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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    Who are the finalists for NJ.com's most prestigious award?


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    The suspect gave cops a false name and ran to the woods before he was arrested for a series of break-ins

    Police have charged a Trenton man with committing several burglaries in northern Burlington County over the past month.

    Officers arrested Miguel Vargas, 29, on Thursday in connection to a series of daytime burglaries: two in Bordentown City on May 11 and 15, and two in Bordentown Township on May 31, township Police Chief Brian Pesce said.

    Detectives, using forensic evidence and video surveillance, implicated Vargas in the two home burglaries in Bordentown City.

    vargas.jpgMiguel Vargas (police photo)

    Meanwhile, in Bordentown Township, an investigation of reported burglaries on Ratigan Avenue and Anna Rose Court found that a perpetrator made forced entry into the homes and stole thousands of dollars' worth of property.

    Surveillance videos from one of the homes, as well as nearby businesses, identified the suspect as Vargas once again, police said.

    City police Sgt. Matthew Simmons spotted Vargas at around 12 noon Thursday near Mary and Pine streets. When Simmons got out of his police car, Vargas gave him a false name and ran to a nearby wooded area. Police set up a perimeter around the area.

    After a lengthy foot pursuit, officers apprehended Vargas. He was charged with counts of burglary, theft, obstruction of justice, resisting arrest, trespassing and hindering apprehension.

    Later Friday, Florence police said in a Facebook post they've charged Vargas with two burglaries in the Manors at Crossroads neighborhood.

    Vargas has also faced prior criminal charges recently. In October 2017, he allegedly robbed a man at knifepoint outside the Hughes Justice Complex in downtown Trenton and told the victim, "I will cut you," before robbing him and fleeing the area.

    He was charged in October with armed robbery, burglary, theft, weapons charges and resisting arrest. He pleaded guilty to one charge of third-degree theft in November, and was set to be sentenced to probation in February 2018, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said.

    When he didnt't show for his sentencing, a judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest, the office said.

    Vargas is currently being held in the Burlington County Jail as he awaits a detention hearing. 

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The winner of the massive lottery jackpot was revealed during a Friday press conference at lottery headquarters in Trenton

    Tayeb Souami was all smiles Friday as New Jersey lottery officials announced that he was the winner of the $315.3 million Powerball jackpot.

    "My day has come," the 55-year-old accountant told a crowd during a lottery presentation Friday. "Hopefully one day it will come for you too."

    He added that he did work for a food importing company, but has quit his job since winning the jackpot.

    The Little Ferry native elected to take the cash payout, meaning he will receive $183.2 million, before taxes.

    "This is big. I am very emotional right now. I like the numbers and I always play with those numbers," he said.

    Souami said he found out he was the winner on Sunday morning. He had planned to do some work, but realized his car was dirty. On his way to a car wash, he saw a 7-Eleven and stopped in to check his Powerball tickets.

    "When I went inside, I scanned the first ticket and it wasn't the winner. The second ticket was good but the machine said it must be seen by the retailer," he said.

    "The clerk kept saying, 'oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,' and my heart went just like a 'Tom and Jerry' cartoon when the heart went boom boom ... and I found out after that I was the one."

    He had bought two tickets while returning a product at the ShopRite. 

    Souami said he will talk to his financial advisor about what to do with the money, but he did say that one of the first things he will do is take care of his family, especially when it comes to the education of his two children.

    The father had just refinanced his house in order to send his daughter to college, he said. He received the check just a week before winning the prize.

    Originally from Africa, Souami came to the United States in 1996. When asked what country he was from, he declined to specify.

    He described himself as an intermittent lottery player.

    Souami purchased the lone winning lottery ticket -- with the winning numbers 3, 6, 9, 17, 56 and the Powerball 25 for the Saturday, May 19 drawing -- at a ShopRite located on South River Street in Hackensack.

    To say Souami was just lucky would be an understatement. The odds of winning the May drawing were one in 292.2 million. 

    Souami's windfall is the fourth largest lottery jackpot won in the state lottery's history. Back in April, Richard Wahl of Vernon won the largest amount of money in the state's history, $533 million after playing Powerball.

    Chris Franklin can be reached at cfranklin@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @cfranklinnews. Find NJ.com on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    "During the time that I'm incarcerated, I hope to become a better man," the Trenton man said to the judge

    A Trenton man who rocketed away from state troopers on Interstate 95 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania last year and crashed his car moments later, killing a close friend, is prison bound.

    A judge on Thursday sentenced Arthur Lewis, 24, to 6 1/2 to 20 years in prison for killing Javairia Mahmood, 22, also of Trenton. He pleaded guilty to third-degree murder.

    Mahmood was dead at the scene of the April 21, 2017 crash on the northbound lanes of the highway near the Bristol exit.

    She was the youngest of seven children and died two nights before the scheduled marriage of her eldest sister, Misbah, the Bucks County District Attorney's Office said.

    "I buried my sister on the day I was supposed to get married. I have yet to unpack the emotional trauma that has caused," Misbah Mahmood told the judge during sentencing, the office reported.

    Another sister, Sabba Mahmood, said Javairia was a devoted, supportive friend and honors student who loved photography, music and singing.

    "The gross disregard for her life and her safety is apparent with the outcome of the situation," she said. "She is no longer living because of the consequences of someone else's actions. Nothing I can do will change that."

    Authorities have said a Pennsylvania troopers saw Lewis' Acura race by them in Philadelphia and they had trouble catching up to it as it raced away at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour.

    In Bristol, troopers noticed the car's headlights turn off and moments later it slammed into a concrete barrier and overturned, police have said. Troopers arrived seconds later and found the wrecked car in a haze of smoke and four injured people.

    The crash was so thunderous that Mahmood, in the front passenger seat, died despite wearing a seat belt, officials said. She was the only fatality.

    Man fleeing police charged with killing passenger in crash, cops say

    Troopers found cocaine and marijuana in the wreckage, and heroin in the pocket of a coat Lewis was wearing that EMS officials cut from his body.

    Lewis told the judge his crime was "just a disastrous mistake that I regret."

