Monday, April 1, 2013

Baseball: Hunterdon-Warren preview capsules

Belvidere County Seaters

Coach: Aaron Feldman (43-56, fifth season).

2012 record: 8-17, 6-6 Skyland Conference Valley Division (fourth).

Key returnees: Sr. Tyler Grogan INF-P; Sr. Caleb Seibert 3B-P; Jr. Jake Carlson C; Jr. Logan Welles 1B-P; Sr. Avery Sepulveda INF; Sr. Johnny Giacchi OF-P; So. Henry Myerchin SS-P; So. Bobby Merle OF; So. Tyler Lutsky OF.

Key losses: Craig Tomkins 3B; Jared Allen OF; Vinnie Pisano OF; Kelsey Craig OF; Chris DeHerde 2B;

Promising newcomers: Sr. Anthony Madeo 2B; Sr. Tyler Tutka OF-P; Sr. Alex Hoffmaster OF.

Coach's comment: "I think that the group we have this season will be competitive. They're a very close-knit group, and can go a long way. We are deep at most positions, and have a group of talented kids at the JV level that will push the varsity guys. Our goal is to get better each day throughout the season so that we are ready for the state tournament."

Outlook: The County Seaters are two seasons removed from a 17-win season and reaching the North 1, Group 1 semifinals in 2010. For the second year in a row, they lose a key player as Grogan will miss the season with a torn ACL. That's big considering Grogan (.424 avg, 22 RBIs, 2.84 ERA) was the squad's best all-around player. Carlson is solid behind the plate. The Seaters have a favorable schedule, particularly their non-conference slate, so a .500 season is certainly a possibility.

Delaware Valley Terriers

Coach: Marty White (88-100, 10th season).

2012 record: 10-11, 4-8 Skyland Conference Raritan Division (tied fifth).

Key returnees: Sr. Scott Skripko 1B-P; Sr. Chris Pilone C; Sr. Reed Williams 2B-SS-P; Sr. Ryan Hann P; Jr. Joe Chiarino OF-3B-P; Jr. Chris Fiaschetti SS-P; Jr. Adam Novotny OF-P.

Key losses: Tom Chiswick 3B-P; Tyler Johnston 1B-2B-P; Dennis Martell OF-2B; Kieth Ferdinando OF; OF Paul Innocenti; Mike Innocenti 1B-DH.

Promising newcomers: Jr. Nick Perna 2B-3B-P; So. Logan Brown P; Sr. Joe Egidio OF; So. Frank McHugh OF; So. Mike Pilone C; S. Travis Scharffenberger 1B; Jr. Kevin Mikulicz OF; So. Devin Merritt INF-OF-P; So. Drew Mera INF-OF-P.

Coach's comment: "We don't have a dominant player that will carry us, but we should have solid play from all positions, and at the plate. With Skripko, Williams, Pilone and Hann returning, leadership has been a strength."

Outlook: Terriers were among the most improved teams a year ago, coming off a two-win season in 2011. This club has a solid nucleus, with Skripko among the conference's top players and a solid backstop in Pilone. Del Val has more depth in the pitching department this season, which is a huge plus. Expect the Terriers, who are well coached, to improve on last year's record.

Hackettstown Tigers

Coach: Gary Poyer (143-103, 12th season).

2012 record: 4-13, 3-7 NJAC Freedom Division (fifth).

Key returnees: Sr. Owen Gavin OF; Sr. Nick Garno 3B; Sr. Ronald Gieger SS-3B; Sr. Matt Bailey C; Jr. Justin Nicholls 1B-P; Sr. Matt Lerman 3B-P; Sr. Eddie Dulio OF; Sr. Joe Alitz OF; Sr. Dean Caravito OF; Jr. Kenny Stelmack 2B.

Key losses: Ryan Tatarka P; Joe Milelli P; Tyler Kessel 2B; Nick Lang OF.

Promising newcomers: So. Matt Pezzato C; So. Matt Engles P-OF; So. Tyler Profilias P-SS; So. Nick Pixley P-1B.

Coach's comment: "This is a promising group with speed and defensive prowess. We also have some solid pitching."

Outlook: The Tigers are coming off one of their worst season in recent history after a 21-win campaign and a Freedom Division title two years ago. Poyer likes his pitching staff, so that's a step in the right direction. If the offense can come around, there's no reason to think this club can't make some strides in what should be a wide-open division race.

Hunterdon Central Red Devils

Coach: Mike Raymond (247-89, 13th season).

2012 record: 23-7, 12-4 Skyland Conference Delaware Division (tied first).

Key returnees: Sr. Geggie Russomagno (.374 avg, 6 HRs, 30 RBIs) OF; Sr. Jeremy Ake (.400, 38 hits, 5 HRs, 29 RBIs) 2B; Sr. Bill Maier (6 wins, 3.83 ERA) P; Jr. Mike Pffeninger 1B; Jr. Matt Stalter SS; Sr. Paul Cucco 3B; Sr. John Icaza OF; Sr. Nick Gentile OF; Sr. Brett Mele C; Sr. Robbie Ehrhard P; Sr. Ryan Thomas P; Sr. George Daley P; Sr. Josh Susekind P.

