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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    A look at the top players at ball-handling positions for the 2018 season.

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    They go into the playoffs for the second year in a row as Eastern Division champions, winning 10 of their last 11 to clinch the title.

    For the third straight season, the Trenton Thunder were good enough in the regular season to make the Eastern League playoffs.

    They go into the playoffs for the second year in a row as Eastern Division champions, winning 10 of their last 11 to clinch the title.

    It is the 13th time in 25 years that the Thunder have made the postseason. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, this will be the eighth time it has happened. The last seven have ended with Trenton winning the Eastern Division Series, and advancing to the Eastern League Championship, with the Thunder winning titles three of the seven times (2007, 2008. 2013).

    Will the finals streak continue? More importantly, can the Thunder bring home title number four in their 25th anniversary season?

    The playoffs start Wednesday night at 6:35 p.m., with Trenton in New Hampshire (Blue Jays) for games one and two with the Fisher Cats. Game two will be Thursday night at 6:35 p.m., with games three through five, if necessary, scheduled for Arm & Hammer Park Friday through Sunday.

    Game three is Friday night at 7 p.m., while game four would be Saturday at 7 p.m., and game five Sunday 1 p.m.

    The Western Division Series will pit two familiar faces to Thunder fans, Altoona (Pirates) and Akron (Indians). Games one and two will be at second place Akron, with three through five, if necessary, at Altoona, on the same days as the Eastern series.

    Trenton edged the season series with New Hampshire nine games to eight. The Fisher Cats hit the baseball, and are led by EL MVP and Rookie of the Year Cavan Biggio (league-leading 26 HR and 99 RBI, .252/.388/.499). They also have Rookie of the Year runner up Bo Bichette (league leading 95 runs scored, 32 SB, .286/.343/.453) and EL batting champion Harold Ramirez (.320) in their lineup.

    Yankees top prospects Deivi Garcia and Albert Abreu shine for Thunder

    For the Thunder, this series is going to be about two things: pitching and defense. Trenton has been at the top of the league all season in both, and the starting rotation is littered with top prospects.

    Trenton manager Jay Bell thinks his team will be in good shape if it does those two things well in the series.

    "Pitch and play good defense," Bell said of the keys to winning the series. "Pitch well and play good defense. It goes back to what we have talked about early in the season. To win a championship, you have to pitch well, and you have to play good defense.

    "I like where we are at right now. Again, with the additions that we have got over the last couple days, as well as the guys that have been here and performed all year for me, I am excited about what we have."

    Keeping Bichette off base at the top of the lineup will be a tough task, but could be pivotal for the Trenton pitchers.

    "Through that lineup, there are some guys that can do some damage," Bell said. "There is no doubt that Bo is probably the guy that you contain. Cavan has done a fantastic job.

    "But there are guys all through that lineup that do a great job. Max Pentecost, (Connor) Panas, Ramirez has been really good this year. (Juan) Kelly is a guy you have to pay attention to. He has had some good at-bats, and done some things.

    "We are real familiar with those guys. Most of the guys were in Dunedin last year, so I have two years of familiarity with them."

    Brian Keller (10-9, 3.74 ERA), who was named the Smith's ACE Hardware Thunder Pitcher of the Year Monday, will get the ball in game one. The rest of the series will see Nick Green (1-2, 3.63 ERA) go game two, Nick Nelson (0-0, 5.19 ERA) pitch game three, Trevor Stephan (3-8, 4.54 ERA)  pitch game four, and Deivi Garcia (1-0, 0.00 ERA) go game five.

    The Trenton bullpen, which comes in on fire (allowed one run in last 36 innings), has been a rock this season. James Reeves (2-2, 2.80 ERA, 72 K), who was named the Samuel J. Plumeri, Sr. Community Service Award winner Monday, will be back Wednesday to bolster the relief corps.

    "I think we just have to play our game, and play clean baseball," Reeves said. "We have to pitch well, and put some runs on the board. They are a really good team. We have battled with them all year, back and forth.

    "My college coach used to say that the best team doesn't always win, it is the team playing the best at the right time. That is pretty true. You have to get hot at the right time, and I think the bullpen is hot right now, which is huge right now.