    And according to the district attorney's office, he told Mahmood's family that he was "hoping and praying that someday you'll forgive me."

    "During the time that I'm incarcerated, I hope to become a better man," he said.

    Lewis's aunt, Aida Wimbush, said her nephew and Mahmood were good friends and shared a love of music, spending hours together writing music and singing.

    Lewis had also been deeply depressed before the crash over the recent death of his younger brother, and that he had become withdrawn and distant, Wimbush said.

    "We may not feel your pain, but we understand the loss," Wimbush told Mahmood's family and friends.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Authorities say the defendant shot Trenton teen Ciony Kirkman while she was riding in the back of a minivan in 2016

    A jury handed down 16 guilty verdicts Thursday, including murder, against a Trenton teen for the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Ciony Kirkman two years ago, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office announced Friday morning.

    Peter CharlesPeter Charles in 2016 

    The jury found Peter Charles Jr. guilty of first-degree murder and counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and weapon charges. He was indicted last January.

    Authorities arrested Charles on murder charges a week after Kirkman was shot while riding in the back of a stolen Ford minivan on April 24, 2016 near Jersey Street and Home Avenue.

    Kirkman was put on life support after the shooting, but died from her injuries three days later.

    Charles was 17 when he was arrested, but a judge ruled in September 2016 that he would be tried as an adult. Because he was a minor, his name was withheld until he turned 18.

    His trial began in April of this year and lasted for 16 days, and the jury spent six hours deliberating, the prosecutor's office said.

    Police and prosecutors identified Charles as a suspect by checking surveillance videos, which showed footage of the first shot being fired and a suspect running from the scene. Investigators also found a sweatshirt with DNA of one of Charles' family members at the crime scene.

    Six other juveniles were in the van with Kirkman when she was shot, but no others were injured.

    Supervising Assistant Prosecutor James Scott and Assistant Prosecutor Brett Berman tried the case.

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The 11th Annual game between Hamilton Township Police Officers vs. Mercer County High School raised a record amount this year Watch video

    The 11th annual Hamilton Township Police Officers vs. Mercer County Student and Staff Softball Game took place Thursday.

    School Nurse Karen Burke, who helped coordinate the event, says the game began when 12 years ago a student's electric wheelchair was stolen. After Hamilton Police arrived on the scene, they suggested a charity softball game to raise money to pay for a new chair.

    sb-5.jpgHamilton Police Detective Len Gadsby connects. (Michael Mancuso | NJ.com) 

    Missing just one year, the game has taken place annually since then to raise money for various charities and causes.

    This year's cause is "Mallory's Army" a foundation that was started last year after the tragic death of 12-year-old Mallory Grossman, who took her own life following months of bullying in-person and online from several classmates.

    Her mother, Dianne Grossman, started the foundation, whose motto is United together in the fight against bullying..."Don't just teach kindness... Be kindness."

    sb-013006.0.jpgStudent Matthew Suznovich, left, is escorted to home plate by teacher Jessica Jordan. (Michael Mancuso) 

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso, Instagram @michaelmancuso and Facebook @michaelmancuso

    Follow NJ.com on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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    The project is being funded by NJM Insurance Group through a gift to the New Jersey Tree Foundation in memory of Caren Franzini, one of the city's most revered civic leaders Watch video

    Calling it, "One of America's forgotten treasures," Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson said  Battle Monument Park, "will be completely transformed from what you see before you today."

    The mayor spoke at an announcement Friday of a $200,000 project funded by NJM Insurance Group through a gift to the New Jersey Tree Foundation - in memory of Caren Franzini, former CEO of N.J. Economic Development Authority and one of the city's most revered civic leaders.

    The design plan, created by Trenton-based landscape architect, Randy Baum, looks to combine the various historic, aesthetic and green space elements of the downtown community park.

    P1390436.jpgSeated from left, Mitch Livingston, President & Chief Executive Officer of NJM and Eric Jackson, Mayor of Trenton, at the ceremony. (Michael Mancuso | NJ.com)

    The initial phase of the project includes fence repair; the removal of existing plantings and hedging that will be replaced with trees and evergreen shrubs; pruning and feeding of existing trees; and restoration and replacement of curbing.

    A second phase of the project will expand the physical footprint below the Delaware & Raritan Canal.

    The park has had other small-scale volunteer cleanups in the past, as recently as this March.

    The 148-foot granite monument central to the park marks the spot where George Washington's artillery was positioned in 1776 to fire down at Hessian troops during the Battle of Trenton.

    Century-old elevator has kept Battle Monument closed for years

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso


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    It was all about the former Heisman Trophy quarterback, who guided the Broncos to a 2011 overtime playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Watch video

    The town may have changed, but the media and fan frenzy was much like it has been every time Tim Tebow heads to face a new minor league team.

    Tebow arrived in Trenton Friday night with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, in the first of three standing room only games with the Thunder. But there was also another big name in the Binghamton lineup as well.

    Yoenis Cespedes, who has been out of the Mets lineup since May 13 with a right hip flexor injury, was in the lineup batting second as the designated hitter for the Rumble Ponies.

    Tebow went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored, while Cespedes went 0-for-2, for Binghamton. It was the Thunder, though, that pounded out 17 hits, on the way to a 10-2 victory.

    Before the contest, though, it was all about the former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, who guided the Denver Broncos to a 2011 overtime playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but is now plying his trade as a minor league outfielder.

    "It has been good," Tebow. "I get to a lot of cities I normally probably wouldn't make it to, so that is good. I've had a great time with all of it. The bus rides maybe aren't as fun, but the rest has been a lot of fun.

    "(The games) are very different. It is not just playing the games, it is preparing for them. In football, you are prepping for 16 games, and really peaking once a week, for a season. 

    "Here, it is a little bit of a roller coaster, but you are trying to stay up for 150-160 games."

    Yankees prospect Jonathan Loaisiga shines again for Thunder

    The game Friday was the first sellout of the season for the Thunder, who had multiple promotions going on the night. But it was Tebow who was the draw, and who has seen this for a year and a half, wherever his teams happen to play.

