Category: Showcases

By Andrew Velequez, Frodham Prep

Every other week this spring season, Andrew Velazquez will take us inside the Fordham Prep baseball team. In his exclusive diary on, the Virginia Tech-bound shortstop will give us an inside look at the Rams’ quest to win a CHSAA Class AA intersectional title and his preparation for the MLB First-Year Player Draft.

It’s about to be that time of the year where the games start counting and the road to a city championship begins. I’m here in South Carolina with my team and we’re looking ready to bring the chip back to Fordham Prep. So far so good out here. From the pitching to the hitting, it looks like we’re definitely going to be a contender for a chip.

I think I can speak on behalf of all players in the Northeast when I say, any chance we can get to play in hot weather before the start of the season is a blessing. A trip like this gives the team a chance to bond and grow closer. Just last night we went out for dinner as a team and had a lot of laughs and a great time.

Looking at the team, we have a great infield all around. With Ryan Mahoney moving to third, Vinny Capone moving to second, and Jack Sexton at first our infield is one of the best in the city. The pitching suffered a bit with the loss of Jack Becker due to injury, but nonetheless seems to be headed in the right direction with the addition of arms like Steven Fondu. The lineup is stacked with hitters from top to bottom making for a tough time for any pitcher we face. I’m confident in our team’s abilities and look forward to having a great senior season.

Being that it is senior year, it does make it easier not having to worry about where I am going to college anymore. It definitely takes some of the pressure off when playing in games. Although I have a good shot at getting drafted, I tend to try not to think too much about it. I’m honored that my name is even being mentioned by pro scouts. Playing in front of scouts sounds like it’s nerve wracking and believe me it was at first when playing in tournaments in the summer. Eventually you just have to learn to focus on your game and the rest will take care of itself.

Most of all I try to remember that baseball is a fun game that I love playing and putting pressure on myself to do too much only takes away from that. With that said, I’m looking forward to a very successful season.

Check back with Andrew Velazquez every other Friday during the season. His next diary will run April 27.

By Jeff Dahn

Once Mark Rardin took control of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I baseball program at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs 10 years ago, the Reivers started to develop a habit that quickly turned into a time honored tradition. It’s one of those good habits, sort of like daily exercise, no one wants to kick. And it’s one of those traditions, sort of like baseball’s Opening Day, no one wants to change.

What Iowa Western does on an annual basis just about as well as any other junior college program in the country is win a ton of ballgames in late winter and early spring in a tradition that often spills over into the first days of June. The Reivers (river pirates) are at it again this season, having won 34 of their first 35 games to settle into the No. 2 spot in the Perfect Game Junior College Top 50 national rankings. “We really haven’t changed much here.

Baseball is baseball and it’s not real tricky, in my opinion,” Rardin said in an April 12 telephone conversation with PG. “But there is a process and I think everybody has to have to a system, and we’re no different. We’re more stubborn than the kids in that ‘This is the way we do things.’ We’ve established that there is zero gray area and it’s just black or white; you’re either right or you’re wrong (and) it’s either good or it’s bad.”

Iowa Western has advanced to the NJCAA World Series for five straight years and six of the last seven. It won the National Championship in 2010, and finished third in 2005 and 2011. The 2010 championship team won 51 games and the 2008 World Series participants won a school record 55. IWCC is a member of the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference, a 12-team league that consists of five NJCAA D-I schools – like Iowa Western – and seven NJCAA D-II schools.

The Reivers have won seven straight conference titles and nine since 2000. They won their first 17 games this season, dropped their second ICCAC game at traditional power Indian Hills, and then rattled off another 17 straight wins before four scheduled games April 14-15 at home against Indian Hills. “When we had our first meeting in the fall, I told them that we have as much talent (on this team) as any other time since I’ve been here,” Rardin said. “I told them there were really only two ways that we can be stopped from having a successful season: injuries, which we can’t do anything about, and each player’s personal decisions every day.

Those were really the only two ways we were going to get stopped.” This is a squad that boasted a team batting average of .443 through its first 35 games, and some of the players’ offensive stats are certainly eye-popping. Some of the pitcher’s lines aren’t too shabby either. The leader is outfielder/right-hander Tanner Krietemeier, who is playing his sophomore season in Council Bluffs after transferring in from the University of Nebraska.

He has now signed with Oklahoma State. Krietemeier is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound switch-hitter from Castle Rock, Colo., who after 35 games led the pitching staff in wins and ERA, and was one of 13 Reivers with at least 52 at-bats hitting better than .400. On the hill, Krietemeier stood 6-0 with a 0.53 ERA in 32 innings, and allowed only 15 hits and seven walks while striking out 51. At the plate, he was tearing it up at a .462 clip (42-for-91) with six home runs, 11 doubles, 35 RBI and 40 runs scored.

Perfect Game recently recognized him as a “legitimate two-way prospect for the draft.” “That competitiveness, when a guy is a position player or a hitter and then he gets out on the mound, there’s a different kind of competitor on the mound a lot of times; that’s what Tanner is,” Rardin said. “Pitcher’s are competitors, but there’s a different kind of competitor when they’re a guy that plays every day in the field, runs the bases and hits, and then he gets out on the mound. Tanner is going to come after you; he’s aggressive in the zone.” Rardin sees Krietemeier most likely as a position player at the next level, whether it’s at Oklahoma State or in the professional ranks.

Krietemeier is just one of 19 impact players on Iowa Western’s roster who attended Perfect Game events while in high school, and none of the others are more prominent than sophomore third baseman Damek Tomscha. Tomscha was named the 2010 Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year out of Sioux City North High School and was ranked the nation’s 381st top overall prospect in his graduating class. He played in eight Perfect Game events, including two seasons in the PG Iowa Spring Wood Bat League and one in the PG Iowa Fall Wood Bat League.

The Phillies selected him in the 50th round of the 2010 MLB amateur draft but he opted to head for Iowa Western instead. The Marlins selected him in the 32nd round of the 2011 draft, but he again decided to stay put at Iowa Western for his sophomore season. Tomscha hit .400 (38-for-95) with six home runs (tied for the team high), 13 doubles (team high), 39 RBI and 44 runs (team high) through 35 games this season. He has signed a letter-of-intent with Auburn in the event he once again isn’t satisfied with his draft position.

Earlier this season, PG ranked Tomscha the No. 20 overall junior college draft prospect in the country. “He’s a special talent, a special kid, from a special family. We kind of got lucky with the whole package there,” Rardin said. “He’s got unbelievable athleticism at third base … and he’s really become a man being 6-3 and 225. … He’s got great gifts and he’s worked on them since he’s been here.” There is no question that depth is the strength of this year’s Reivers squad.

Fourteen players had at least 52 at-bats through the first 35 games. Iowa Western typically plays doubleheaders (seven inning games) and Rardin uses a different lineup each game. That explains why 10 Reivers have between 52 and 67 at-bats and only four have more than 74. Two Reivers were still hitting over .500 after 35 games. Sophomore catcher Levi Meyer from Wichita, Kan., was 35-for-62 (.565) with four home runs, 30 RBI and 26 runs scored and sophomore infielder Sam Bumpers from Bourbonnais, Ill., hit .509 (28-for-55) with 23 RBI and 20 runs.

The other top rakers – and there are many – include freshman outfielder Alex Greer from Levacy. Mo. (.368, team-highs of 9 home runs, 43 RBI); sophomore first baseman/utility Gabriel DeVarona from Pembroke Pines, Fla. (.419, 26 RBI, 20 runs); freshman catcher/outfielder Steven Leonard from Monument, Colo. (.493, 10 doubles); freshman infielder Grant Kay from Ralston, Neb. (.482, 4 home runs, 23 RBI, 39 runs) and freshman infielder Adam Morey from Waterloo, Neb. (.443, 4 home runs, 25 RBI, 23 runs). In addition to Krietemeier’s mound prowess, others on the staff have pitched well enough that 10 have picked up at least one win among the Reivers’ first 34 victories.

Sophomore right-hander Jake Thompson (Shawnee, Kan.) stood 6-0 with a 5.78 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings; left-handed freshman Mike Hanchar (Highland, Ind.) was 5-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 21 Ks in 18 innings and sophomore Andy Roberts (Prescott, Ariz.) stood 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 23 innings. Nine Reivers have signed with NCAA D-I programs for 2013, including Krietemeier and Tomscha. Left-hander Kyle Gehrs (Oklahoma State), left-hander Andy Roberts (Old Dominion), right-hander Jake Thompson (Western Kentucky), right-hander A.J. Gaura (Austin Peay) and catcher Morey (Florida Atlantic) are among those signed. Right-hander Michael Hoppes and shortstop Chris Waylock – both of whom are out with injuries this spring – have signed with Nebraska and the U of Houston, respectively.

The Iowa Western baseball program can’t offer full-ride scholarships like some of the premier junior college programs across the country have the resources to do. It’s those schools that Rardin and his assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Rob Allison compete against on the recruiting trail, as well as the nation’s four year schools in NCAA Division I, II and III, and the NAIA schools. Rardin and Allison definitely recruit on a national – and even international – scale. Fifteen states and Victoria, Australia are represented on the Reivers’ 30-man roster.

They try to lock-in the top talent from Omaha – just across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs – but in those cases they find themselves recruiting against Nebraska, Creighton, Kansas State, Kansas, Nebraska-Omaha and Iowa, among others. Rardin and Allison recruit at as many Perfect Game events as they’re allowed to, and Rardin likes their chances when it comes to getting the top kids. “I think we do as good of a job as anybody with throwing out the net and starting to pull it in, and seeing what’s out there, what level the kid is … and what kind of family he comes from,” Rardin said. If this season concludes with a sixth straight NJCAA D-I World Series berth, as many expect, it won’t be an aberration.

And even though IWCC is the northern most team ranked in the national top 20 and has been one of the country’s most successful programs over the last 10 years, the Reivers have learned to stay grounded. “One of the things we tell our kids is ‘either you’re going to be humble or you’re going to be getting humbled,’” Rardin said. “If you can just play the game and play it right and be humble about your business, that’s great. But if you think you’re the highest ones on the totem pole and you think that you created the game and that you can walk on water, you’re going to get humbled in a hurry.”


As the rain poured down on the field and the ball missed Anthony Capo’s bat, Gerry Gonzalez pumped his fist and yelled to celebrate.

The Grand Street Campus senior returned to the dugout for the top of the seventh inning, told his teammates this was his game and to get him just one run to unlock the tie with a Tottenville team he didn’t get to face in last year’s postseason.

It took three more outs and an extra inning, but the Wolves delivered when Santo Duran plated Ernesto Lopez with a single up the middle in the top of the eighth.

“We knew how special he was throughout the whole game,” Duran said of Gonzalez. “I think that was the only way we could repay him.”



Photo by Daniel Freel/New Jersey Herald – Pope John’s Matt Tietz celebrates with his team after hitting a grand slam in the top of the fifth inning to take a 6-5 lead against Jefferson during their game in Jefferson Wednesday April 11, 2012.


JEFFERSON — Matt Tietz and Ryan McNally understand their roles on Pope John’s baseball team.

The two seniors have to be the big bats in a lineup that lost eight players to graduation, including six Division I-caliber players. More importantly, they have to come through in the clutch whenever the Lions need them.