    "It is a good feeling right now, being on your best streak of the season right now, going into the playoffs. We have to keep that momentum going."

    The pitchers in the bullpen may see their roles change in a short series, but Reeves says the Thunder coaching staff has done a great job all year preparing them for spots like this.

    "Throughout your career, you kind of go into situations like that," Reeves said. "Jay has done an awesome job this year, of putting everybody in a medley of situations. So I think we all feel prepared to do whatever we need to do to get the wins."


    Thunder in four.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    The best matchups Opening Week

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    Police say they believe the outburst of gun violence was related to various neighborhood rivalries

    Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora met with the state Attorney General's office authorities Tuesday following a violent weekend in the capital city, officials said.

    But later in the day, the mayor had not made any public statements about the violent holiday weekend in which 10 people were struck by gunfire - one who died from his wounds.

    Nor did the mayor's office make any statements about meeting with state authorities. The Trenton Police Department declined to address the state meetings, deferring to the mayor.

    The weekend of violence started Saturday morning when a 34-year-old Pennsylvania man was found dead in a car, sprayed with bullets near Morris and Commonwealth avenues. The victim, Eric Rue, 34, was from Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

    Later that night, a 21-year-old woman was shot on Hoffman Avenue in the city's West Ward, police spokesman Capt. Stephen Varn said Tuesday.

    On Sunday night, police have said, seven people were shot in two separate incidents.

    Around 9 p.m. Sunday, four were struck by bullets near Stuyvesant and Bryn Mawr avenues in the West Ward, including a 16-year-old who was critically wounded. 

    Then two hours later, three adults were also shot near the 400 block of North Montgomery Street in North Trenton, police said. 

    Police said Monday morning they believe the outburst of gun violence was related to various neighborhood rivalries. 

    On Monday night, Varn said Tuesday, police officers in the area of Oakland Street due to the ongoing violence actually heard gunfire nearby at about 9:30 p.m. and rushed toward the sound of the shots.

    They found a 16-year-old male Oakland Street shot twice, to the body and the head. The boy was in stable condition once treated at a city hospital, Varn said.

    Varn said officers made one gun arrest, but have not brought any charges in any of the shootings. The Mercer County Homicide Task Force did not make any announcements Tuesday in the killing of Rue.

    City councilman Jerell Blakeley called out the uptick in violence in a Facebook post, saying he intended "to address this crime wave." And he urged residents to contact the police if they had information.


    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross

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    Douglas Lewis is accused of killing Pemberton Township resident Shaquille Williams, 24.

    A man has been arrested and charged in the killing of a man found dead in a car last year, authorities said Tuesday.

    Douglas Lewis, 23, of Pemberton Township, was charged with murder and weapons charges, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a news release.

    Lewis is accused of killing another township resident Shaquille Williams, 24, on the 100 block of Kinsley Road in the township around 9 p.m. on March 21, 2017.

    Williams was found inside a car parked on the block with several gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Lewis showed up to the Burlington County Courts facility on an unrelated matter on Friday. Sheriff's officers and members of the prosecutor's office arrested him at the courthouse without incident.

    A detention hearing is being scheduled, and Lewis' case will then be presented to a grand jury which could choose to indict him.

    The motive for the shooting is still being investigated.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. 

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    Unsurprisingly, people looking to stay in N.J. want to be either close to the Jersey Shore or New York City.

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    Residents formed a group, Save Colonial Lake, and rejoiced on the group's Facebook page after learning of the announcement of the deal

    The hotel is not happening.

    Lawrence Township has agreed to buy a nearly 6-acre parcel of land on Business Route 1 to halt a planned hotel that residents said last year they would vigorously fight to preserve the scenic views of Colonial Lake in their neighborhood.

    Residents formed a group, Save Colonial Lake, and on Saturday rejoiced on the group's Facebook page after learning of Friday's announcement of the deal.

    "Could there have been a better way to close out this summer?" organizer Casey Hooker said in a post. "Thank you, everyone, for your participation in helping this cause get to where we are today. Less than a year's time and we've saved Colonial Lake!"