Key losses: Evan Klimchak SS; Kenny Wilson OF; Brett Bonn 3B; Steve Rasile P; Joe DiGiovanni P; Pete Monahan P; Jr. Drew Rodriguez OF (transferred to Immaculata).

Promising newcomers: Sr. DJ Adams 1B; So. Brett McManus 2B; Fr. Matt Toke 3B; Jr. Zach Gusitites OF; So. Henry Hawkins OF; Sr. Jay Jernigan C; Jr. Zak Vacca C; So. Mike Novello P.

Coach's comment: "I believe this year’s team has the talent and potential to be successful again this season. We have five returning positional starters and three pitchers who combined for nine of our wins last season on the mound. Defensively, I expect our team to be very solid. We definitely need to find a way to replace the wins and leadership we received on the mound last season, but I do believe we have a number of young arms prepared for the challenge."

Outlook: Red Devils once again enter the season without question as the Open Mike area's top team, with nine starters back from a team that reached the North 2, Group 4 sectional final. Ake, a Delaware recruit, is one of the top infielders in the state, while Russomagno is heading to the U.S. Naval Academy in the fall. Maier and Thomas, two of the team's top arms, are going to Iona and Marist, respectively. Expect another season of championship runs for the Hunterdon County powerhouse.

North Hunterdon Lions

Coach: Mike Kane (12-16, second season).

2012 record: 12-16, 4-11 Skyland Conference Delaware Division (eighth).

Key returnees: Sr. C.J. Rasile OF; Sr. Shane Brown OF-P; Sr. Mike Ragozine 1B; Sr. Greg Cocchiola 3B; Sr. Devlin Berry OF; Sr. Robbie Young 2B; Sr. Andrew Gianos OF; So. Andrew Meiners C.

Key losses: Derek Jenkins OF; Ben Stine 1B-P; Tim Howard SS-P; Rob Aromando 3B-P; Alex Noboa 3B-DH; Garrett Smith P.

Promising newcomers: Jr. Marc Monks SS; Jr. Zach Kaminsky OF; So. Tom Schumacher 1B-3B-DH; Sr. Tyler Smith P; Sr. Justin Trinity P; Sr. Jeff Kortina P; Jr. Quentin Klein P; Jr. Kurt Thompson P; Jr. Griffin Hatton P.

Coach's comment: "It looks like we're going to have a real solid pitching staff. All the kids have been working hard and their work in the offseason is really showing. Things look very good so far, so hopefully the weather breaks soon so it feels like spring."

Outlook: Traditionally one of the area's top programs, the Lions took a step back a year ago in Kane's first season at the helm. The losses of Jenkins, Stine and Howard to graduation will be tough to overcome, as North tries to find some offensive consistency to match what their coach feels is a talented young group of arms. Time will tell if this club can make a push up the division standings.

North Warren Patriots

Coach: Jim Haupt (203-133, 15th season).

2012 record: 15-7, 9-3 Skyland Conference Valley Division (second).

Key returnees: Sr. Hunter Stevens (.329, 25 runs) OF-P; Jr. Cam Esposito OF-P; Jr. David Wilbur (.323, 17 RBIs) C; Jr. Alex Hladik (.362, 19 RBIs) SS-P; Sr. Mike Clothier OF; Jr. Brian Turner 2B-P; Jr. Nick Meyer 1B.

Key losses: Joe Frankosky 3B-P; Garret Becker OF-INF-P; Kevin Conlon 2B; Denver Greene OF; Stan Johnson OF.

Promising newcomers: Sr. Scott Severini OF; So. Matt Nicholoff INF-P; So. John Vuz INF; So. Lance Kernoschak INF-P; So. Vince Lubertazzo P; Fr. Sean Thornton P.

Coach's comment: "The mindset and work ethic of the players has been outstanding, and as long as there is continued improvement, I expect good things from North Warren this year."

Outlook: Patriots lost significant talent, particularly pitching, to graduation, but Haupt's teams always seem to find a way to be in the mix. If the young arms on this year's squad develop quickly, the Patriots could be a major force in their first season in the NJAC Freedom Division.

Phillipsburg Stateliners

Coach: Dave Hinkle (40-40, fourth season).

2012 record: 13-14, 4-11 Skyland Conference Delaware Division (seventh).

Key returnees: Sr. Alex Martin OF; Jr. Chris Trent (.364, 13 RBIs) OF; Jr. Matt McAnally 2B; Jr. Tyler Plesnarski DH-P; Sr. Tyler Widitz (.316, 23 RBIs) 3B-P; Sr. Bryan Gardner 1B; Sr. Tyler Woscek (1-2, 1.24 ERA) P; Sr. Zach Yale P.

Key losses: Anthony Ciavarella P-1B-OF; Devin Grade C-2B; Mike Ciesla P; Sahil Patel INF; David Toupin C.