    "It definitely means a lot to have support," Tebow said. "I think it means even more to have the youth groups, or groups of people with special needs, or that have been involved with our 'Night to Shine'. That is really special.

    "I try not to get too high or low with how the fans respond. You can have some cheering for you, and then all of a sudden, you miss two or three in an autograph line, and they are booing you pretty fast. I try not to get to affected by it."

    The 30-year-old has improved in second year of minor league baseball. In 50 games this season, Tebow was hitting .244, with 38 hits in 156 at-bats, six doubles, one triple, four home runs, and 21 RBI. 

    "I think I have learned a lot," Tebow said. "I think also I am continuing to make those adjustments. I learn and improve based on pitchers, series, games, all of that. I think as a hitter, you really have to have a short memory, and also be able to continue to learn.

    "You can have good at-bats and get out, and have bad at-bats, and get hits. You have to constantly adjust, and really be able to find that groove."


    Tebow is so popular around baseball, and around the country, that his Rumble Ponies shirt has been on sale in the Thunder team store. With the Subway Series going on this weekend in Flushing, the rivalry has been put on hold in Trenton, at least in the souvenir store.

    "Is that something the Yankees are allowed to do?" Tebow asked jokingly. "I am just kidding. I guess that is cool. The hatred is not there, I guess."

    But this journey, whether it eventually ends with a trip to New York, or something all together different like the majority of minor league players, has been something that Tebow thought about passionately before he made the jump.

    "It is something that was on my heart," Tebow said. "Something that I am passionate about. I love this adventure, and the journey so far, the highs and the lows of it, for what it has taught me about life.

    "That is, I think that it is worth pursuing what is in your heart, and the things that you are passionate about."

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    Lawrence High School students celebrated their prom on Friday at The Merion in Cinnaminson, dancing the night away.

    By Michael Mancuso

    NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

    It was a night to remember for Lawrence High School students as they celebrated their prom at The Merion in Cinnaminson on Friday night.

    Prom-goers arrived dressed to the nines as they socialized, posed for photos and danced the night away.

    Check back at nj.com/mercer for other local high school prom coverage. And be sure to check out our complete prom coverage at nj.com/prom.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS
    Are you one of the people pictured at this prom? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for the blue link "buy photo" below the photographer's credit to purchase the picture. You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso, Instagram @michaelmancuso and Facebook @michaelmancuso

    Follow NJ.com on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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    Ewing High School students celebrated their prom on Friday at The Hamilton Manor, dancing the night away.

    By Michael Mancuso

    NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

    It was a night to remember for Ewing High School students as they celebrated their prom at The Hamilton Manor on Friday night.

    Prom-goers arrived dressed to the nines as they socialized, posed for photos and danced the night away.

    Check back at nj.com/mercer for other local high school prom coverage. And be sure to check out our complete prom coverage at nj.com/prom.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS
    Are you one of the people pictured at this prom? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for the blue link "buy photo" below the photographer's credit to purchase the picture. You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso, Instagram @michaelmancuso and Facebook @michaelmancuso

    Follow NJ.com on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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    The sheriff's office also announced valor awards for several members of the force

    Carmen Gloria Cruz, a five-year veteran of Mercer County sheriff's office, is this year's Officer of the Year.

    The award is bestowed annually to "a well-rounded officer who has exceeded the duty requirements expected of their position and has demonstrated a distinct and positive pattern of service and professional achievement."

    The officer is selected by their peers.

    Cruz is assigned to the courts division and she does an exemplary job providing a safe and secure courthouse environment, with no major incidents under her watch. Sheriff Jack Kemler announced.

    "Despite her short time in law enforcement, Officer Cruz has quickly become a seasoned Sheriff's Officer with an impressive dedication to duty and a commendable record," Kemler said.

    Cruz, a Trenton native, graduated from the Mercer County Police Academy in 2014.

    The office announced the following awards:

    - Medals of Honor were awarded to Detectives William Perez, Joseph Tuccillo, and Steven Niederer for their bravery and valor while under imminent danger. The three were wounded in the May 2017 gunfight and standoff in South Trenton in which an innocent passerby was killed.

    Perez, Tuccillo and Niederer were working on a U.S. Marshals' task force and were attempting to arrest a man wanted for a Megan's Law offense, when the suspect opened fire, setting off a 35-hour standoff with authorities.

    "Each detective displayed bravery and heroism in the face of deadly gunfire," Kemler said. "Thankfully, all three returned home to their families that night."

    The trio were honored in late 2017 with State Policeman's Benevolent Association's Bronze Medal of Valor as well, along with the others on the task force that day, Mercer County Prosecutor's Office Detective Anthony Abarno and New Jersey State Parole Board Officers Timothy Healy and and Barry Volkert.

    - Meritorious Service Awards were given to four sheriff's officers for having distinguished themselves with courageous acts and rapid response in the line of duty:

    Officers George Dzurkoc III and John Lyle of the patrol unit for seizing a loaded 9 mm handgun and multiple ammunition clips from a 16-year-old during an August 2017 arrest.

    And Officers Joseph DiLissio and Joel Adams of courts unit for their quick action in quelling the sudden and vicious attack of a lawyer, by her client, inside a Mercer County Courthouse courtroom in June, 2017.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    A man from Marlton is suing Pornhub for $1 million in damages, saying they used his photo without his consent.

    A Burlington County man is suing the company that owns Pornhub after his picture was used in an advertisement on the pornography website.

    Edward Kelly, of Evesham Township's Marlton section, is suing the company, Mindgeek USA Inc, in federal civil court in Camden. 

    According to court documents, a friend spotted a photo of Kelly next to an ad with the  words: "Make $752/day Like Me" and "see how I get it." In the picture, Kelly dons a Pittsburgh Pirates hat and fans out several hundred-dollar bills he's holding.

    Kelly, who owns the copyright to the picture since he took it, did not consent to it being used or disseminated, the suit says. (Since the photo is now an exhibit in the case, it is a public record.)