    Lawrence Mayor Christopher Bobbitt announced the deal Friday, saying: "The purchase of this property and its addition to Colonial Lake Park represents the best of what Lawrence Township can accomplish by working with our citizens and various private and public organizations to preserve and enhance Colonial Lake for generations to come."

    A price was not immediately made public, but monies will come from a mix of local and state groups.

    Residents got together last year when word started spreading that a parcel of land just north of Colonial Bowling & Entertainment (formerly Colonial Lanes) was slated for development, and a three-story, 126-room hotel was in the works, by Woodspring Suites.

    Hundreds of Lawrence residents organizing to fight planned hotel

    The back end of the land fronts the lake, and residents argued the hotel would wreck their serene views, and would be detrimental to the health of the lake and its ecosystem.

    And The group urged the town to buy the land and make it part of the park adjoining the body of water - which is what the deal accomplishes.

    The land is owned by the bowling alley owners, the Sheft brothers, as Sheft Associates, Inc., who said in the announcement they are happy to be part of the deal.

    "My brothers and I are pleased that this tract of land will be preserved, and we look forward to finalizing this transaction in the near future," Stanley A. Sheft said on behalf of his brothers in Bobbitt's announcement.

    The current plans, still technically before the Lawrence Township Planning Board, had called for a 52,902 square-foot, 123-room extended-stay lodging facility.

    Bobbitt said the land will be subdivided to allow the bowling alley to continue to operate, and includes the township getting "right of first refusal" to acquire a remaining lot should Sheft Associates decide to sell in the future.

    "We are grateful to the Shefts for understanding the importance of the property to our community and coming to an agreement with the Township," Bobbitt said.

    Funding for the deal will come from Lawrence Township Open Space Fund, grant monies from the Mercer County Open Space Assistance Program, the New Jersey DEP Green Acres Program, the Lawrence Township Conservation Foundation, Inc., as well as Save Colonial Lake members.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kevintshea. Find on Facebook.


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    It's New Jersey vs. Pennsylvania in three nationally ranked showdowns and multiple rivalry games highlight the action.

    WashingtonTwp.JPGUnder second-year coach Mark Hendricks, Kingsway hits the road for this WJFL Royal matchup looking to extend its winning streak to five games against the Minutemen. The Dragons won last year's contest 25-0. The game will also mark the debut for Washington Township coach and 2008 graduate Mike Schatzman. The Minutemen are coming off back-to-back losing seasons. 

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    More than 79 percent of the firearms seized by New Jersey law enforcement during the first six months of the year were first purchased out of state.

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    An Amtrak signal problem near Trenton is to blame this time, NJ Transit says

    NJ Transit riders are dealing with major delays on the Wednesday morning commute due to Amtrak signal problems near Trenton.

    Trains on the Northeast Corridor are delayed by 60 minutes as of 8:35 a.m. 

    NJ Transit tickers are being cross-honored on PATH trains at Newark Penn Station, Hoboken and 33rd Street in Manhattan. NJ Transit and private carrier buses will also accept rail tickets.

    Two NJ Transit rail lines face months of disruption. Here are your options.

    Wednesday is also the day the Atlantic City line shuts down until early next year as NJ Transit races to meet an end-of-year deadline to install a federally mandated safety system on trains. Next week, the Raritan Valley line halts direct service to New York Penn Station. 

    The agency has regularly canceled trains in recent week as it works to add Positive Train Control. A shortage of engineers has also contributed to commuters' woes. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.


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    After a violent Labor Day weekend, Trenton's mayor called on multiple levels of state government to address the violence.

    After a weekend filled with neighborhood shootings in Trenton, the mayor met with multiple law enforcement agencies to seek solutions, saying in a public statement that he wanted more cops on Trenton's streets. 

    Ten people were shot -- and one killed -- between Friday and Monday, police tallied. One weapons arrest had been made, but no one had yet been arrested for the shootings, police spokesman Capt. Stephen Varn said Tuesday.