On Wednesday, they provided three huge home runs for Pope John, with McNally’s homer putting the Lions ahead enough to earn a 9-7 victory in nine innings over Jefferson at Jefferson High School.

“We know, as seniors, we have to lead the team by example,” McNally said. “So we really tried to do that.”

“Those homers were pretty clutch,” Tietz said. “We just did our thing.”

With the Lions heading into the top of the seventh down, 7-6, Tietz cracked his second homer — a one-out solo shot over the center field fence — off Falcons reliever Karl Pappacena to tie the ballgame. Tietz’s first homer was a grand slam in the fifth inning off Jefferson starter Jeff Oster, which gave the Lions a 6-5 lead that was relinquished in the bottom half of the inning after the Falcons scored two runs.

Then after a scoreless eighth, Pope John was down to its final out of the ninth before McNally got a hold of a full-count pitch from Pappacena and sent it over the left field wall to give Pope John an 8-7 lead. The Lions scored their final run on a Jefferson fielding error.

From there, Pope John reliever Glenn Gavan recorded a scoreless ninth, despite hitting Paul Englemann with a pitch and walking Pappacena, to seal the Lions’ win. Pope John coach Vin Bello said he was proud of his guys, especially Tietz and McNally.

“Big players come in big games,” Bello said of Tietz and McNally. “They’re seniors. It’s their last year. They want it and they’re not going to give up. There’s no give up in those guys.”

The Lions could have given up after falling into a 5-2 deficit to the Falcons through four innings thanks to a Steve Cuccio three-run homer in the fourth. But Tietz and McNally were not about to let that happen.

“We knew it was early,” Tietz said. “Jefferson is a good team, one of top teams in the league this year. We just tried to stay with it, fight back and not get down.”

“We knew they were going to give us a game because they were hyped up as one better teams in Morris County,” McNally said. “So, we tried to come out here and swing the bat.”

The Lions sure did swing the bat well in the fifth, as Zack Leach, Mike Young and Jay Sanford each singled to set up Tietz’s slam. But the Falcons fought back by grabbing a 7-6 lead in the bottom half after Jeremy Decotiis hit a two-run double to left.

But the Lions kept attacking, recording three hits in the next two innings, including Tietz’s solo shot that set up their dramatic comeback. Tietz finished 2-for-5 with five RBI while McNally was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.

But more importantly, they guided the youthful Lions to a big victory.

“Our team is very young,” Bello said. “This definitely helps because those guys lead by example.”

Pope John 9, Jefferson 7 (9 innings)

PJ 020 040 102 — 9 13 1

J 200 320 000 — 7 9 4

2B: PJ — Eder Rivera, Zack Leach; J — Eric Vartanian 2, Steve Cuccio, Jeremy DeCotiis

HR: PJ — Matt Tietz 2, Ryan McNally ; J — Cuccio

WP: Glenn Gavan (1-0); LP: Karl Pappacena (1-1)

Team records: Pope John 3-0, Jefferson 5-2

By Jeff Dahn

According to, only 11 native Alaskans have reached the major leagues, and nine of those – including six-time MLB All-Star right-hander Curt Schilling – were born in Anchorage.

Right-hander Dylan Baker, a native of Juneau, is a long way from the big leagues but the value of his stock in the upcoming June amateur draft continues to skyrocket with each new start he makes for junior college power Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nev.

You’d need a crystal ball and deck of tarot cards to even hazard a guess as to when Baker might become the next Alaskan big-leaguer. But after working two hitless, scoreless innings in WNC’s latest Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) victory on Saturday (April 7), it’s looking increasingly more like he could become a first round pick when the 2012 draft commences on June 4.

Baker is a sophomore, but this is his first year at Western Nevada after spending last season at Tacoma (Wash.) Community College. In his seven months in Carson City, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Baker has made a believer out of WNC head coach D.J. Whittemore.

“I think he was draftable and signable when he first got here.” Whittemore said in a telephone interview late last week. “He was 87 to 90 (mph) on a big frame with as good of a breaking ball as you’ll see on a junior college pitcher. He’s certainly upgraded from being an afterthought in the draft to being at the top of the draft board.”

After 10 starts at WNC this spring, Baker’s numbers were like something out of a video game. He stood 9-0 with a 0.20 ERA, and struck out 63 in 44 1/3 innings of work (with 24 walks). He had pitched three complete games and two shutouts.

Those numbers come on the heels of a fairly nondescript season at Tacoma CC where he went 3-3 with a 3.47 ERA. Baker gives all the credit for his improvement to Whittemore and WNC pitching coach Jeremy Beard.

“I obviously owe a lot to my coaches,” he said. “Coach Whittemore and Coach Beard and all the other coaches (have been great), because I came to the team and they immediately let me into the family. That right there was awesome and the atmosphere here was just great.”

The flame that is the relationship between Baker and WNC may have first got sparked last summer in Glens Falls, N.Y., where Baker was playing for head coach John Mayotte and pitching coach Sean Cashman of the Glens Falls Golden Eagles in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL).

Baker’s stat line wasn’t particularly impressive in the PGCBL – 0-2 with a 5.46 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 28 innings (10 appearances, five starts) – but the experience helped to open his eyes to other opportunities.

“It was beneficial because the pitching coach on the team I played for definitely helped me out a lot,” Baker said, adding that the level of competition in the PGCBL got him thinking about seeking out greater challenges at the junior college level.

“When I got back from summer ball in New York to my hometown in Juneau, I thought about it for a couple of days and I decided I needed to go someplace else because I wanted to  learn more, get more experience and get better faster,” he said.

Whittemore is glad to have him. He calls Baker’s repertoire of pitches “amazing” and that includes a fastball that has now reached 96 mph.

“He’s a guy that has always been hard to hit and that’s a product of his high-to-low on his fastball and just amazing breaking stuff – his slider and curveball are both … as good as I’ve ever seen on our team,” said Whittemore, the only coach WNC has had in the seven years the program has existed.

“The question with Dylan was always, ‘Can he throw enough strikes to be dominant or just good?’ He’s done more than I could have imagined because on top of throwing enough strikes to be dominant, his stuff has improved dramatically.”

The Wildcats (29-10) are well-positioned to make a run for their second straight SWAC championship and fourth since 2006. Whittemore guided WNC teams to Western District and Region XVIII championships in 2007 and ’09, the same seasons they also advanced to the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series.

“What we’ve found is that the Western District has fared very well in the national tournament,” Whittemore said. “If you can win the Western District you’ve got to show up at the (NJCAA) World Series feeling like you’ve got a chance to win it all. If you can compete in our conference you can probably compete with anyone in the country.

“I knew that this team was going to be good and have a chance to win at the end for sure, but I thought it might take a little bit longer than it has to stabilize the ship.”

Professional scouts have been flocking to WNC games to watch Baker and several of his teammates perform. The scouts aren’t strangers to Carson City; 16 former WNC players are already playing professionally. This year’s Wildcats pitching staff boasts a team ERA of 1.91.

“We’ve honestly had a lot of high-profile pitchers here,” Whittemore said. “Dylan is the most high-profile pitcher we’ve had but there have been a lot of scouts at our games for a long time. Our first pitching staff in 2006 had five draft-and-signs.”

Baker hasn’t let a childhood spent in Alaska be a hindrance to his dream of playing professional baseball. In fact, he doesn’t feel like he was working at that much of a disadvantage.

“There are definitely coaches up there who care about the kids and they’ve been coaching for a long time so they know what they’re doing,” Baker said. “I’ve just always loved baseball and I have two older brothers and they played baseball, so I’ve just always played baseball myself.”

Whether or not he joins that fairly short list of native Alaskans that have reached the majors won’t be known for at least several more years. For now, Baker will continue to try to impress the scouts without spending too much time thinking about the draft. That can be difficult when as many as 60 scouts have come out to watch the Wildcats on days he pitches.

“I think about it and I talk to my coaches about it, and the kids on my team joke around about it, but it’s definitely on my mind,” Baker said. “When I go into a game or I’m at practice I try not to think about it because I want to be real focused on the team and focused on our goals instead of the draft. But it’s definitely on my mind; I can’t say it’s not.”

The success Baker has enjoyed this season doesn’t necessarily surprise him. It was just a matter of this one Alaska kid getting comfortable with a junior college program in Nevada’s state capital, a city that borders the California state line and Lake Tahoe.

“I always knew that I could be better than I was last year and the year before, but I really didn’t expect it to happen all so fast. It’s been a little crazy,” Baker said. “I’m a lot more happy here, I guess, and the baseball and the coaches, everything is just better. Working hard has really helped me get to the top.”

By Jeff Dahn

Luke Maile rolled out of the eastern New York city of Amsterdam last August and made a bee-line straight back to Lexington, Ky. Packed in his equipment bag with him was a new-found confidence in his ability to be a difference-maker in the challenging world of Southeastern Conference baseball.

Maile (pronounced MAY-lee) is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior catcher/first baseman for the Kentucky Wildcats, perhaps Division I’s most surprising team as the 2012 regular season cruises past its midway point. UK stood 28-2 and had climbed to No. 5 in the Perfect Game College Top 50 Rankings before its three-game SEC home series got under way against No. 13 Mississippi on Friday (April 6).

And Maile, who calls Crestview, Ky., home, has played a rather large role in the Wildcats’ success this season, only about eight months after completing his second summer season with the Amsterdam Mohawks in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL).

“That’s some fun baseball up there,” Maile said in an April 5 telephone conversation with Perfect Game. “I was lucky enough to play for the same manager (Keith Griffin) two years in a row, which always helps – it gives you a little bit of consistency. When you first come in as a freshman you don’t know what to expect when you go play summer baseball, and Keith Griffin is a guy I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of his coaching style and the way he operates.”

Maile was already highly regarded before the start of last summer’s collegiate league play, and after switching from the Cape Cod League to the PGCBL, his stock really began to soar.

In 26 games with Amsterdam, Maile hit a league-high .378 (34-for-90) with seven doubles, eight home runs, 28 RBI and 28 runs scored. His on-base (.509) and slugging percentage (.722) would have led the league had he gotten enough plate appearances to officially qualify.

At the conclusion of the season, PG named Maile the No. 3 overall top prospect in the league, behind outfielder Erick Gaylord from Campbell and third baseman Josh Anderson from Yavapai JC (Ariz.).

That recognition came on the heels of a breakout 2010 summer with the Mohawks in what was then known as the New York Collegiate Baseball League. That summer, Maile was 21-for-66 (.318) in 23 games, with eight doubles and 10 RBI. His Kentucky teammate at the time, right-hander Sam Kidd, was also on that Amsterdam team that won the 2010 NYCBL championship.

“We won a championship my first year up there in the New York League … and then this past year at first I thought we overachieved a little bit,” Maile said. “But by the end of the year we were disappointed that we didn’t take it home and we probably should have. To be honest with you, I think about (not winning a championship) a lot, because that was a special group of guys and a very close-knit team. It was very similar to the one I’m playing on right now (at UK).

“We had some guys up there who absolutely brought it every single day, and that’s something you don’t always find in summer baseball.”
There’s no question the 2011 Mohawks – which finished 30-17 – were stacked with talent. Utah outfielder Josh Alexander was ranked the PGCBL’s No. 4 overall top prospect, one slot behind Maile. LSU right-hander James Dykstra (No. 7), Lamar outfielder Jude Vidrine (No. 9), Mississippi State second baseman DeMarcus Henderson (No. 10) and Mississippi State right-hander Taylor Stark (No. 11) were other Mohawks that placed high in the league’s top prospect rankings.