    He seeks $1 million in damages, saying the image negatively impacted his reputation and caused him emotional harm.

    David Gordon, the Manhattan attorney representing Pornhub, declined to comment.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips 

     

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    The World Cup gets underway Thursday, with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia at 11 a.m. Watch video

    While the Thunder players and coaches will be on the field most nights over the next month, some will also have their eyes on the biggest sporting event on the planet during the day.

    The World Cup gets underway Thursday, with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia at 11 a.m. With two thirds of the matches taking place before noon, there is an opportunity to watch many of the games, before the team has to report to the field each day.

    Pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga, one of the top Yankees' prospects, is one of many players in the system that grew up in Central or South America with soccer as either the main sport of the country, or as a close second to baseball. He is from Nicaragua, while pitcher Reiver Sanmartin is from Colombia, which is the favorite in Group H. 

    Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama are also in the tournament.

    "Yeah, I am excited for it very much," Loaisiga said through defensive coach Raul Dominguez. "Especially with all the countries in Central America in the tournament. I am so excited for it. 

    "I will root for Argentina."

    While in the process of translating for Loaisiga, Dominguez's eyes lit up when asked to translate a World Cup question. He is from Panama, which sensationally qualified for its first World Cup on the last day of CONCACAF play, at the expense of the United States.

    "I am from Panama, and this is the first time we go to the World Cup," Dominguez said. "I just watched the last game (Wednesday, a 1-0 loss to Norway), the last game before they go to the tournament."

    Tim Tebow arrives in Trenton with Rumble Ponies, Cespedes also in town

    As luck would have it, the Panamanian team plays its first game on 11 a.m. Monday, June 18. It falls on an off day for the Thunder, who end a three-game series with Erie Sunday, then play Tim Tebow and Binghamton for three games starting Tuesday.

    "I am so excited, as is everybody in Panama," Dominguez said. "My whole family is too. I just got the jersey, the new one for the World Cup. It is nice.

    "The first game is next Monday, against Belgium. We have a day off that day. I am so lucky to be able to watch the game that day. On the other days (Sunday, June 24 vs. England 8 a.m., and Thursday, June 28 2 p.m. vs. Tunisia), one is in the morning, so I am going to be able to watch that game.


    Thunder manager Jay Bell is a fan of the tournament as well.

    "I like the World Cup," Bell said. "I am a Germany guy. I like watching Germany."

    NOTES:

    Friday night's game had an attendance of 7,868, which was the 19th largest in the 24-plus year history of the Thunder franchise. The snack booths sold around 3,500 one dollar pork roll sandwiches to the crowd, on the second Thunder Pork Roll night of the season.

    Saturday night's pre-sales were stronger than those of Friday, so it is likely that the Tim Tebow effect, combined with a Yoenis Cespedes rehab, will lead to two of the 20 highest attended games in Trenton history.

    Cespedes will be in Trenton until Sunday, after which he will hopefully join the reeling Mets in Atlanta.

    After Sunday, Tebow and the Rumble Ponies will be back to face the Thunder in 10 days, from Tuesday to Thursday, June 19-21. 

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    Trenton Central High School students celebrated their prom on Saturday at The Westin Princeton At Forrestal Village dancing the night away. Watch video

    By Michael Mancuso

    NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

    It was a night to remember for Trenton Central High School students as they celebrated their prom at The Westin Princeton At Forrestal Village on Saturday night.

    A Hollywood red carpet scene had nothing on these prom-goers arriving in style and dressed to the nines.

    Check back at nj.com/mercer for other local high school prom coverage. And be sure to check out our complete prom coverage at nj.com/prom.

    BUY THESE PHOTOS
    Are you one of the people pictured at this prom? Want to buy the photo and keep it forever? Look for the blue link "buy photo" below the photographer's credit to purchase the picture. You'll have the ability to order prints in a variety of sizes, or products like magnets, keychains, coffee mugs and more.

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso, Instagram @michaelmancuso and Facebook @michaelmancuso

    Follow NJ.com on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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    The final, which will be played on Sunday, July 15 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, will be the last of 64 matches.

    This Thursday, the 2018 FIFA World Cup will get underway, with host Russia taking on Saudi Arabia (11 a.m. FOX and Fubo.tv) to kick off Group A action.

    The final, which will be played on Sunday, July 15 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, will be the last of 64 matches, and will see a new champion crowned.

    Mario Gotze scored the winner in the 113th minute, to lead Germany to a 1-0 win over Argentina in the 2014 World Cup Final. It was the second straight final to be decided 1-0 in extra time (2010 Spain 1-0 over Netherlands), and the third final in a row that was not decided in regulation (2006 Italy defeated France on penalties).

    Can Germany become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to repeat, or the first since Brazil in 2002 to return to a final? Who are the top players to watch in each group, and who will be the rising young stars that showcase themselves?

    All will be answered over the next month, as the greatest tournament in the world plays out across 12 venues in 11 Russian cities.

    2018 FIFA WORLD CUP

    Defending champion: Germany (1-0 win AET over Argentina)

    All-time winners

    Brazil, five (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)

    Germany, four (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)

    Italy, four (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)* Not at the 2018 World Cup

    Argentina, two (1978, 1986)

    Uruguay, two (1930, 1950)

    England, one (1966)

    France, one (1998)

    Spain, one (2010)

    GROUP A

    Uruguay (FIFA rank 17)

    Egypt (FIFA rank 46)

    Russia (FIFA rank 66)

    Saudi Arabia (FIFA rank 67)

    Group Favorite: Uruguay- While the Russian team is at home, Uruguay is the clear favorite to advance as group winner. If Egypt's Mohamed Salah is healthy, Egypt and Russia could battle for the second place spot.

    Best Player: Mohamed Salah, Egypt- The Liverpool forward had 43 goals this season, but was injured in the UEFA Champions League Final, won by Real Madrid 3-1. If he is healthy, there is no one better in the group.

    Top Young Player: Aleksandr Golovin, MF, Russia- The 22-year-old central midfielder, who plays currently for CSKA Moscow, may be the breakout star of the tournament. He has Arsenal, Manchester United, and Monaco chasing his services.

