RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Last Friday, within an hour of each other, three Felician University alumni coached their high school baseball teams to NJSIAA state sectional championships. All three -- Dennis Hulse '05 of St. Mary of Rutherford, Chris Sommerhalter '06 of Emerson Boro and Dave Drew '02 of Point Pleasant Boro -- have now reached the 2019 state finals, giving Felician head coaching representation in half of this week's title games.
Hulse and St. Mary captured the Non-Public B North section on May 31 with a 2-1 home victory over Gill St. Bernard's. The victory catapulted the Gaels directly into the state championship game, where, on Wednesday at 7 p.m., they will face Gloucester Catholic at Veterans Field in Hamilton. The Rams are ranked No. 19 in the state by NJ.com and are the two-time defending Non-Public B champions.
After helping St. Mary to a state title as a player and beginning his collegiate career at William Paterson University, Hulse played baseball at the then-Felician College from 2002-04. He is still the school record holder for career batting average (.393, 139-354) and stolen bases. (93). In October, he will be inducted into the Felician Athletics Hall of Fame.
Sommerhalter, who won a state title with Emerson during his first year as a head coach in 2015, earned his third trip to the finals with the Cavaliers with Monday's 9-8, eight-inning Group 1 semifinal triumph over New Providence. Three days earlier, Emerson won the North 1 Group 1 sectional crown by defeating Kinnelon at home, 5-3.
Sommerhalter, a Golden Falcon from 2002 to 2005, will lead Emerson into the Group 1 final on Saturday, June 8, at 10 a.m. versus Glassboro.
Drew played on the first two baseball teams in Felician history for coach Ed Ward in 2000 and 2001. He won his first sectional championship when his Point Pleasant Boro squad topped Robbinsville, 2-1, in eight innings on May 31, and his troops followed with an 8-4 win over West Deptford in the Group 2 semifinals on Monday. On Saturday at 1 p.m. in Hamilton, Point Boro seeks the first state title in team history when it takes on No. 6 Pascack Hills.
Throughout their championship runs, the coaches' biggest cheerleader has been another member of the Felician alumni chapter of New Jersey high school baseball coaches, West Milford High head man Joe Jordan '02. In fact, FelicianAthletics.com was made aware of the accomplishments of its alums via Jordan's posts on Twitter.
"I thought all of this was very noteworthy for a small-college program that has risen to such great heights since we played there," said Jordan, who, as a Golden Falcon from 2000-02, crossed paths with Drew, Hulse and Sommerhalter in a Felician uniform. "Many college teammates naturally lose touch, but coaching has been the common denominator that has kept the four of us tight. We try to scrimmage each other whenever we can. It's a way to get our teams ready, and also great to catch up with each other."
Chris Langan has been the head or an assistant coach of the Felician baseball program for 18 of its 20 years of existence, and has guided the Golden Falcons to four NCAA Tournament berths in the last six seasons. Nothing of the recent accomplishments by graduates of his program has surprised him.
"Dave Drew left Felician as I was coming in, but I knew him as a very good high school player," Langan said. "Dennis and Sommer always had great baseball minds and you could kind of see this coming. When you include Joe Jordan in that mix, it shows once again what a great job Eddie Ward did getting the Felician program off the ground. We are extremely proud of the way all of these accomplished coaches represent Felician."
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