But while Maile said he still thinks about missing out that chance for a second summer league championship, his thoughts these days are mostly with UK. The Cats are scratching and clawing toward what they hope will be the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006.

This year’s UK team won its first 22 games and its only losses came in recent SEC series’ openers at Tennessee and at No. 30 Georgia. It’s been an incredible and record-setting run.

“Incredible is a pretty good word for it,” Maile said. “It’s been a lot of fun, it’s been really enjoyable and it’s also been really hard. It’s been a grind for about a month-and-a-half now and we’ve been showing up to play every single game so far, and that’s tough to do over the course of the (entire) season.

“Sometimes we haven’t had our best stuff but we’ve still found ways to win, and that speaks volumes to what kind of people we have and what kind of competitors we have.”

Maile was hitting .333 with team-highs of eight home runs and 34 RBI through the Cats’ first 30 games. In a 19-6 drubbing of non-conference Dayton on April 4, he was 3-for-5 with two homers and four RBI to lead UK’s 24-hit attack. Yet he doesn’t see himself as doing anything all that special.

“Nothing strikes me as awful or awesome. It’s just baseball,” Maile said matter-of-factly. “I’ve made a lot of adjustments, which is good, and I think a lot of that can be attributed to being just a little bit older and this being my third time through the league and college baseball.”

Maile was drafted out of high school in the 43rd round of the 2009 MLB draft by the Boston Red Sox, but didn’t give a second thought about heading to Lexington. He played in 26 games in a backup catcher role as a freshman in 2010, and made 50 starts at catcher and first base in 2011, sharing those positions with top prospect Michael Williams.

Williams was selected in the 37th round of last year’s draft by the San Francisco Giants, but chose to return for his senior season this year. He and Maile continue to share time behind the plate and at first.

Maile hit .282 with 10 doubles, three triples and team-high nine home runs while driving in 36 runs in 51 games in 2011. He’s ratcheted it up a notch this season – as has UK’s entire squad – and he doesn’t seem all that surprised by the Cats’ amazing run.

“I’d probably be lying to you if I said I thought we’d only have lost two games by April 5, but in all seriousness, I knew we were going to be competitive,” he said. “I knew we were going to come out and compete and I knew we were going to fight. I knew we had the type of personalities that said we weren’t going to back down from anybody.

“I didn’t exactly expect us to come out with a certain number of wins but I did expect us to come out and attack the opposition for nine innings every single day.”

Maile was named Kentucky’s “Mr. Baseball” after his senior season at Covington Catholic and was a first team all-state selection in both 2008 and ’09. He graduated as the owner of every offensive record in Covington’s history with the exception of at-bats, where he ranks second.

Maile played summer travel ball with the Kentucky Colonels while in high school, and hooked up with the Midland Redskins in 2007. He played on the Redskins’ Connie Mack World Series championship team that year.

Other top prospects on Midland’s roster that year included current Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, a 2007 PG/Aflac All-American, and the New York Mets No. 1 overall prospect right-hander Matt Harvey, a 2006 PG/Aflac All-American.

Not all of the credit for Maile’s outstanding season to date can be given to his participation in the PGCBL last summer, but the experience helped him going into the fall intrasquad games and practice sessions.

“It does lift you into the fall but it certainly lifts you a little bit more when your numbers are good,” Maile said. “Some guys come out of summer baseball and … maybe they’ve kind of scuffled a little bit, and they show up in the fall with less confidence than when they went into (summer ball). I was fortunate enough to put up some decent numbers and get my stroke back and find some confidence.

“… I had gotten better in that three month period of time and that’s what it’s all about when you go up  to these summer leagues is to improve,” he continued. “When you get some feedback and people acknowledge that you did improve, and your swing got shorter, and your hands got quicker and your defense looks better, that’s certainly encouraging.”

Maile carried that confidence into the spring, and the idea now is to keep the ball rolling. The Wildcats have three-game series remaining at No. 8 Arkansas and at home against No. 12 LSU and No. 1 Florida among the six remaining SEC series they have left following this weekend’s triple against Ole Miss.

“You maintain it by sticking to the basics and keep doing what you have been doing,” Maile said. “It’s no coincidence that it has been the basics for us – we pitch well, we throw strikes, we have some timely hitting and we play good defense. In baseball, you’re not going to win every game just by doing that but you’re certainly going to win a lot of them.”

Everyone in Lexington is living life a little larger these days as they continue to bask in the glow of the UK men’s basketball national championship. Maile has felt the vibe and hopes to build on it.

“When you win basketball games here in Lexington, everybody’s got a little bit bigger smile on their face. The whole city seems to be a little bit friendlier,” he said. “Hopefully we can give them something else to smile about.”

BLOOMFIELD — The sun was setting at Bloomfield Middle School Thursday afternoon. The brisk spring air was turning into a winter’s chill. The baseball game between Bloomfield and Morris Knolls high schools had been completed for over a half hour, but Morris Knolls head coach Adam Bonfiglio kept his Golden Eagles on the field for a message filled with stern advice.

Bloomfield had taken its 9-2 victory and was long gone by the time Bonfiglio was done addressing his team. Needless to say, it wasn’t a pretty sight.

For some reason, the Golden Eagles didn’t show much emotion Thursday. They were flat, uninspired and uncharacteristically booting the ball all over the place. Maybe the culprit was the emotional 6-2 win over Randolph Wednesday night, but that was not enough of an excuse for Bonfiglio and he let his team know it in a big way.

“We do have a better baseball team than this,” Bonfigilio said. “We played a high emotion game against a rival last night and we played all out. We left it all on the field. But in this sport, you have to come out and do it every day. It’s not too much to ask to give the same effort every day. We talked about enjoying the victory, but you have to have a short memory. We should have come out with a fire and we didn’t have it. We didn’t respond and that’s a little disheartening.”

The Golden Eagles (1-2) got two hits in the top of the first inning and didn’t score. It set the tone for the Bengals (2-0), a possible state playoff opponent in the NJSIAA North 1 Group IV section that Morris Knolls won last year, to take total command of the game early on.

Senior right-hander T.J. Nemeth struggled through the first inning and got only one out. He surrendered a double to Mike Carter leading off the game and three pitches later, Devin Radziewicz delivered the RBI single that was basically all Bloomfield needed.

Nemeth was hurt by a walk and an error, but gave up a two-run single to Chris Ong and an RBI single to Andrew Coco and he was done, surrendering four runs in the first frame.

“It’s definitely not a good way to start, being down, 4-0, to a very good team,” Bonfiglio said. “You don’t want to go down at all, but by four runs, it makes it tough. It was early. We still thought we could get a few cracks at their lead.”

Although Andrew Chegwidden came in and shut the door for Morris Knolls, it was over by then.

“He’s a senior making his first start and he threw pretty well in the preseason,” Bonfiglio said. “We talked to our pitchers and told them that they had to follow up each other. The pitching has been a question mark. We have strong arms. It’s just a matter of getting the job done.”

The Golden Eagles managed to score two runs in the seventh inning on an RBI single from Sean Green that scored Mike Reggiani and Stevo Rosen, who had two hits, scored on an error, but that was it.

Written by Jim Hague

James Spadaccini feared the absolute worst in December. When the Butler senior partially tore the MCL and ACL in his knee during the third basketball game of the season against Montville, he figured any chance he had of returning in time to finish his baseball career was gone.

“I thought I was done,” said Spadaccini, who earned All-Daily Record First Team honors last year, batting .548 with nine home runs and 21 RBI all while continuing his assault on the Bulldogs’ all-time hits mark in the process. “When I was lying on the floor, I knew it wasn’t right. It was really tough on me, both mentally and physically.”

However, Spadaccini started to receive positive reports from his doctors.

“I knew it all depended upon how I reacted to rehab,” Spadaccini said. “I got it checked out and the doctors said it looked good, that I was ahead of schedule. They said that there was a chance I could come back.”

That was all Spadaccini had to hear. He dove into his rehabilitation regimen even more, determined as ever to make it back to the baseball diamond. After all, baseball is his bread and butter, having already signed a National Letter of Intent to play at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City in the fall.

“I worked hard to make it back,” Spadaccini said. “I didn’t want to rush it coming back if I didn’t have a chance.”

But there’s now a chance. Incredibly, Spadaccini is making plans to make a return to the Bulldogs’ lineup by May, just six months after suffering the injury.

Spadaccini isn’t running at full speed yet, and he’s limited to a treadmill for now. While Spadaccini just started to pick up a ball and throw a little, he still hasn’t received clearance to return to swinging the bat. But he’s closer than he ever could have imagined.

Having the scholarship to St. Peter’s College has helped the mental approach as well. Spadaccini doesn’t have to hustle back and prove himself to college recruiters. His future is already sealed.

“I’ll be fine by the time I get to St. Peter’s,” Spadaccini said. “If I didn’t have that scholarship in hand, who knows what I might have been doing now. I’d be driving myself crazy, thinking I had to prove myself. Now, I can take my time and get healthy and not worry about the future.”

Final NHSI Thoughts

•  The collection of teams and talent was impressive as each team had at least one player who projects to play at the Division I level with most teams having five or six such players.

•  It was clear that the best baseball is played in South Florida and Southern California. Those teams had the top prospects, the most depth and were the best teams overall by a significant margin.

•  Talking to other scouts in attendance, the consensus opinion was that the Mater Dei offense was the best anyone had seen from a high school team. One through nine the Monarchs hit, all their approaches were strong and they showed the ability to hit the ball to all fields while identifying offspeed pitches.

NSHI Team Power Rankings

Based on a combination of results, overall talent and prospects.

  1. Mater Dei  (CA)
  2. Harvard-Westlake (CA)
  3. American Heritage (FL)
  4. Gulliver Prep (FL)
  5. Parkview (GA)
  6. Bishop Gorman (NV)
  7. Orange Lutheran (CA)
  8. Columbus (GA)
  9. Corpus Christi Carroll (TX)
  10. Russell County (AL)
  11. Sarasota (FL)
  12. Brookwood (GA)
  13. Oxford (AL)
  14. George Washington (NY)
  15. Highlands Ranch (CO)
  16. Lee County (NC)

NHSI Top Prospects

1. Max Fried
, 2012, LHP/RF, Harvard-Westlake (CA)

The long, loose lefty was up to 94, holding that velocity into the fifth inning and hitting 92 in the seventh. He showed good feel for his 12/6 curveball that had good shape. There aren’t many LHPs with Fried’s combination of projectability, athleticism, and arm strength which is why he is projected to be a very high draft pick in June.

2. Courtney Hawkins, 2012, CF/RHP, Corpus Christi Carroll (TX)

Hawkins was a one-man wrecking crew in Carroll’s opening day over Gulliver, pitching a shutout and hitting a homerun for the only run in a 1-0 victory. Hawkins power is very easy and his blast to CF off Ivan Paleaz was one of the more impressive takeaway moments from the tournament. Hawkins is an OF prospect but pitched 90-92, topping at 93 with feel for a curveball. There are still some questions about Hawkins swing and ability to hit offspeed pitches, but his athleticism and strength allows him to dominate now and projects well in the future.