    Biggest Group A Match: Russia vs. Egypt, June 19, 2 p.m. EDT,

    Who advances: Uruguay as group winner, Russia as group runner-up

    GROUP B

    Portugal (FIFA rank 4)

    Spain (FIFA rank 8)

    IR Iran (FIFA rank 36)

    Morocco (FIFA rank 42)

    Group Favorite: Spain- Portugal may be higher ranked, but Spain comes in as one of the tournament favorites. The 2010 champion will look to add a second title in three tournaments.

    Best Player: Cristiano Ronaldo, F, Portugal- The soon to be six-time Ballon D'or winner just won his fifth UEFA Champions League title, and will try to lead Portugal to back-to-back major tournament wins, after the 2016 EURO.

    Top Young Player: Marco Asensio, MF, Spain- Tough call here between 22-year-old Asensio and 21-year-old Goncalo Guedes of Portugal and PSG. Asensio edges it, after his second UEFA Champions League title campaign. His goal scoring off the bench may be key.

    Biggest Group B Match: Portugal vs. Spain, June 15, 2 p.m.

    Who advances: Spain as group winner, Portugal as group runner-up.

    GROUP C

    France (FIFA rank 7)

    Peru (FIFA rank 11)

    Denmark (FIFA rank 12)

    Australia (FIFA rank 40)

    Group Favorite: France- On paper, it looks like a tough group at the top. But the French roster is loaded with talent, as they look for a second title.

    Best Player: Antoine Griezmann, F, France: Another tough call here. It is between team mates, with Paul Pogba one of the top midfielders in the world. But Griezmann edges it, because he scores the goals.

    Top Young Player: Kylian Mbappe-Lottin, F, France: The 19-old-old PSG superstar is ready to break out on the world stage, after he has taken the club football world by storm the last two years.

    Biggest Group C Match: Peru vs. Denmark, June 16, 12 p.m.

    Who advances: France as group winner, Denmark as group runner-up.

    GROUP D 

    Argentina (FIFA rank 5)

    Croatia (FIFA rank 18)

    Iceland (FIFA rank 22)

    Nigeria (FIFA rank 47)

    Group Favorite: Argentina- There are a lot of questions about the 2014 runner-up, but Argentina's attack should allow it to hold off a strong Croatia team.

    Best Player: Lionel Messi, F, Argentina: Perhaps you have heard of him? The five-time world player of the year has won the lot with Barcelona, but has not been able to get his national team to the top. Lost three straight finals: 2014 World Cup, and the 2015 and 2016 Copa America Tournaments.

    Top Young Player: Marko Pjaca, F, Croatia- On loan to Shalke from Juventus, the 22-year winger has a chance to help fire the Croatians through to the knockout stages.

    Biggest Group D Match: Argentina vs. Croatia, June 21, 2 p.m.

    Who advances: Argentina as group winner, Croatia as runner-up.

    GROUP E

    Brazil (FIFA rank 2)

    Switzerland (FIFA rank 6)

    Serbia (FIFA rank 35)

    Costa Rica (FIFA rank 25)

    Group Favorite: Brazil- The tournament favorite is trying become the second squad from outside Europe to win the World Cup on European soil. The first? Brazil, in 1958 (Sweden).

    Best Player: Neymar, F, Brazil- The favorite for the Golden Ball as the top player at the World Cup. He is coming off a long layoff, though, but scored on his return in a friendly last week.

    Top Young Player: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, MF, Serbia- A box-to-box midfielder that can score big goals, 23-year-old Milinkovic-Savic may be leaving Lazio for Manchester United. But for now, he has to help what some people think is a tournament dark horse get out of a tough group.

    Biggest Group E Match: Serbia vs. Switzerland, June 22, 2 p.m.

    Who advances: Brazil as group winners, Serbia as runner-up.

    GROUP F

    Germany (FIFA rank 1)

    Mexico (FIFA rank 15)

    Sweden (FIFA rank 23)

    Korea Republic (FIFA rank 61)

    Group Favorite: Germany- The defending champion, Germany has a roster that is loaded. Can Die Mannschaft navigate through another tricky bracket and repeat?

    Best Player: Toni Kroos, MF, Germany- Another Real Madrid star that just won his third UEFA Champions League title in a row, Kroos is the midfield general for Germany.

    Top Young Player: Timo Werner, F, Germany- The 22-year-old RB Leipzig striker scored 21 goals this season, and will benefit from the ultra-talented midfield behind him. If he scores goals, this team can repeat.

    Biggest Group F Match: Mexico vs. Sweden, June 27, 10 a.m.

    Who advances: Germany as group winner, Sweden as group runner-up.

    GROUP G

    Belgium (FIFA rank 3)

    England (FIFA rank 13)

    Panama (FIFA rank 55)

    Tunisia (FIFA rank 14)

    Group Favorite: Belgium- With a roster full of talented stars playing in the Premier League, the time has come for Belgium to make some noise at an international tournament.

    Best Player: Eden Hazard, MF, Belgium- This is the toughest group to pick. Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne and England's Harry Kane could easily be the pick, but it is Chelsea's midfield maestro that gets the nod as top of the group.

    Top Young Player: Raheem Sterling, F, England- Another tough call, with England and Tottenham star Dele Alli in the mix. But 23-year-old Sterling had a big year for Manchester City, and scored 23 goals. 

    Biggest Group G Match: Belgium vs. England, June 28, 2 p.m.

    Who advances: Belgium as group winner, England as group runner-up.

    Group H

    Colombia (FIFA rank 16)

    Poland (FIFA rank 10)

    Senegal (FIFA rank 28)

    Japan (FIFA rank 60)

    Group Favorite: Colombia- This is by far the most even group, with any of three teams in the running to win. Colombia may have just enough to get five points, and win it on goal difference.

    Best Player: Robert Lewandowski, F, Poland- The Bayern Munich forward scored 41 goals this season, and will have to keep piling on the goals to make up for the porous Poland defense.