    "Since the incidents, I've been in constant contact with Police Director Pedro Medina," Mayor Reed Gusciora said in a statement Tuesday night. "The Trenton Police Department is doing all that they can in their investigation of this weekend's tragic events."

    Police said Monday morning they believe the outburst of gun violence was related to various neighborhood rivalries.

    Gusciora said he met with state and local police, Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Tuesday. He also said he reached out to Governor Phil Murphy to advise him of the shootings. 

    "While there are no overnight solutions to Trenton's recent rash of gun violence, we have agreed to coordinate police resources so that we can have adequate personnel on the streets," Gusciora said in the statement. 

    He also pointedly said that Trenton needs more officers.

    Ask Alexa

    "In the short run, we need more cops on our streets," he said. 

    But in the long run, he continued, the city needs to address the societal issues pushing young people to gun violence. 

    "Our city needs to stay strong in the face of this violence," Gusciora said in the statement. "We all have a stake in Trenton's future."

    The police department is in the process of interviewing and hiring more police personnel, the statement said. 

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross


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    NJ Advance Media breaks down the top playmaking threats back in 2018.

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    A look at some of the top linemen, tight ends, kickers and punters in New Jersey this season

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    Which teams have the best dual threat offensive combinations?

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    The 29-year-old from Hamilton has previously been arrested at Cherokee High School in Marlton

    A 29-year-old New Jersey man arrested Tuesday as he tried to enter a high school in Burlington County had pepper spray, a stun gun and a length of rope in his car, authorities said. 

    41165864_10156694414813259_7794445613000556544_n.jpgFidel Medina Jr. (Evesham police) 

    Fidel Medina Jr., 29, of Hamilton, Mercer County, was taken into custody around 2 p.m. at Cherokee High School after staff members saw him attempting to access the building through a locked vestibule, Marlton police said in a statement. It's the second time he has been arrested on trespassing charges at the school, police said. 

    Though Medina claimed he was there to pick up a student, police determined he has no connection to anyone at Cherokee High School.

    Medina was charged with defiant trespass and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. He was sent to a mental health facility to be evaluated. 

    Police later searched his home and seized additional items that they declined to identify.

    Tuesday was the first day of school for students at Cherokee, one of four high schools in the Lenape Regional High School District.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.


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    Maurice Wimbush-Jalaah was killed in Trenton 2016. His family says they'll never get over his death

    If they serve the full stretch, three Trenton men will be in their mid 30s when they're released from prison for gunning down a teenager in the city two summers ago.

    Maurice Wimbush-Jalaah, though, will always be 15.

    wimbush2.jpgMaurice Wimbush-Jalaah 

    He'll always be the one family member's wonder, what would he have become?

    "We will never see his truest potential," his aunt, Aida Wimbush said at the sentencing last Friday of the three young men convicted of shooting the boy they knew as "Mar Mar."

    "We will never see the man he could have been, the father he should have been and the husband we guided him to be with our love," Aida Wimbush said.

    She was speaking at the sentencings of Jashawn Smith, 20, Juprie Wadley, 21, and Wilson George, 20. Each had previously pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter, and each admitting they fired at Wimbush-Jalaah in a Prospect Village parking lot June 11, 2016.

    Wimbush-Jalaah had just returned from visiting family in Texas, and his family at the time called a "pedestrian" disagreement that should have never turned deadly.

    In her remarks at sentencing, Aida Wimbush said the family has been in an everyday depression since the crime. They were subjected to taunts from the suspects on social media following the crime, posts like "one down one to go," and they are not all on board with the 15-year plea agreements.

    "They still have a life and an opportunity to live out their lives, something Maurice will never have and we will never see," she said. "Again 15 years, is this the faith we have in the legal system? What happened to justice? What is the thinking behind giving those 15 years, which we all know they will serve less?"

    Aida Wimbush said prosecutors did explain the plea agreements, but they still are hard to digest.

    'I'm tired of burying my cousins,' girl says at vigil for slain teen

    Assistant Mercer County Prosecutor Kathleen Petrucci, who handled the final phases of the case, said she's aware of the family's pain, but this outcome is the best for this case: Each admitted to the crime and each will go to state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 85 percent of their sentence.