3. Lucas Sims, 2012, RHP, Brookwood (GA)

Sims did not have his best stuff Wednesday, but he was still impressive, working 90-92 with a couple of 93s and one 94. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and found feel for his curveball in the middle innings, throwing it at 74-76 with late break. His 81-83 mph changeup has good arm action, but due to his dominance with the FB/CB combo he doesn’t have to use the change much and therefore doesn’t have consistent feel for the pitch. Strong and athletic with room to add strength, Sims figures to be a high round draft pick.

4. Joey Gallo, 2012, 3B/RHP, Bishop Gorman (NV)

Gallo struggled at the plate in Cary, swinging and missing a lot, especially against soft stuff away. His bat speed and power potential are evident and some of the best in the class. He is a very good defensive 3B with a cannon arm and figures to stay at the position. Gallo’s most impressive moments came on the mound, where he showed the highest velos of the week. His fastball sat 93-95, with reports of 96, 97 and 98 on some guns. His arm is very fast and he also showed a hard curveball at 74-76 with depth and solid two-plane break as well as a 79-81 slider. Gallo has been thought of as mostly a position player in the past, but he is a premium pick at either position.

5. Jeremy Martinez, 2013, C, Mater Dei (CA)

Martinez continues to show why he is one of the top ranked players in the 2013 class. Strong with athleticism, Martinez has an ideal catcher’s frame. He receives and blocks very well and has easy arm strength. Most teams didn’t dare run on him, as he was consistently 1.91 to 1.95 in between innings. Martinez’s skills behind the plate overshadow his hitting skills, but he has strength bat speed and a very good approach at the plate. Martinez has all the tools to be a very high pick next year.

6. Zach Collins, 2013, C, American Heritage (FL)

One of the debates over the summer and through next spring figures to be who is top catcher in the 2013 class. Martinez, Collins, Resse McGuire (WA) and Chris Okey (FL) are all ranked in the Top 25 of PG’s rankings. Based on what they showed in Cary I have Martinez slightly ahead. Collins has more bat speed and squares pitches up more regularly, but is behind Martinez defensively. The results that Collins produces cannot be argued, but there is a some worry about a late bat waggle. At present, his hands are quick and strong enough for it to work, although it remains to be seen if he can do so consistently against low-90s fastballs. The tools are evident and on pure bat speed no one in the tournament can match Collins.

7. Ryan McMahon, 2013, 3B, Mater Dei (CA)

A relative unknown before the tournament, McMahon jumped out in a big way. A quarterback on the Mater Dei football team, McMahon has a long, lean 6-foot-3, 180-pound build. He projects to fill out more and already has good strength. McMahon first stood out with his instincts, quick twitch athleticism and arm strength at 3B. He has a strong approach and smooth swing at the plate, and was circled on most scout’s rosters before he crushed a long home run to right center field in Saturday’s championship game. McMahon put his name on the map in a big way in Cary.

8. Adrian Marin, 2012, SS, Gulliver Prep (FL)
9. Brandon Lopez, 2012, SS, American Heritage (FL)

I tend to group Marin and Lopez together as they have a similar build and both play SS for a top team in Miami as well as being double play partners as members of South Florida Elite Squad. Lopez is the better defender by a slim margin with more range and arm strength. Marin runs a little better and has a very quick bat, evidenced once again as he ripped a line drive to center field off of a 93 mph Joey Gallo fastball. Lopez projects to stay at SS and be a plus defender while Marin could stay at short but might profile better at second. Marin gets the slight nod here as his feel for the game is so good, as one scout pointed out when he and I were comparing and contrasting the two and he said, “They are pretty even to me, but Marin has that internal clock that you can’t teach. He never has to rush anything and he is always in the right place at the right time.”

10. Matt Olson, 2012, 1B/RHP, Parkview (GA)

Big time power is what Olson brings to the table. He had one of the biggest eye opening hits of the tournament, taking Max Fried out to right-center field off of a low-90s fastball. Olson’s body looks better than last summer, and he is a solid runner and good first base defender. He also is a very good high school pitcher, touching 90 in a six inning, one run performance. With Olson and Jason Sierra, Vanderbilt has two of the top bats in attendance locked up.

11. Jack Flaherty, 2014, 3B/RHP, Harvard-Westlake (CA)

Flaherty is a young prospect who has earned rave reviews for over a year now. This was the first time PG had seen him live, and he didn’t disappoint, pitching at 85-87 with a very good changeup in Wednesday’s opener, before showing arm strength, speed, and very good infield tools the rest of the tournament while playing 3B. Flaherty can really run and center field might be a good spot to use his speed and athleticism. He is raw with the bat but has a good approach and loose bat speed. It is easy to dream on Flaherty throwing in the low-90s, running a 6.6 and showing over the fence power in a showcase setting in the next two years.

12. Anfernee Grier, 2013, SS/RF/RHP, Russell County (AL)

Grier brings lots of athleticism and bat speed to the table. He currently plays SS, but profiles well in RF as his arm plays there. Some also see him as a second baseman with Brandon Phillips being the comp. I had heard about Grier’s power but he impressed with his overall hit tool. He made adjustments, had a very good idea and showed the ability to use the whole field, although it is evident his intent is to pull the ball.

13. Ty Moore, 2012, OF/RHP, Mater Dei (CA)

Moore is a pure hitter, plain and simple. His approach and swing are a bit unorthodox, but he hits. Moore was also the emotional leader of Mater Dei and he is one of the more intense and animated players you will see on the field. He also showed over the fence power with a homer to right field that was probably the farthest hit ball of the tournament. Moore’s bat will carry him, but he is also a solid runner and OF defender and was up to 87 on the mound.

14. Joe Corrigan, 2013, 1B, Harvard-Westlake (CA)

I have seen nearly all the players ranked in the Top 100 of Perfect Game’s 2013 rankings and for my money I can’t find a right-handed hitter with a better present hit tool. Corrigan is strong, balanced, uses the whole field and feasts on mistakes, driving the ball to both alleys. He hit leadoff, but was HW’s best hitter over the week. Corrigan played 1B and has the athleticism to play third base or left field.

15. Chris Chinea, 2012, C, Gulliver Prep (FL)

Chinea is a rock solid performer. He has been to over a dozen PG events and seems to always perform. Strong and athletic, he was one of the top defensive catchers in Cary, and while he didn’t square many pitches up, he is strong with a quick bat and has very good pitch recognition. Chinea throws well and is the steady leader on a Gulliver team that, while supremely talented, has a lot of youth on its roster.

16. Arden Pabst, 2013, C, Harvard-Westlake (CA)

Pabst doesn’t have the raw tools of Martinez or Collins but he has a very strong, well-rounded tool set. He could catch for most DI colleges right now as he is a very good receiver with strong hands and quick feet. At the plate he makes a lot of contact, squaring up balls and driving line drives to most gaps. Pabst is the type of players who coaches love and is a competitor and leader on the field.

17. Ryan Burr, 2012, RHP, Highlands Ranch (CO)

Burr is very early in his high school season, and is almost two months behind the players from California, Florida and Georgia as the long Colorado winter prevents much until mid-March. Burr sat 89-91 touching 92 and threw his curve at 74-76 and his change at 80-82. Burr was physically leaner than last summer and has room to add strength. Burr’s velocity was a couple of ticks below his normal range. Troublesome for most scouts is his deep, stiff grab in back, which hinders the path of his arm. He does show solid arm quickness and figures to gain more velo as gets a few more innings under his belt.

18. Davis Tominaga, RHP/1B, Mater Dei (CA)

Tominaga was another player who was a revelation in North Carolina. He was 87-89 on the mound, touching 91 with an easy arm action. He has a long, smooth arm action and showed the ability to repeat that arm action on his curveball and changeup. While not a standout athlete, Tominaga can really hit too. He has loose bat speed and drove the ball to left-center during the first two days before dropping the bat head and driving a game tying homer out of Coleman Field in the championship game.

19. Shaun Anderson, 2013, RHP, American Heritage (FL)

Anderson projects to be very good. The current product is strong as he sits comfortably 86-88, and will touch an 89 and 90 on occasion. Anderson is strong with a big lower half and broad shoulders and projects to gain more strength as he continues to mature physically. There were at least a dozen pitchers who showed comparable velocity to Anderson, but what set him apart was a swing-and-miss slider at 78-81 that baffled Harvard-Westlake. The pitch has sharp break and is thrown on an angle that makes it almost impossible to hit. Anderson has good command of it, throwing it low and away to right-handers, making it very tough to lay off of or make hard contact with.

20. Eric Neitzel, 2012, LF/3B, Gulliver Prep (FL)

Netizel played both LF and 3B and has the athleticism to play both, although his arm might push him to left. Neitzel can really swing it. He has a loose swing and projects to hit for both average and power in the future. Like his teammate Chinea, Neitzel has been a steady performer at numerous PG events. The most impressive at-bats Neitzel took were against Gallo. Gulliver is a very good fastball hitting team and even their 7-9 batters fouled off nearly all of Gallo’s 92-94 mph fastballs. Neitzel saw Gallo’s curveball well and took some of the best swings against it, a very good sign as he will be facing that type of pitching a lot in the future.

21. Zach Lovvorn, 2012, RHP/RF, Oxford (AL)

Lovvorn threw Friday afternoon after most MLB scouts had already hit the road, and they missed an impressive performance by the athletic righty. Lovvorn was 88-90 and up to 91 with a loose, easy arm action and very good arm quickness. As impressive as his velocity was he also throws two very good off-speed pitches, a 75-77 mph curveball with depth and an 80-81 mph changeup that comes out of his hand well. Lovvorn had command of everything he threw and showed the ability to pitch backwards.

22. Brandon Perez, 2015, SS, Mater Dei (CA)

The 2015 is not a typo as Perez does everything like a 2012 grad, and he looks the part with an athletic build that has with some stockiness in the lower half. He shows easy defensive actions and plenty of arm strength. At the plate he showed a very good approach and handled 90 mph velocity with ease. A college coach in attendance remarked, “He could play at most mid-major DIs right now.” Perez is 15-years old and doesn’t turn 16 until November. He might be the best freshman baseball player in the country.

23. Domenick Mancini, RHP, American Heritage (FL)

Another member of Heritage’s strong stable of arms, Mancini can really pitch. Long and athletic with strength, Mancini sat 87-89 touching 90. His arm works very well and his cutter was also a very good pitch. Mancini’s arm works very well and he has showed a velocity jump each of the last two summers, meaning more could be in store.

24. Josh Hart, 2013, CF, Parkview (GA).

Hart is no stranger to PG scouts and he has continued to progress since we first saw him dominating as a 14-year old. Hart is an above average runner, with a solid arm in CF that plays a bit better because of a quick release, and he has a very good overall feel for the game. He led off Thursday’s game with a hit to the left-center gap off of Max Fried and proved to be a terror on the bases. Once Hart learns to hit the ball on the ground and use his legs rather than try to elevate pitches he could be a dynamic player at the top of a lineup.

25. Rock Rucker, 2012, RF/LHP, Russell County (AL)

We had heard reports that Rucker had been in the low-90s on the mound this spring, where we have seen him at times in the past. He was 85-87 Thursday, but the ball jumps out of hand. Rucker stood out more as a positional prospect, as he projects as an average runner and an arm that will play in right field. At the plate he has loose bat speed, is very aggressive and shows power to the pull side as well as the other way.