    Top Young Player: Davinson Sanchez, CB, Colombia- The 21-year-old Tottenham center back has gotten better all year, and now may get a chance to anchor what might be the stingiest defense in the tournament.

    Biggest Group H Match: Poland vs. Senegal, June 19, 11 a.m.

    Who advances: Colombia as group winner, Senegal as runner up.

    KNOCK OUT ROUND MATCHUPS

    Uruguay (Group A winner) vs. Portugal (Group B runner-up), June 30, 2 p.m.

    France (Group C winner) vs. Croatia (Group D runner-up), June 30, 10 a.m.

    Brazil (Group E winner) vs. Sweden (Group F runner-up), July 2, 10 a.m.

    Belgium (Group G winner) vs. Senegal (Group H runner-up), July 2, 2 p.m.

    Spain (Group B winner) vs. Russia (Group A runner-up), July 1, 10 a.m.

    Argentina (Group D winner) vs. Denmark (Group C runner-up), July 1, 2 p.m.

    Germany (Group F winner) vs. Serbia (Group E runner-up), July 3, 10 a.m.

    Colombia (Group H winner) vs. England (Group G runner-up), July 3, 2 p.m.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/box-to-box-football/id1208561351?mt=2


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    Which team will hoist the gold World Cup trophy Sunday, July 15 (11 a.m. EDT) at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow?

    While the 2018 World Cup gets underway Thursday, June 14, with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia (11 a.m. EDT), the big question that everyone wants to know will not be answered until a month later.

    Which team will hoist the gold World Cup trophy Sunday, July 15 (11 a.m. EDT) at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow?

    All eight groups have been broken down. Now, it is time to talk about the players that will have the most impact on the tournament, the teams that will contest the knockout stages, and the eventual winner.

    WORLD CUP WINNER ODDS

    Brazil, 9/2

    Germany, 5/1

    Spain, 6/1

    France, 7/1

    Argentina, 9/1

    Belgium, 11/1

    England, 16/1

    TOP FIVE PLAYERS TO WIN THE GOLDEN BALL

    The Golden Ball trophy is awarded to the player of the tournament, but it is not an MVP award. It has not been awarded to a player on a title-winning team since the tournament back in 1994, hosted by the USA. 

    Lionel Messi (Argentina) won in 2014 with the runner-up, while Diego Forlan (Uruguay) won in 2010, with the fourth place team. 

    With that in mind, here are the top five picks to come away as the top player at the 2018 World Cup.

    Kevin De Bruyne, MF, Belgium: The Manchester City maestro could help his Belgian side make a deep run in the tournament, but also has Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku that could take some of the plaudits as well. Odds: 16-1.

    Antoine Griezmann, F, France: He led Atletico Madrid to a UEFA Europa League crown May 16, and will spearhead the potent France attack. He will also be one of the favorites to win the Golden Boot, with France tipped to go deep into the bracket. Odds: 12-1

    Toni Kroos, MF, Germany: Just came off a third UEFA Champions League title in a row with Real Madrid, and won the 2014 World Cup. He will be one of the key German players, as Die Mannschaft attempts to win back-to-back titles. Odds: 33-1.

    Neymar, F, Brazil: He is the favorite to win the award. Brazil is the current favorite to win the tournament, and is the only non-European team to win a World Cup on European soil (1958, Sweden). He is the star of the most recognizable team on the planet, but is coming in off a long layoff due to an injury playing with club side PSG. Odds: 8-1.

    David Silva, MF, Spain: Another Manchester City player, Silva will join possibly the top midfield in the tournament, in search of a second World Cup title in eight years (2010). Can Spain score enough goals to go deep enough for him to win the award? Odds: 20-1.

    THE PICK:

    Tony Kroos, Germany.

    OFF THE BOARD PICK:

    Paul Pogba, France (33-1).

    TOP FIVE PLAYERS TO WIN THE GOLDEN BOOT

    This award goes to the top goal-scorer at the tournament. James Rodriguez (Colombia) won it in 2014, while Thomas Muller (Germany) won in 2010.

    Here are the top five picks to win.

    Antoine Griezmann, France, F: There may be many "Take the L" dances on tap in Russia, as Griezmann looks to help his team win a second World Cup title (1998). He will have the playmakers around him, and should get plenty of opportunities to score, if France goes deep into the tournament. Odds: 12-1.

    Harry Kane, England, F: The English fans are convinced the football is coming home, and Kane would be the reason. The Tottenham striker can lead the Three Lions to their second title (1966), and win his knighthood in the process. Can the Kane madness be unleashed? Odds: 16-1.

    Romelu Lukaku, Belgium, F: The Manchester United forward has talented playmakers all around him, and gets to play Tunisia and Panama in a weak Group G. If Belgium can make a deep run, which looks to be the case, Lukaku will bag the goals. Odds: 16-1.

    Lionel Messi, Argentina, F: This could be wholly contingent on how far Argentina advances in the bracket. Messi led his team to the 2014 final, before falling 1-0 in added extra time to Germany, and is the second best player in the world. Odds: 9-1.

    Neymar, Brazil, F: Same thing as with Messi. Neymar could score in bunches, especially in a weaker Group E. But will this team advance far enough for the PSG forward to pile up the goals? Odds: 10-1.

    THE PICK: Antoine Griezmann, France.

    OFF THE BOARD PICK: Kylian Mbappe-Lottin, France (33-1).

    KNOCK OUT STAGE PICKS

    Round-of-16

    Look for six group winners to advance, with Portugal and England joining the quarterfinal party as group runners-up.

    Portugal (Group B runner-up) def. Uruguay (Group A winner), game June 30.

    France (Group C winner) def. Croatia (Group D runner-up), game June 30.

    Brazil (Group E winner) def. Sweden (Group F runner-up), game July 2.

    Belgium (Group G winner) def. Senegal (Group H runner-up), game July 2.

    Spain (Group B winner) def. Russia (Group A runner-up), game July 1.

    Argentina (Group D winner) def. Denmark (Group C runner-up), game July 1. 

    Germany (Group F winner) def. Serbia (Group E runner-up), game July 3.