Promising newcomers: So. Mark McGuire P; Sr. Max Ellerth P; Jr. David Wodzisz SS; So. Jake Knoble OF; Sr. Mike Kromar C-OF; Sr. Matt Raulf C; Jr. Andy Ferrara C; Sr. James Sinkbeil C.

Coach's comment: "We return six starters who all gained valuable experience playing in some big games last year. Martin and Trent give us a lot of speed at the top. Widitz has been driving the ball in the pre-season. Gardner is steady in the No. 4 hole. Wodzisz slides in at shortstop with McAnally moving from shortstop to second base this year. Sophomore Jake Knoble is a pure hitter that will only get better with experience." 

Outlook: Stateliners graduated their top three pitchers, including their ace Ciavarella, who is now playing at Monmouth. Therefore, the new arms must step up to support what should be a pretty good offensive attack. Woscek was a hero in last year's win over Pope John in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex semifinal game, as the 'Liners captured the county title. Hinkle said Widitz is a hard thrower who has looked good in preseason action. Another bonus is having former P'burg ace Mike Rossetti Jr. on the coaching staff this spring.

South Hunterdon Eagles

Coach: Toby Jefferis (26-76, seventh season).

2012 record: 2-13, 2-8 Skyland Conference Valley Division (sixth).

Key returnees: Sr. Grant Jensen OF-P; Sr. Jake Phillips SS-P; Jr. Jared Bogdan OF; Sr. Robert Albanir INF-P; Jr. Toby Coleman 3B-P; Jr. Jimmy Eick OF-1B; So. Jimmy Smiegocki 1B-P; Jr. Aaron Weber C; Sr. Zach Mastrich 2B; Jr. Ryan Godown P.

Key losses: Shaun Osgood OF-P.

Promising newcomers: So. Tyler Frazee INF; Sr. Austin VanTreuren OF.

Outlook: Eagles were a young team a year ago with only one senior on the entire roster. Predictably, they struggled in a two-win season. Jensen and Albanir were the team's top players in 2012 and will be counted on heavily this season. Jensen is the leadoff man and is expected to be the offensive catalyst. If everything falls right, South could approach the .500 mark this season.

Voorhees Vikings

Coach: Spark Mattson (76-118-1, 10th season).

2012 record: 13-11, 7-5 Skyland Conference Raritan Division (third).

Key returnees: Sr. Josh Hausler C; Sr. Dan Barone OF; Sr. Nick Marini OF; Sr. Mitch Palmer SS-1B; Sr. Andrew Haspiel P-OF; Jr. Matt Furca 2B-P; Jr. Will Palmer INF-P.

Key losses: Trey Conroy 2B-P; Matt Bonavita OF; Tyler Duplaga 3B-P; Bryan Konsig OF-1B; Tyler Kays P; Ronnie Honickel OF-1B;

Promising newcomers: Sr. Thomas Rocca C; Sr. Alex Tiger P-OF; So. Kyle Pierson P-1B-OF; So. Johnny Wernicki INF; Fr. Tyler Kroll INF; Fr. David Wernicki INF-P.

Coach's comment: "We're obviously short on experience and do not have much experienced pitching. We need to mature and grow up quickly in a baseball sense."

Outlook: With 12 players, including six newcomers, and not a lot of depth, the Vikings will be challenged to approach last year's win total. Hausler is a solid backstop, while Barone and Marini are talented outfielders. That's a good corp to build around and they'll be instrumental in bringing a young group along this season.

Warren Hills Blue Streaks

Coach: Mike Quinto (111-120, ninth season).

2012 record: 9-14, 6-6 Skyland Conference Raritan Division (fourth).

Key returnees: Sr. Shea Kohler 2B-P; Sr. Ron Legreide C-DH; Sr. Dallas Johnson OF-3B-P; Jr. Alex Julian 3B-SS; Sr. Michael Lascu 1B; Sr. Grant Cuomo P; So. Christian Stagaard C-OF-P; Sr. Cody Crowley OF; So. Craig Lawson 2B-SS-OF-P.

Key losses: Kyle Allen SS-P; Mark Apgar SS-P; Connor Cruts OF-P; Ryan Curto 2B-3B-P; Landon Chandler OF-P.

Promising newcomers: Jr. Derrick Black P; Jr. Nathaniel Capone P; Fr. Matthew Cummings OF; So. Nick Gagliano C-OF; So. Jake Larsen 1B-P; Jr. Alex Racano P; Jr. Patrick Shanagan OF-P; Fr. Anthony Veneziano OF-P; Fr. Timothy Woolf SS-P.

Coach's comment: "We know Shea Kohler and Mike Lascu will hit, as they are both proven players from last year. Our weakness may be in the depth of experience in our pitching staff, but we do have many who have talent."

Outlook: Blue Streaks are looking to rebound from a disappointing finish last season and should be among the top hitting teams this spring. Kohler is coming off an excellent junior campaign and should be the team's ace. Legreide is a solid catcher. Quinto is high on some of the younger players on the roster, including Stagaard and Lawson, who will both start, while freshmen Veneziano and Woolf are expected to see significant time. This should be a interesting group to follow.

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