Others Deserving Mention

Edwin Arias, 2012, SS, Parkview (GA)
Gabriel Aurrecoechea, 2012, CF, American Heritage (FL)
Marvin Campos, 2012, 2B, George Washington (NY)
Michael Cantu, 2014, C, Corpus Christi Carroll (TX)
Clint Carr, 2012, C, Brookwood (GA)
Kyle Carter, 2012, LHP/CF, Columbus (GA)
Todd Dial, 2013, RHP, Russell County (AL)
Brandon Diaz, 2012, LHP, American Heritage (FL)
Spencer Draws, 2012, SS, Columbus (GA)
Joe Dunand, 2014, 3B/1B, Gulliver Prep (FL)
Nick Durazo, 2012, LHP, Lee County (NC)
Ricky Eusebio, 2012, CF, Gulliver Prep (FL)
Jarrett Freeland, 2013, C, Parkview (GA)
Matthew Goodson, 2012, CF, Oxford (AL)
JJ Gould, 2012, SS, Sarasota (FL)
Tanner Gardner, SS, Oxford (AL)
Henry Hernandez, RF, Gulliver Prep (FL)
Danny Mars, 2012, CF, Sarasota (FL)
Mac Marshall, 2014, LHP, Parkview (GA)
Jason Martin, 2013, LF, Orange Lutheran (CA)
Josh Morgan, 2014, 3B, Orange Lutheran (CA)
Jesse Nelson, 2013, RHP/3B, Russell County (AL)
Ivan Pelaez, 2012, LHP, Gulliver Prep (FL)
Esteban Puerta, 2012, LF, American Heritage (FL)
Chase Radan, 2012, RHP, Mater Dei (CA)
Nelson Rodriguez, 2012, C, George Washington (NY)
Alex Seibold, 2012, RHP, American Heritage (FL)
Jason Sierra, 2013, 1B, Sarasota (FL)
Johny Sewald, 2012, CF, Bishop Gorman (NV)
Tucker Simpson, 2012, RHP, Oxford (AL)
Jackson Stephens, 3B/RHP, Oxford (AL)
Hunter Swilling, 2013, RHP/2B, Columbus (GA)
AJ Van Meetren, 2012, LF, Bishop Gorman (NV)
Art Moran-Vidrio, 2012, LHP, Orange Lutheran (CA)
Hunter Webb, 2013, CF, Russell County (AL)
Brent Wheatley, 2012, RHP, Orange Lutheran (CA)
Danny Zardon, 2013, 3B, American Heritage (FL)

By Gregg Lerner

Weekend Wrap-up

Not much to wrap up thanks to Mother Nature’s disinterest in the wellbeing of Opening Day. The rain washed out most of the schedule on Saturday with only a handful of games played.

Probably the biggest development came on Sunday with No. 1 Don Bosco Prep (1-1), which pinned Georgetown Prep with an 8-1 loss on Saturday, falling to Calvert Hall of Maryland, 9-8. There’s really no shame in this setback when you consider Calvert Hall is ranked No. 1 by the Baltimore Sun for its area.

Furthermore, there’s no time for licking wounds. The Ironmen returned to Jersey to face Clifton today before St. Joseph’s of Montvale on Wednesday in a matchup that could feature Tommy Burns of Bosco opposite Rob Kaminsky of St. Joe’s.

Other notable events fom the weekend…

Elizabeth scored a big victory on Saturday with its 4-2 triumph over North Bergen. Strong pitching by Joe Torres coupled with the timely hitting of freshman shortstop Kevin Campbell keyed the victory.

Steve Cuccio and Karl Pappacena each unloaded a home run in support of winning pitcher Jeff Oster as Jefferson embarked on its campaign with an 8-0 shutout over Wallkill Valley.

Jimmy Chanda punctuated a 3-for-3 showing at the plate with a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the seventh that lifted West Morris past Iselin Kennedy, 3-2. Solid showing on the mound by Michael Fuela, who tossed a four-hitter with no walks and seven strikeouts to notch the decision.

Michael Doran set the bar pretty high for himself this spring. The senior righty kicked off the season by firing a five-inning perfect game to send St. Peter’s Prep past Oratory, 11-0. Doran fanned 10.

Games to Watch for Monday, April 2

Millburn at Seton Hall Prep, 4
Not a bad matchup to start the Super Essex Conference season with. A case can be made that these are the two frontrunners for the American Division title so a win will give the victor a huge leg up in what forecasts to be a highly-competitive chase for the crown.

Chances are No. 3 Seton Hall will put the ball in the hand of senior right-hander Mike Sheppard III, a St. John’s recruit eager to pick up where he left off last season, when he crafted a 7-0 record and 1.55 ERA. Millburn, ranked sixth, will most likely counter with David Talpalar, a poised sophomore who won’t buckle under the glare of this marquee opener. Talpalar was 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA as a frosh.

Baseball preview, 2012

Bob Behre, March 31, 2012 12:01 a.m.

Mark Tomei of South Plainfield was an All-State selection last season. – (Frank H. Conlon/For The Star-Ledger)


John Brue, Gloucester Catholic, Sr.: All-State first baseman batted .557, drove in 56 runs, scored 42 runs and hit nine home runs among his 20 extra-base hits. He’s committed to St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia.

Kevin Bradley, Hopewell Valley, Sr.:The 6-2, 195-pound shortstop bound for Clemson is the son of Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley. He batted .446, hit 7 home runs and had 39 RBI.

Joe Brooks, Gloucester Catholic, Sr.: Outstanding infielder committed to East Carolina batted .444 with seven doubles, eight triples, four home runs, scored 41 runs and drove in 43 runs.

Sam Burum, Robbinsville, Sr.: Right-hander committed to Seton Hall  was 7-0 with 1.01 ERA. He has both a very good cut fastball and change-up. Fastball hits mid to upper 80s.

Tommy Burns, Don Bosco Prep, Sr.: Right-hander was the reliable No. 2 in the rotation last year when the team went 25-1 and he posted a 9-0 record and 1.53 ERA.

Matt Dacey, Don Bosco Prep, Sr.: First baseman headed to Michigan next fall provides major thunder in the potent Bosco lineup. He batted .461, hit 8 home runs and drove in 33 runs.

Joe Dudek, Christian Brothers, Jr.: The 6-2, 200-pound lefty-hitting North Carolina commit instilled fear in Shore Conference pitchers as a sophomore, batting .352 with 5 home runs.

Jarret DeHart, Shawnee, Jr.: The outfielder/first baseman committed early to LSU after missing his sophomore season due to wrist surgery. But the 6-2, 215-pounder turned heads with six doubles and four home runs as a freshman.

Zach Gray, Morristown-Beard, Sr.: The 6-0, 200-pound first baseman bound for Lehigh batted .527 with 27 RBI, scored 25 runs and had a fielding percentage of .995.

Marshall Harden, Steinert, Sr.: Shortstop batted .412 with 4 home runs and 29 RBI and was 4-1 on the mound with a 1.89 ERA. He’s committed to University of Pennsylvania.

Max Herrmann, Montclair Kimberley, Sr.: Rhode Island-bound lefty was 6-2 with a 1.12 ERA, striking out 49 and walking 17 in 54 innings. Younger brother of Cleveland Indians reliever Frank Herrmann.

George Iskenderian, Don Bosco Prep, Sr.: Outstanding all-around player at shortstop has shown penchant for the clutch hit. South Carolina-bound infielder batted .421 with 28 RBI last year.

Rob Kaminsky, St. Joseph (Mont.), Jr.: The left-hander clocked at 91 was 5-4 with a 1.85 ERA and struck out 89 in 53 innings. Outstanding hitter had 25 extra-base hits and batted .534.

James Locklear, Steinert, Sr.: Rider-bound outfielder batted .522 with 18 extra-base hits and 27 RBI. Plays a flawless left field, chasing down balls few others get to.

Chris Oakley, St. Augustine, Jr.: Listed as a newcomer in St. Augustine’s preview, the 6-7, 240-pounder won’t be overlooked. He put on a show at the Perfect Game junior showcase with a 90-plus fastball and nasty curve. He’s committed to North Carolina.

James O’Rourke, Westfield, Sr.: Prototypical speedy center fielder made a circus catch in Group 4  state final last year. He batted .412, scored 43 runs, drew 18 walks for 25-5 Group 4 runner-up.

Kenny Roder, Hoboken, Sr.: A strike-throwing machine, the 5-7, 155-pounder amassed 137 strikeouts and walked just 10 batters in 82 innings. He was 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA.

Mike Roethke, Immaculata, Sr.: Conversion from outfield to catcher last year only impacted his offense positively. The Moravian-bound backstop batted .473, drove in 47 runs and struck out just four times.

Kidane Rutty, St. Mary (Ruth.), Sr.: The lefty-hitting 5-10, 190-pound center fielder had staggering 2011 offensive output, batting .637 with 9 HR, 53 RBI and 25 extra-base hits.

Andrew Schorr, Audubon, Sr.: The lefty missed most of the past two high school seasons due to separate injuries. He’s pitched well enough in summers and falls, though, to earn a scholarship to East Carolina.

Mike Shawaryn, Gloucester Catholic, Jr.: The 6-3, 180-pounder moves to front of rotation for the 2011 Star-Ledger’s No. 1 team. He was 7-0 with 1.56 ERA as a sophomore and has huge upside.

Mike Sheppard III, Seton Hall Prep, Sr.: The 6-1, 175-pounder committed to St. John’s after posting a 7-0 record with a 1.55 ERA. He has a 90-plus fastball and knee-buckling curveball.

Keith Skinner, Gov. Livingston, Sr.: The 6-1, 185-pound catcher bound for Fairfield had batted .463 with 50 hits, 22 for extra-bases and had 39 RBI for 2011 Group 2 champion.

Mark Tomei, South Plainfield, Sr.: The lefty-hitting All-State outfielder batted .496 with 34 extra-base hits, including nine home runs. He drove in 26 runs as a lead-off batter.

Connor White, Wall, Sr.: The 5-9, 165-pound catcher bound for Monmouth University plays big. He batted .518, hit 4 home runs and drove in 27 runs. He also had 11 stolen bases.



Favorite: Jackson has added a transfer, senior Brian Kenny from Colts Neck, to an already solid pitching rotation. Kenny joins seniors Brandon Holup (5-3, 2.16 ERA), Alex Daniele (4-0, 1.91) and Keith Jennings (1-0, 3.09) in the rotation. The lineup features junior catcher Matt Thaiss (.310, 6 HRs, 20 RBI), a Virginia recruit who missed three weeks last year due to a hip injury, senior middle infielder Joe Ogren (.447, 6 HRs, 23 RBI), junior shortstop Spencer Young (.389), sophomore first baseman Mike Guarino (.316) and senior third baseman Mike Folk (.263). Group 4 is deep but balanced and features standout squads from every section of the state.

Contenders: Cherokee, Montclair, Hillsborough, Millville, Eastern, Watchung Hills, Hunterdon Central, Middletown North, Toms River North, North Bergen.