    England (Group G runner-up) def. Colombia (Group H winner), game July 3.

    Quarterfinals

    The separator round, as the tournament takes on an even more European feel. Look for France to get some revenge on Portugal for the EURO 2016 Final loss.

    France def. Portugal, game July 6.

    Brazil def. Belgium, game July 6.

    Spain def. Argentina, game July 7.

    Germany def. England, game July 7.

    Semifinals

    The top four tournament favorites make it to this round, with defending champion Germany still alive for a first repeat since 1958-1962 (Brazil). Brazil 1998-2002 was also the last team to advance to two straight finals, something Germany will accomplish this year.

    France def. Brazil, game July 10.

    Germany def. Spain, game July 11.

    Third Place 

    Brazil def. Spain, game July 14.

    Final

    Germany and France match up for the 2018 World Cup title, with possibly the two most talented rosters on the planet.

    The defending champion versus the beaten EURO 2016 finalist. Many people think France is set up more for the 2022 tournament in Qatar, but Les Bleus have a squad full of talent, and enough firepower in their attack and midfield to shut down the Germans.

    France def. Germany, 3-2, game July 15, 11 a.m. EDT.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/box-to-box-football/id1208561351?mt=2


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    The May 8 election wasn't enough to choose a mayor in Trenton. The city is heading to a runoff.

    Reed Gusciora and Paul Perez are in the home stretch of the battle to determine who will be the capital city's next mayor. Each candidate has spent months campaigning and getting to know their potential future constituents, after a seven-way battle at the polls in May ended without anyone getting over 50 percent of the votes cast. A runoff between Gusciora and Perez -- the top two vote-getters in the May 8 election -- is set for Tuesday.

    NJ Advance Media interviewed both candidates. Here's what they had to say:

    Q: If there is someone out there who knows nothing about you, what should they know?

    Gusciora: I believe I have the most experience. Before I was in the statehouse, I was a municipal prosecutor. I've helped secure aid to Trenton over the years, I helped write laws that called for the removal of hazardous waste near MLK School. I would like to get back to basics, applying for funding from the transportation trust fund, paving our roads, taking care of our city. Deal with the public safety deficit. We currently have 290 police officers when should have up to 400 -- we need to make sure people feel safe. And the third thing is creating educational opportunities. Seventy percent of our third graders are not reading at grade level. There is no use addressing the economic and infrastructure issues without addressing education.  

    Perez: I want them to know that I want to be their mayor. I will provide them the best opportunity to see a real change in this city. I'm not connected to any political parties or any political machinery or establishment, I'm here for one purpose and one purpose only and that's to provide real leadership to this city. I understand thoroughly what the role of a mayor is. The mayor has to be a person who understands the total responsibility under his charge when it comes to providing a quality service to the people who live in the city.

    Q: If you are elected what will be your main goal for the first year in office?

    Gusciora: I want to focus on competency within the administration. There are 60 vacancies in Trenton Water Works and incoherencies need to be addressed. We need to hire police so that people from every race, gender, sexuality, (and) age feels safe, and there needs to be other staffing changes. The political establishment is all about building relationships and I think I'm in the best position to offer that.

    Perez: My first concentration is going to be how do I look at the operation of City Hall and make it better. What's the needs assessment for each department, where are we strong and where are we weak, and how do we make those weak ones become strong? And then how do we sustain the strong capabilities that we might have?

    Q: What challenges do you expect you will have to overcome while in office?

    Gusciora: Right now, 50 percent of the properties in the city are tax exempt and the rest of the city residents have to make up the rest of that. If we return those prosperities back to the taxpayers and develop them and attract people to the city. One of the attractive points of Trenton is that it's a midpoint between Philadelphia and New York, it makes it a perfect place for millennials who can't afford to live in those cities.

    Perez: I think the first challenge is change. People resist change because change makes them uncomfortable and they don't trust it because they might fear that you might make them do things they don't want to do. So for me I have to sell you something or talk to you about something that makes you feel like you want to be a part of what I'm doing. So you're going to get that resistance. So that has been the biggest challenge that we faced, explaining that why change would be good.

    Q: What is something most people don't know about you?

    Gusciora: I'm a big (culture) buff. I take part in the arts and music scene of Trenton. I'm excited to move the city forward culturally.

    Perez: The biggest thing for me is that I'm dedicated to the city. I've made a conscious decision to come here and help the city. I made a conscious decision to make it about the city and not about me. This job is way bigger than me and I can't do it by myself.

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at orizzo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find NJ.com on Facebook

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    As happened with drunken driving, as happened with tobacco use, society eventually takes a U-turn, despite desperate efforts by powerful gun lobbyists and self-proclaimed defenders of the status quo to allow just about anyone to own any kind of gun.

    "Nobody needs an Uzi. Nobody needs an AK-47."

    With those words to the media nearly 30 years ago, former Gov. James Florio set New Jersey on course to adopt the country's strongest gun-safety laws, including a ban on a wide range of semi-automatic weapons.

    This coming week, a successor, Gov. Phil Murphy, is expected to do his part to keep Garden State residents safe.

    The first-term Democrat is poised to sign six bills that passed the state Legislature Thursday, including a measure that authorizes courts to issue restraining orders to persons who pose a significant risk or personal injury to themselves or others by possessing a firearm.

    Specifically, the legislation will authorize family members or friends to apply to the courts to keep weapons out of the hands of loved ones if the situation warrants it.

    Another bill in the package will mandate law-enforcement officials in the state to seize a person's guns if a mental-health professional determines that the person poses a threat to himself/herself or to others.

    N.J. on the brink of enacting even tougher gun laws

    Additional measures require that all private gun sales in the state to go through a licensed dealer who can perform an additional background check at the point of sale, and ban magazines in the state that hold more than 10 rounds, with some exceptions.

    As of the end of May, there had been 23 reported school shootings this year alone. At one of them, the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., sparked a national student-led campaign for more sensible gun laws.