    If they went to trial, Smith, Wadley and George would have been tried separately due to the statements they gave to police, and the process could have been longer, and uneven.

    "This was the best resolution for them to go to state prison for many years," Petrucci said.

    Aida Wimbush paralleled her last remarks to the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - and how each impacted the family, especially her sister in law, Shannell Wimbush, Maurice's mother.

    "My sister in law still to this day has been unable to overcome this incident, knowing that every time she has a birthday, her son is no longer here to share the day because they were both born on the same day the same month," Aida said.

    As for the final stage, acceptance: "We will never be able to conquer this will forever be stolen from us."

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kevintshea. Find on Facebook.


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    Black children account for about 16 percent of students in the country, but about 39 percent of students suspended from school, according to the Government Accountability Office.

    There was a time, not so long ago, when teachers believed whipping unruly children was perfectly acceptable.

    Parents often supported this outdated thinking, arguing that they'd endured the same punishments (or worse), and look how well they'd turned out.

    Today we recognize that approach for what it is: savage and cruel.

    But an equally severe - and ultimately ineffective and unjust - mode of punishment continues to be administrators' go-to way to deal with misbehaving students: suspend them or expel them from school.

    President Barack Obama issued guidelines in 2014 advising school officials to avoid such exclusionary punishments, in large part because they fall most heavily on the shoulders of black and other minority students.

    Murphy's AG takes on Trump over school discipline

    The guidelines urged educators to lessen their dependence on harsh penalties in favor of positive behavior interventions, such as counseling.

    It was the right move. But perhaps not in the eyes of President Donald Trump, who never met an Obama-era policy he didn't try to shred.

    Now the top law-enforcement official in New Jersey is calling on the Trump Administration to uphold those more compassionate, more equitable guidelines.

    With his counterparts in nine other states and the District of Columbia, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has reached out to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    "While unnecessary exclusionary school discipline harms all students," the officials said in a letter last month, "it has a profoundly disproportionate effect based on race, disability and gender, as well as sexual orientation and identity."

    The letter cited sobering findings by the Government Accountability Office: Black children account for about 16 percent of students in the country, but about 39 percent of students suspended from school.

    A study in 2016 indicated that black students are three times more likely to be suspended from school, and nearly twice as likely to be expelled, than their white peers.

    "Black students, particularly black boys, are looked at as deviant and defiant, while white students are seen as exploring and testing boundaries," said Tynisha Jointer, a behavioral health specialist for elementary schools in Chicago.

    When we expel large segments of the population, we're essentially giving up on their futures. These students are less likely to graduate from high school, and more likely to get into trouble with the law.

    While some advocates of the rollback fear that tying the hands of local educators makes it harder to remove disruptive or even dangerous students from the classroom, we believe expulsion should be the absolute last resort when all other interventions have failed.

    There's no word yet which way the feds will move as the new school year gets under way. But we hope they take the AGs' letter to heart.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.


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    Heading back to school through the years in New Jersey.

    This is a totally unscientific and opinionated theory ... but I think I know why it was harder to go back to school at the end of the summer when I was a kid than it is now.

    We spent more time outdoors. School takes place indoors.

    treeclimb.jpgClimbing trees, for instance. 

    This isn't a rant about "kids nowadays," it's simply a pragmatic look at the difference between then and now. Then, not as many homes had air conditioning as now; going outside didn't seem like a bad choice. There weren't as many things to DO inside, and again, I'm not making any judgments about imagination and creativity; there were only a handful of channels on TV and no videotapes or video games.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    I think the main reason we saw the start of school with foreboding was that we'd spent most of our time outdoors all summer, and school was going to place us indoors for a solid seven hours. Add in how many new advancements have come to the classroom -- technology, activities and, in many, air conditioning -- and I'd bet we would have been just a bit more eager to go back.

    Well, okay, maybe not "eager." Perhaps "accepting."

    Here's a gallery of vintage photos of the start of another school year in New Jersey. And here are links to more galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of going back to school in N.J.

    Vintage photos of schools and students in N.J.

    Vintage photos of returning to school in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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