Favorite: Millburn, the 2011 NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 champion, returns the heart of its lineup and much of its pitching from a year ago. The team boasted a 2.38 ERA and an aggressive lineup that accounted for 126 stolen bases. Freshmen David Talpalar and Milo Freeman emerged as major contributors in 2011. Talpalar (3-1, 1.84 ERA) was unflappable in defeating then-No. 9 Seton Hall Prep, then-No. 11 West Essex and, finally, shutting out Mendham in the sectional final. Freeman (.325, 22 RBI) assumed major responsibilities at shortstop and in batting clean-up. Senior center fielder Will Fitzgerald (.354, 34 stolen bases) remains a headache at the plate and on the bases. Also returning are senior third baseman Anthony DelGreco (.298), junior first baseman/RHP Ian Riddell (.355, 4-0, 3.25). Sophomore righty Evy Ruibal, who missed 2011 to an injury, throws in the upper 80s. Senior Corey Abrams (1-1) and sophomore Ethan Mintz (1-0) gained valuable innings on the mound last year.

Contenders: Wall, Ramapo, Cranford, Jackson Liberty, Old Tappan, Morristown, Paramus, Moorestown.


Favorite: Robbinsville will be guided by senior right-hander Sam Burum (7-0, 1.01 ERA), who  anchors a three-man rotation. The Seton Hall University-bound Burum has a nasty cutter and a change-up he’s honed since his freshman year. Junior righty Steve Krebs (2-1, 4.40 ERA) and sophomore righty Anthony DeChiara (3-0, 1.35) round out the front of the rotation. Freshman Michael Fischer will eat up some innings. Senior righty Adam Vorraso was 7-2 with a 3.28 ERA mostly in relief a year ago and he’ll close this spring. The lineup lost five starters but the 2011 Mercer County champion returns critical ingredients. Matt Mindnick moves from second base to shortstop and bats second, No. 3 hitter C.J. Gearhart (.303) moves behind the plate, clean-up hitter Matt Samel (.333) will play both third base and first base and work long relief. Ryan Fleming moves from left field to center field.

Contenders: Gov. Livingston, Middlesex, Buena, Madison, Dumont, Manchester Twp., Barnegat.


Favorite: Audubon is favored to repeat as the state champion. Pitching depth steered by a pair of lefty frontline starters and a strong nucleus of returnees to its potent lineup give longtime coach Rich Horan reason to be optimistict. Senior lefthanders Kevin Kraemer (5-2, 2.18 ERA) and Andrew Schorr will lead the staff. Schorr broke his leg sophomore year and fractured his knee cap last year to miss almost all of two seasons, but still earned a scholarship to East Carolina. Sophomore righty Kevin Terifay and junior righty Zach Welsher round out the staff. The big bats will be provided by catcher Boomer Wickersham (.550, 44 RBI), third baseman Keith Michalski (.471, 8 HRs, 40 RBI), second baseman Justin Jannetti (.432), and right fielder Welsher (.500 in 18 games)

Contenders: Emerson Boro, Ridgefield, Pitman, Metuchen, Hoboken, Point Pleasant Beach


Favorite: Gloucester Catholic returns quality pitching and six starters who batted above .400 from the 2011 NJSIAA Non-Public B championship team. Gloucester Catholic also finished No. 1 in The Star-Ledger Top 20 for the second time in school history. Junior right-hander Mike Shawaryn (7-0, 1.56 ERA) anchors the staff. Senior outfielder/first baseman John Brue (.557, 9 HRs, 56 RBI) and senior second baseman/catcher Joe Brooks (.444, 19 extra-base hits, 43 RBI) steer a ferocious offense that also includes second baseman Pat Kane (.469),  third baseman Brett Tenuto (.477), shortstop Rob Alessandrine (.451) and catcher/outfielder Elliott Cummings (.435). Coach Dennis Barth begins his 19th season with a 457-90-1 career record. His team moves up to Non-Public A where it will have to navigate a brutal South Jersey section that includes Red Bank Catholic, Immaculata, St. Augustine and St. Joseph of Metuchen just to reach the state final.

Contenders: Don Bosco Prep, Red Bank Catholic, Seton Hall Prep, St. Augustine, Immaculata, Delbarton, Bergen Catholic, St. Joseph (Mont.), St. Joseph (Met.), Christian Brothers Academy.


Favorite: St. Mary of Rutherford  will play by the theme “unfinished business” after it felt it let a sectional championship slip away in a 5-4 loss to Newark Academy in last year’s North Jersey, Non-Public B final. It returns four pitchers with an ERA under three runs, including senior righty Bryan Cuevas (7-1). Seniors Jack Montgomery and Anthony Ferrentino and sophomore Willie Kranjik round out the pitching staff. They’ll throw to catcher Dan Bielitz, a three-year starter. Cuevas (.535, 38 RBI), at shortstop, and Kidane Rutty, in center fielder, provide a powerful punch to the lineup. Rutty, a Second Team All-State selection in 2011, batted .580 with nine home runs and 53 RBI. Kranjik, the third baseman, has bulked up and will provide plenty of pop from the lead off spot in the order. The team embarks on an ambitious non-conference schedule that includes Don Bosco Prep, St. Peter’s Prep, St. Joseph of Montvale, Bergen Catholic, Paramus and Holy Spirit.

Contenders: Montclair Kimberley, Morristown-Beard, Newark Academy, Marist, Roselle Catholic.

Semifinal Epic

While Mater Dei moved on to the championship with a win over Sarastoa, American Heritage and Harvard Westalke had a classic ballet, the two teams battled to a 0-0 throught eight frames with Westalke scoring on a Max Fried groundball in the 9th inning.

Random Notes and Observations

Heritage RHP Shaun Anderson is going to be very good. Fastball was 86-88 comfortably up to 90. He is strong with smooth arm action. He threw an almost unhittable slider at 79-81 that HW had trouble even fouling off. He is a Florida commit and has a very bright future.

Parkview distinguished themselves as the best team in Georgia this week. Matt Olson is their top bat and has shown light tower power. Edwin Arias is as good a shortstop as we have seen and 2013s OF Josh Hart and C Jarrett Freeland are prospects to watch.

Russell County RHP Todd Dial was up to 89 and his arm works very well. Teammate Rock Rucker has a very solid hit tool and sprayed three hits today after showing big pop yesterday.

George Washington 2B Marvin Campos looks the part at 2B and has loose arm strength and athleticism.

Mater Dei’s Ryan McMahon continues to show himself very well. Long, lean, projectable and athletic, he is a strong 3B defender and a very good LH bat who can go to all fields. He projects as anyone in Cary this week.

Mater Dei SS Brandon Perez plays a strong SS and hits for one of the top teams in the country. If there are better players in the 2015 class we have not seen them yet.

Zach Lovvorn was very good on the mound for Oxford. 88-90 up to 91 with very good feel for 75-77 mph curveball and 80-81 mph changeup. Loose and easy arm action, good athlete.

Harvard Westlake 1B Joe Corrigan has as good of present hit tool as you will find in the 2013 class. -Jack Flaherty continues to show why he is one of the top 2014s the country.
Danny Zardon had a big day for American Heritage, smooth with everything, pop in bat, big arm strength at 3B.

Gabriel Aurrocchea is a quality leadoff hitter for Heritage with a quick bat, very good approach at the plate. He also defends well and made a tough sliding catch in left-center field.

Best of Friday

Best Pitcher: Shaun Anderson, RHP American Heritage

Best Hitter: Joe Corrigan, 1B, Harvard-Westlake

Most Impressive Win: Harvard-Westlake 1-0 over American Heritage

A Look to Tomorrow

Two SoCal teams will battle for the title. Mater Dei will throw RHP Chase Radan who was 86-88 and touched 90 in a relief stint Friday against RHP Brandon Deere for HW

An argument can be made for American Heritage and Gulliver but it is same to say Mater Dei and Harvard-Westlake are the two best teams in North Carolina this week.

Bishop Gorman vs. Columbus is as good of matchup as you could ask for, as is Parkview vs. Gulliver Prep. While the top 2012 draft prospects have been thoroughly scouted, the tournament has dozens of top underclassmen that continue to make a lot of noise.

Fried, Gallo, Hawkins Highlight Day 2

3/29/2012 10:32:52 PM

Hawkins, Gallo, Fried Provide Highlights

Three Perfect Game All-Americans were the talk of Thursday’s National High School Invitational. Carroll RHP Courtney Hawkins dominated a 1-0 win over Gulliver Prep with both his arm and his bat. Allan Simpson has the story here.

Hawkins threw 5+ innings working 89-91 with his fastball, topping out at 93. His curveball was a solid compliment at 76-79 and he also flashes a changeup at 80-82. The big story was Hawkins at the plate.

After popping up on a changeup in his first AB, Hawkins delivered in his 2nd plate appearance. He drove a long homer on an 86 mph Ivan Paleaz fastball just to the left of the center field batters. The ball got out quickly and carried well. The scary thing is Hawkins probably didn’t even completely square it up. His bat speed and strength are very evident at the plate.

Gallo took the mound at 1:15 and showed the hardest velo of any pitcher that has taken the mound so far in Cary. Rumors of Gallo’s top velo flew around the USA Complex as soon as he walked off the mound. Here is what my gun showed. Fastball comfortably 91-93, two 94s, one 95. He was 91-93 from the stretch, also throwing a 74-76 mph curveball and 79-81 mph slider. His curveball was his out pitch as Gulliver hitters handled his fastball very well.

Fried’s start had a ton of buzz and the lean, lanky Cali lefty lived up to it. He allowed a pair of first inning runs to a very good Parkview but bore down and was impressive the rest of the way. He sat comfortably 89-91, but showed the ability to reach back and get a little more when needed, hitting a number of 92 and 93s and a few 94s. The most impressive part might have been his 94 mph velo in the 5th and 92 in the 7th. Fried’s curveball was a solid out pitch with 12/6 downer break with average sharpness. He controlled it well and kept it low in the zone, mostly using it with two strikes. He also showed a usable changeup at 78-80 with some arm side run.

Random Notes and Observations

-Hawkins bomb was not the only homer of the day. Ty Moore went deep on the stadium in Mater Dei’s thrashing of Carroll and Matt Olson took Fried deep in the 4th inning. No surprise that these players are considered the top bats in their restrictive states.

-Mater Dei pounded out 12 runs on 16 hits in their win over Carroll. Other than the top prospects in attendance, the biggest storyline continues to be Mater Dei’s offense. The approach, bat speed and strength up and down the lineup is the best I’ve seen from a HS team.

-Gulliver’s bats are for real. They were completely unfazed by Gallo’s low to mid 90s heat. Two underclassmen stood out at the plate. RF Henry Hernandez and 3B Joe Dunand. LF Eric Neitzel is strong and loose with the bat and has looked very good at the plate, and C Chris Chinea and SS Adrian Marin are two of the most talented and steadiest players in the state.

-American Heritage may have the most complete team here with a combination of hitting ability, power, speed, defense and pitching. Domenick Mancini was very impressive on the mound sitting 88-90 with an arm that works very well. They still have Florida commit RHP Shaun Anderson and LHP Brandon Diaz, a Stetson commit available for the next two days. Anderson figures to get the start tomorrow, and Diaz threw an inning of impressive relief yesterday and two more today.

Best of Thursday

Best Pitcher: Max Fried, LHP Harvard-Westlake

Best Hitter: Counrtney Hawkins, Carroll

Most Impressive Win: Mater Dei 12-0 over Carroll

A Look to Tomorrow

Semifinal matchups are Sarasota vs. Mater Dei and Harvard-Westlake vs. American Heritage. Both semifinals will be streamed live on Heritage, Mater Dei and Westlake have been the consensus three best teams so far.