    The bills also come as U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur - who boasts a 93 percent approval record from the National Rifle Association - has co-sponsored a bill that would allow firearms enthusiasts to carry concealed weapons across state lines, over-riding New Jersey's long-standing ban.

    Clearly, the big bucks the powerful lobby has poured into the congressman's coffers - nearly $10,000 worth - are paying huge dividends.

    Slowly, very slowly, sentiment seems to be shifting nationwide as the true horror of unchecked gun ownership sinks in.

    As happened with drunken driving, as happened with tobacco use, society eventually takes a U-turn, despite desperate efforts by powerful lobbyists and self-proclaimed defenders of the status quo.

    The legislation Murphy is expected to approve this week proves it can happen within the gun culture as well.

    These are sensible bills, not designed to pry the weapons out of the hands of legal and responsible owners, but rather to come to an accommodation that helps keep New Jersey residents free from harm. We will be among those applauding when the governor picks up his pen.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

     

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    Some smaller districts would see their state aid double, triple or even quadruple.

    If you live in New Jersey, there's a good chance your school district is getting cheated.

    The state has a formula that says exactly much money it should give each district so kids get the education they deserve. But it hasn't fully paid in almost a decade, leaving districts to raise taxes, cut jobs and put off new initiatives to make up the difference.

    Things may finally be about to change, however. 

    Gov. Phil Murphy and Democratic lawmakers are working on plans to fully fund that formula within the next few years and remove a cap on much new aid a district can get each year. 

    If they can get it done, the impact will be huge. 

    About two-thirds of all districts would see their school funding increase, more than 50 districts would eventually get at least a $10 million boost, and some smaller districts would see their state aid double, triple or even quadruple over time (looking at you, Chesterfield). 

    That could mean modest property tax reductions (or smaller hikes, at least), fewer budget cuts and more spending on textbooks, technology and other classroom needs. 

    But before you celebrate, beware of one thing. Some districts already get more than what the formula says they should because lawmakers previously made a deal to prevent districts from losing state dollars. 

    In order to get every district what it's owed, the state is considering reducing aid to those "overfunded" districts and reallocating funds to those that have been shorted. It's the most controversial part of the plan and could lead to local tax hikes or budget cuts. 

    Time will tell if anything actually changes. For now, underfunded school districts can dream. 

    Use the search tool below to see how much state funding your district receives now and what it could get if New Jersey fully funds its schools in the future.

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    Carla Astudillo may be reached at castudillo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @carla_astudi. Find her on Facebook.

    Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The weekend saw 21,338 people attend three games against Tim Tebow and the Rumble Ponies Friday through Sunday.

    It was a crazy three days for Trenton Thunder fans, but Tim Tebow has left town.

    Well, for a week, at least.

    After the first go around of Tebowmania, which ended Sunday with a 6-0 loss to Binghamton in the series finale, the Thunder will hit the road Tuesday for four games in Bowie. But Tebow and the Rumble Ponies will be back to Trenton on Tuesday, June 19, for another three games with the Thunder.

    The four day break from games at Arm & Hammer Park will give staff and fans a chance to recover from the home stand, which saw 21,338 people attend three games against Tim Tebow and Binghamton Friday through Sunday.  

    It was a whirlwind weekend for all involved. On Thunder Pork Roll night Friday, the team sold over 3,500 sandwiches. But the biggest impact may well have been from the beer vendors around the stadium, which have seen a whole slew of new craft beers on tap, and in cans, this season.

    Fans who came to Arm & Hammer Park for the first time, to take in Tebow, were surprised by the new offerings on tap.

    "I had the ale over there (Lone Eagle New England Chowdah), and another one over here at the Pork Roll stand (Abbie Ale)," Eddie Dias, who was there with his family and friends for the first time this year, said. "I also had the Flying Fish Pork Roll Porter beer. That tasted like Guinness. 

    "I try to come out and have a couple beers, and eat some good food, when I am here. This is crazy tonight, with so many fans here to see Tebow."

    Thunder defensive coach Raul Dominguez has rooting interest in World Cup

    It makes sense that there would be a pork roll beer, especially with how strong the tie is between the city and the food. Mark Ellerson was another that tried the offering, as well as some of the other beers.

    "I had the Exit 7 IPA Ale," Ellerson said. "I like darker beers, like Guinness, or the porters. The IPA reminded me of the old Ballantine Blast that my dad used to drink."

    Ashley Pereira thought that the Pork Roll Porter was in name only, and is worth a taste.

    IMG_6365.jpg(L-R) Ashley Pereira, Amaro Pereira, and Andrew Garriton take in the game Friday

    "It definitely tastes like a darker beer," Pereira said. "I don't taste any pork roll at all. I would order it. If you like darker beers, I would get it."

    NOTES:

    Jonathan Loaisiga was lifted from his start Sunday after just 49 pitches, sparking speculation among Bronx Bombers' fans as to whether or not the 23-year-old righty might be headed to the major leagues this week.

    Loaisiga, who is on the Yankees 40-man roster and can be called up at any point, is one of the candidates that could make a spot start for New York later this week.

    He exited with the bases loaded in the top of the third for Michael King, something that Thunder manager Jay Bell said was planned.

    "Yeah, that was the plan," Bell said. "And then to piggyback King. That is all I have to say about that."

    Bell expounded on Loaisiga's appearance.

    "We know what happened, and there is a possibility of things happening, whether somebody from Triple-A makes a start or whatever," Bell said. "That was the plan today.

    "We are always thinking about big league options, and making sure they are well taken care of at the big league level. I don't know what is going to happen. They have not told me." 

    "I think a lot has to do with weather. At this point, that is what I was told to do, and that is what I did. I am not going to speculate beyond that."

    The Yankees are back home, after the Subway Series, Tuesday night for two games with the Washington Nationals. New York then hosts Tampa Bay for a four-game set starting Thursday night, before heading to Washington for one game.

    Loaisiga is 6-1, with a 3.00 ERA, at two minor league levels this season. He is 3-1 with Trenton, with 32 strikeouts and just three walks, in 25 innings. Overall in 2018, he has thrown 45 innings, and has 58 strikeouts, and just four walks.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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