging in the balance.
“The game was for the county championship,” Cerbone said. “Of course, I was ready.”
“Nick was very good for us all year,” Laguerre said. “He’s our best pitcher. At the end, we had the guy who we needed on the mound with the ball.”
Cerbone pitched four solid innings, allowing just one run and one hit, striking out two and walking two in earning the seventh win of the season without a loss.
“I’m happy for him,” Laguerre said. “He’s been through a lot.”
And when the final out was recorded, Cerbone was under the usual championship pile of humanity.
“I thought I was going to get crushed,” Cerbone said. “It’s amazing to go through the surgery and the rehab and come back to get the final out in a county championship. It’s a great feeling.”
Then there was the Marauder who had the dream week.
Sophomore Jack Carey was given the ball two days prior in the county semifinal showdown against Memorial.
Everyone thought that the Tigers were gaining momentum as the tourney progressed, that the Tigers’ pitching staff of Daury Genao, Justin Willis and Chris Rey would prevail.
Carey, who has already given a verbal commitment to Duke University when he graduates in three years, was going to face Genao in the semifinal showdown.
Sure enough, Carey fired a one-hitter over eight innings, striking out seven and walking just one, in the Marauders’ thrilling 2-1 victory.
Two days later, Carey was now the designated hitter and in the bottom of the fourth, he stepped to the plate with his team trailing, 5-3, and the bases loaded.
“I knew that I had to get us some runs,” Carey said. “I hit the ball hard.”
Carey hit a rocket to left-center that went for a bases clearing double and a 6-5 Marauder lead that they held for the rest of the way.
“I saw the outfielder just standing there as it went over his head,” Carey said. “I didn’t think I hit it that hard, but it was a huge at-bat.”
“That’s just Jack being Jack,” Laguerre said. “His value to this team is more than just on the mound. The boy can hit. I told him that this weekend was his coming-out party.”
“I loved it,” Carey said. “By being the guy that needed to come through, I loved it. It’s a great sport and I had a great couple of games.”
Carey’s three-run double was the turning point of the game. Given the lead, Cerbone was not about to give it up.
“We were down two runs and Carey just had given us the lead,” Cerbone said. “That was such a clutch hit. It gave us the championship.”
As long as Cerbone held down the fort for the final three innings.
“We proved we could win,” Cerbone said. “We proved that we had a good team, a mature team. The team showed a lot of maturity coming back like we did.”
Carey had two hits and four RBI to lead the winners. Jack Gercich had two hits, including a long two-run homer into the seats at Weehawken Stadium in right field. Correl Caddle, the younger brother of 2014-15 Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Year , now playing football at Fordham, had two hits and two runs scored. Paul Cuccinelli added two hits and walked twice.
It was a total team effort from a team that had to come together in the spring months. Repeat as county champs? No one thought it was possible.
“People thought we were on the down side,” Carey said. “But we proved that we could win. We have a lot of maturity on this team. I think that’s only going to help in the state [tournament].”
The Marauders had a home game against DePaul in the opening round of the NJSIAA Non-Public A North playoffs Thursday in perhaps the toughest bracket in the entire state.
The Soaring Eagles unfortunately suffered from some post-county hangover blues, as they lost their opening round game Monday to Randolph, the same team that eliminated the Soaring Eagles in the state sectional title game last year. This year, it was in the opening round, also on the roof of Union City High School. The two losses gave Union City a final record of 19-8.
This was about a team that was totally rebuilt and remolded, yet ended up on top.
“It’s just about the game of baseball,” Laguerre said. “You never know.”
Laguerre reminded reporters of the six times he took a team to a Hudson County finale, only to lose. So the victories are still sweet compared to the setbacks.

Jim Hague can be reached at You can also read Jim’s blog at

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