Parkview vs. Russell County and Columbus vs. Gulliver are two very intriguing matchups, as is Bishop Gorman vs. Carroll.

All the top pitching has thrown so scouts will zero in more on the top position prospects in action. @PGbcollman for updates throughout the day


Burr, Sims, SoCal Teams Highlight NHSI Day One
3/28/2012 9:53:36 PM

Burr vs. Sims

Wednesday’s main attraction was Highlands Ranch (CO) vs. Brookwood (GA) and more specifically the pitching matchup featuring two Perfect Game All-Americans, Ryan Burr and Lucas Sims. Here are brief scouting reports on each pitcher.

Burr looked physically leaner than in August’s All-American game and could add some muscle to his frame. In the first inning he worked 89-91 with his fastball touching 92 once. He was back up to 91 in the 2nd before settling in at 88-90. He worked mostly off his fastball , also showing a curveball at 74-76 with solid shape although most ended up in the left-handed batters box. He also showed a changeup at 80-82 that came out of his hand fairly well and had some fade at the tail end. His command was a bit inconsistent throughout and he shows arm quickness, although a deep, stiff grab in the back hinders the path of his arm circle and affects the arm speed on his off-speed pitches. He moved well off the mound and fielded his position.

Sims has an athletic build with present strength. There is some leanness and he projects to fill out a bit more in the future. His fastball touched 94 in the first and bumped a 93 in the 2nd and 4th, sitting consistently 90-92. His curveball was inconsistent early but he settled in to throw some with late horizontal break, but minimal depth at 74-76. He also threw a changeup at 81-83 with solid arm speed although the pitch was inconsistent coming out of the hand. Sims has a slow tempo delivery in which he speeds up and slows down a couple of times and has a short arm circle in the back. His arm is loose, but not quite free and easy as he seems to let up a bit in order to save control. His finish is also abbreviated for this reason. Sims is a good athlete who fields his position and is one of Brookwood’s best hitters.

SoCal Dominance

The biggest storyline of Wednesday was the impressive wins by three Southern California teams. Harvard Westlake took down Russell County (AL), Orange Lutheran handed Columbus (GA) their first loss and Mater Dei had a statement win by pounding No.1 ranked Bishop Gorman (NV).

Westlake got a big performance from sophomore RHP Jack Flaherty, which is recapped by PG’s Allan Simpson and also boast OF Joe Corrigan (2013), 1B Kenny Grodin (2013), SS Brian Ginsberg (2014), and C Arden Pabst (2013) all high D1 talents and impact hitters. LHP Max Fried takes the mound tomorrow for HW. Wednesday’s pitcher’s duel was the 1-0 battle won by Orange Lutheran over Columbus (GA). Kyle Carter (Columbus) and Art Moran Vidrio (Orange) battled for seven innings with Vidrio picking up the win as he was 84-86 with his fastball, pitching to both sides and also throwing a 72-74 mph curveball and 76-77 mph changeup. Orange has their share of top position prospects as 3B Josh Morgan (2014) and Jason Martin (2013) have lots of athleticism and 1B Tommy Bell (2012) a lot of strength in his swing. They have their ace of their own for tomorrow, USC commit RHP Brent Wheatley.

Mater Dei flat out rakes. One thru nine the Monarchs may have the top lineup in Cary. RF Ty Moore (2012) and Jeremy Martinez (2013) lead the way, but 2B Austin Monte (2013) 1B Ryan McMahon (2013), LF Tyler Adkinson (2013) and CF Austin Grebeck (2013) all can handle the bat. 2015 SS Brandon Perez is a name to remember as you will be hearing a lot about him over the next four years. There are very few freshman in the country as talented as him.

Random Notes and Observations

-American Heritage Brandon Lopez can really play SS. Quick twitch athleticism, hands, feel, arm strength, he’s got it.

-American Heritage C Zach Collins and Russell County SS Anfernee Grier have as much bat speed as any of the players I saw today. Another 2013, Jeremy Martinez should also be thrown in that group.

-Joey Gallo showed off his cannon of an arm twice in the later innings, bringing a slight hush over the crowd.

-After the SoCal teams, American Heritage was the most impressive. Beat Tucker Simpson, all nine players hit, run and defend, and all three arms they threw can beat the potent offenses here.

-George Washington has seven players with the surname Rodriguez which has to be a record.

-Highlands Ranch=Ryan Burr in most people’s minds but Tony Audino and Adam Gauthier are very good players who will play at the next level.v -Tucker Simpson was solid 89-90 up to 91. Jackson Stephens had three hits and looked good at the plate. Stephens and CF Matthew Goodson pass the eye test as well as anyone. Other top bodies: American Heritage OF Kevin Williams, Gallo, HW Joe Corrigan, Mater Dei Ryan McMahon, Orange Jason Martin, Russell County OF BJ Brooks and Rock Rucker.

-Oxford SS Tanner Gardner had one of plays of days going to hold and showing arm strength on a 6-3.

-Russell County RHP Jesse Nelson was 86-88 with loose and easy arm action, easy to see the 89-91 we have heard.

Best of Wednesday

Best Pitcher: Lucas Sims, Brookwood Best Hitter: Ty Moore, Mater Dei

Most Impressive Win: Mater Dei 10-3 over Bishop Gorman

A Look to Tomorrow

Four teams (Carroll, Gulliver Prep, Sarasota, and Lee County) kick off their tournament tomorrow morning.

A few of the probable pitchers for Thursday: Courtney Hawkins, Jackson Stephens, Rock Rucker, Domenick Mancini, Mac Marshall, Max Fried, Brent Wheatley.

Three games stand out: Mater Dei awaits winner of Carroll/Gulliver, Bishop Gorman awaits the loser of that game, Parkview vs. Harvard-Westalke.

Three more games will be broadcast on, with early returns very positive.

Follow @PGbcollman for updates throughout the day

By  Dylan Butler

One all-city player is at the University of Pittsburgh and another is now at Grand Street Campus. Elvin Soto and Kevin Martir were big reasons why Xaverian won its seventh overall CHSAA Class A title and second in four years last June.

But they weren’t the only reasons.

Tommy Midolo, Bob McKenna and Domingo Sosa were all integral in last year’s championship, but all three starters have since graduated.

The Clippers could certainly win again this spring, but they’ll have a much different look.

“We’re trying to put the pieces together,” Xaverian coach Lou Piccola said. “We’re a little bit of a different team. We’re ready to start the season on Tuesday. Like anything else, we’ll go as far as our pitching goes.”

Piccola is relying on five seniors to carry the pitching load. Of the group, Blaise Scerbo has the most experience. He was 4-0 last year and was especially clutch in the postseason, pitching 2.1 innings of scoreless relief in the title game against All Hallows.

“We love Scerbo because he has the experience from last year pitching in big games and he throws strikes,” Piccola said. “The defense loves playing behind him and that gives us a real good chance to win when he’s on the mound because we know he’s going to give us five quality innings.”

John Pena spent last year as the Clippers closer, but the hard-throwing righty has transitioned into one of the top starters this year.

“Pena is more of a power pitcher,” Piccola said. “Like anyone else, when his second pitch is working, coupled with his fastball, he becomes a very effective pitcher.”

Brian Rosa, who mixes things up and has a quality change-up has been a “pleasant surprise,” according to Piccola. He’s joined by Frank Kaplan and Thomas Anselmo, the lone lefty, as the other seniors in the rotation.

“The five seniors will be the core of our pitching and take us wherever we’re going,” Piccola said.

George Washington-bound third baseman Eric Kalman and Boston College commit Gabe Hernandez, who moves from center field to shortstop, are the lone returning starters from a senior-laden squad.

Kalman, who was slowed last year because of a hamstring injury, has a quick bat and can hit to all fields, while Hernandez is a speedy defensive specialist with a strong arm.

Sal Taormina, who came through with some clutch pinch hits during the playoffs last year, will start at first and bat fourth, Julian Lanfranco replaces Sosa at second and junior Zach Candelaria got the nod behind the plate when the Maryland-bound Martir transferred to Grand Street Campus. Martir was expected to replace Soto, now a freshman at Pittsburgh, at catcher.

“He’s a No. 3 batter, an all-city player, the kid’s been a three-year starter, versatile,” Piccola said of Martir. “But you’re forced to make adjustments and hopefully other kids will step up.”

The outfield is entirely new with Keith Moore in center, Andrew Schillaci in left and John DeAngelis in right, though he’s currently injured and is temporarily replaced by younger brother Louis DeAngelis.

Andrew Ruiz will back up Candelaria behind the plate and will also be a designated hitter, while Charles Misiano is a utility infield.

The stacked preseason hasn’t been kind to Xaverian and featured several one-run losses. But that’s by design. Piccola will take March losses for June victories.

“There were a lot of kids who made contributions [last year] and I don’t know if some of our younger kids are ready at this stage,” Piccola said. “I think the preseason was really a great test for them.”

Dennis Bencsko, Delbarton Heading to Lafayette, the senior outfielder is coming off a junior campaign in which he batted .365.

Taylor Blankmeyer, Seton Hall Prep The senior second baseman, who is committed to St. John’s, knocked in 25 runs and accumulated 30 hits and will be a major factor for the perennial Essex County power.

Kevin Bradley, Hopewell Valley Switch-hitting senior shortstop combined contact, strength and opportunism to hit .446 with seven home runs and 38 RBI as a junior. Signed to Clemson, Bradley was named Player of the Year in the highly-competitive Colonial Valley Conference and has started every game since his freshman year at shortstop.

Mike Carter, Bloomfield Expect Carter to wreak havoc at the top of the Bloomfield batting order behind a smooth swing that generated a .382 batting average on the strength of 36 hits. The junior patrols center field with terrific range and the speed that gets him to line drives in the gaps also played a part in his 20 runs and 13 stolen bases.

Zach Cerbo, Bergen Catholic The catcher will not only handle a pitching staff with vast potential, he will help their cause with the bat, which produced a .338 average and 17 RBI last season.

Anthony Ciavarella, Phillipsburg Between his work on the mound (1.73 ERA, 56 Ks, 43 1/3 innings), defense in center field and production with the bat (.375, .462 on-base, .538 slugging), the Monmouth-bound Ciavarella is quite diverse.

Andrew Conklin, Randolph Conklin, a junior second baseman, came through a year ago for the 21-8 Rams by hitting .409 with two homers, 20 RBI and a .494 on-base percentage.

Bryan Cuevas, St. Mary’s (Rutherford)Whether he is atop the mound (7-1) or swinging a bat (.535, six homers, 38 RBI), the senior, who plays strong defensively at shortstop, finds ways to make significant contributions.

Matt Dacey, Don Bosco Prep The senior first baseman, who is committed to Michigan, will be in the heart of a lineup that can absolutely wear out good pitching with its depth of talent. Dacey makes the most of seemingly every plate appearance. He hit .493 with eight home runs and 32 RBI.

Devin DelPriore, Point Pleasant BoroA jack-of-all trades defensively, DelPriore can see time at catcher, shortstop and second baseman. While his position may vary, DelPriore’s swing rarely wavers. He fashioned a .500 batting average in ’11 with 10 doubles among his 35 hits.

Joe Dudek, Christian Brothers The slugging junior first baseman, who has already given a verbal commitment to North Carolina, packs a wallop. Despite being routinely worked around by opposing pitchers, Dudek still batted .352 and launched five homers. He can also come in and fire heat as a reliever.

Brett Ender, Montgomery Great hands and patience, coupled with the power from his core, allows the senior outfielder to drive the ball to all fields. Ender batted .403 overall and proved a quality situational hitter, batting .577 with runners in scoring position.

Will Fitzgerald, Millburn Fitzgerald puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on the defense with his baserunning. The senior center fielder swiped 34 bases in 38 attempts and scored 27 times while batting .354 as a junior.

Tyler Fox, Immaculata The senior outfielder doesn’t waste plate appearances. Fox had a shrewd approach to each at bat and batted .438 with four long balls and 22 RBI.

Milo Freeman, Millburn Only a sophomore, Freeman has already built a reputation as a quality defensive shortstop who can also swing it. Freeman owned a .325 average with 22 RBI last spring.

Angel Garced, Jackson Liberty Soft hands and feet make the junior a reliable defensive centerpiece at shortstop. Garced had four doubles among his 20 hits and has shown steady progress that should continue to ascend in 2012.

Tyler Gargulio, Paramus The speed of the senior center fielder serves Gargulio well both defensively and when he reaches base (.363, 21 stolen bases).

Zach Gray, Morristown-Beard The senior first baseman turned in a monster season in 2011 when he hit .527 with 27 RBI and 25 runs scored. Defensively, Gray is just as solid around the bag.

Cory Hinds, Watchung Hills Watchung Hills features this junior catcher, who seeks to build off a sophomore year stamped by a .452 average, 28 hits and 16 RBI.

Dan Incle, Matawan Hard-hitting junior first baseman cuts an imposing figure in the batter’s box. Incle has a powerful swing that hit at a .367 clip as a sophomore.

George Iskendarian, Don Bosco Prep A slick senior shortstop who is heading to South Carolina, Iskendarian seeks to only build off his showing (.421, 28 RBI) from last spring.

Sean Jones, DePaul Jones will keep runners honest with his strong arm in right field and should provide a spark for the offense (.470, nine doubles, five homers, 33 RBI).

Matt Kleinstein, Colts Neck Besides the sound defense he provides behind the dish, the junior catcher, who recorded 14 assist



USA Baseball Honors National Team Members At NHSIPosted Mar. 30, 2012 8:08 pm by Nathan Rode
Filed under: National High School InvitationalUSA Baseball
Before the first semifinal game of the National High School Invitational, USA Baseball had a small ceremony to honor members of the 16-and-under and 18-and-under national teams that were in attendance.Catchers Arden Pabst and Zack Collins helped the 16U squad win a gold medal against Cuba at the IBAF World Championships in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico, last August. Collins was named to the tournament’s all star team after hitting .500/.590/.875 with three home runs in 32 at-bats. Collins is a junior at American Heritage High (Plantation, Fla.) and committed to Miami.

Pabst is a junior at Harvard-Westlake High (Studio City, Calif.) and was on the field with his head coach, Matt LaCour, who was a coach for the 16U trials last summer. Charlie Spivey, the head coach at Lee County High (Sanford, N.C.), was an assistant coach with team, but his team was had a game during the ceremony.

“It’s awesome,” Collins said of his return to Cary, N.C. “Obviously, Team USA has top of the line players and now we get to play against them.”

On the field representing the 18U team was Joey Gallo and Jeremy Martinez. Nelson Rodriguez, a catcher for Washington High (New York), was also a member of the team, but was playing during the ceremony.

The 18U team had an interesting summer as the Pan Am Championships were delayed until November due to an act of Mother Nature in Cartagena, Colombia. Team USA won the gold medal with a 12-2 win over Canada on Nov. 27. Jeremy Martinez, a junior catcher at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), hit .387/.558/.548 with nine RBIs and 10 runs scored in 31 at-bats. Gallo, a corner infielder and righthander at Bishop Gorman High (Las Vegas), hit .275/.403/.412 and drove in 10 runs in 51 at-bats.

“It’s really cool coming back,” Gallo said. “It’s cool being the guy that knows what’s going on around here because no one else from Vegas has been out here. It’s a weird feeling being here with my high school and not Team USA, but I like it. It’s fun to come back and get the ring that we all worked so hard to get.”

On Thursday, USA Baseball honored two coaches from North Carolina that received awards from the organization. Jeff Hewitt, the head coach at Pinecrest High in Southern Pines, was named the USA Baseball Developmental Coach of the Year. Kerry Kincaid, the former head coach of East Wake High in Wendell, was given USA Baseball’s Volunteer Coach of the Year award.



NHSI Day ThreePosted Mar. 30, 2012 12:04 pm by Nathan Rode
Filed under: Uncategorized
By Alexis BrudnickiAs games finish throughout the day, check this post for final scores, wrap-ups and postgame quotes.

Russell County High (Seale, Ala.) 5, Parkview High (Lilburn, Ga.) 7

Russell county struggled in the field, wasting a solid pitching performance from righthander Todd Dial, as the Parkview Panthers took down the Warriors 7-5 in the first game of Friday’s National High School Invitational action.

Dial went all six innings for Russell County, giving up just one earned run of the seven that the Warriors surrendered, on nine hits, walking two batters and striking out six. The defense behind the righthander committed a total of five errors in the game.

“Horrible defense,” Russell County head coach Tony Rasmus said. “That’s the story of our year. We’ve been absolutely brutal in the field. I tell you what, if I could trade our guys for two or three more fielders, it’d be a good time to do it.

“I’m so sick of seeing errors. Just on routine plays, we just make error after error. All of (the runs) were unearned weren’t they? Todd threw an outstanding game and to get a loss, it’s just terrible. It’s terrible; hard to watch.”

Coming into Friday’s game, Dial had been undefeated through his four trips to the mound. Rasmus has been impressed with his righty on the hill, though he doesn’t garner much attention.

“He’s been up to 91 (mph) earlier in the year,” the Warriors coach said. “He’s a little-bitty guy, so he doesn’t get a lot of love from scouts and whathaveyou, but he’s a good pitcher. He throws a changeup, and a curveball.

“They struggled with him. They started looking off-speed when he was throwing the fastball by them because he doesn’t throw 70. He throws 85-88. It was just a good outing. I think he was 4-0 before this, so this is his first loss of the year.”

Jesse Foster got the start for Parkview and came out on top despite giving up 12 hits to the Warriors. The righthander threw six innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out two. Jack Esmonde came on in relief for the final inning and gave up two runs (one earned) on one hit.

Highlands Ranch (Colo.) High 3, George Washington High (New York) 2

George Washington had their best outing of the tournament so far, with 11 strikeouts from Edwin Corniel in a complete-game effort, but ended up on the losing end of a 3-2 affair with Highlands Ranch.

The Trojans have yet to win a game at the NHSI, but head coach Steve Mandl believes that the team he’s seeing on the field isn’t the same one that he’s seen earlier this year.

“We’re not really showing our true selves out here,” Mandl said. “I’m not sure what’s going on. We came out a little bit better today and I thought we were going to play the way we normally do and then we were ahead, and we threw the ball away, which is what we’ve been doing every game. So it’s too late to do something here but hopefully we can fix it by the time we get home.”

The Trojans recorded just five hits off of Highlands Ranch righthander Tony Audino in his complete-game effort. Audino gave up two runs (one earned), walked three and struck out six.

Though Corniel baffled the Falcons batters, he gave up three runs (two earned) on a total of nine hits. He also walked three batters in the effort. The defense behind him behind him committed one error.

“We’re not doing anything right,” Mandl said. “The defense is really bad, the mental part of the game is really bad, we’re not hitting with any thought. We’re striking out too much, pitchers are throwing too many pitches, they’re walking too many.

“Usually we’re a kind of team that if one facet’s not going right, we can make up for it. But when all four, five or six things are going wrong, it’s hard to win games that way and that’s what we have to try to fix. And we’re sitting down every night, all the coaches, trying to figure out what’s going on. People keep asking me, ‘Are the kids nervous?’ Not at all. Most of them have been on big stages before. We’ve played in championship games in Yankee and Shea Stadium so they’ve gone to all these national showcases. It’s not nervousness, we just can’t figure out what’s going on.”

Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High 7, Brookwood High (Snellville, Ga.) 4

Sophomore righthander Garett King threw a 64-pitch, seven-inning complete game to lead Orange Lutheran to a 7-4 win over Brookwood on Friday.

King allowed four runs (one earned) on seven hits, striking out two in the effort. The fielders behind him committed three errors, but the 15-year-old kept the Lancers in the game.

“(That’s) just what we’ve seen all year from him,” Orange Lutheran head coach Eric Borba said. “For a 15-year-old kid, just a sophomore, it’s just so fun to watch him pitch because he commands three pitches, four pitches actually. And he can throw any pitch at any time.

“He just did a great job. He went seven innings right there with three errors behind him in 64 pitches. And that’s just a little bit about what he does and what we teach our pitchers, to throw strikes and use your defense. Unfortunately we didn’t play very good defense, but he did exactly what we asked.”

The game was tied at four runs apiece heading into the final frame. The Lancers hitters put pressure on the Broncos defense and capitalized on some Brookwood mistakes to plate three in the top of the inning.

“We did some good things offensively,” Borba said. “We put pressure on them and that’s our philosophy. High school kids are going to make mistakes. We had runners on base and put pressure on their defense and made them make plays. And fortunately for us, that pressure paid off because they didn’t make all the plays.”

Allen Tokarz started on the hill for Brookwood. The righthander finished 4 2/3 innings, giving up five hits, four earned runs, four walks and striking out one batter.

Sarasota (Fla.) High 1, Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.) 5

Mater Dei continued to tear through its opponents in the NSHI, taking down Sarasota 5-1 to secure its spot in the championship game on Saturday.

Ty Moore scored the go-ahead run with an RBI-single in the fifth inning. The outfielder went 1-for-2 with a walk, a run scored and two runs driven in on the day.

“He’s impressive,” Monarchs head coach Burt Call said. “He’s one of the best baseball players to come through Mater Dei. He’ll continue to work hard and continue to compete.”

Mater Dei used three pitchers to get through the Sailors lineup. Charlie Vorscheck got the start and went 5 1/3 innings, giving up one run on six hits, walking two and striking out six. Brian Conley came on in relief for 2/3 of an inning, allowing a hit and two walks, also notching a strikeout.

When Conley got into a jam in the final frame, Call went to his bullpen to bring in Chase Radan with the bases juiced. Radan closed out the last inning and struck out one batter.

“That was a heart-stopper,” Call said. “Chase Radan came in and did a great job, especially with bases loaded and nobody out, coming up with some clutch outs for us. So that was huge for us.”

Sarasota proved to be a tougher opponent than many thought as they came into the tournament after losing two of their top players. After winning their first game against Lee County by double digits and upsetting Orange Lutheran in their second game on Thursday, the Sailors kept Mater Dei’s offense to the fewest number of runs they’ve put up so far.

“They did,” Call said of Sarasota giving them a tough time. “I thought their pitcher worked in and out effectively, got ahead in counts and then kept us off-balance. Then they made plays, we hit some balls hard right at them and they were able to make some plays. They’re a good defensive club and they did a great job.”

Righthander Trevor Wilson pitched Sarasota’s third complete game in a row, throwing six innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits, walking three and fanning one batter.

[…] Continue Reading »


NHSI Day TwoPosted Mar. 29, 2012 11:32 am by Nathan Rode
Filed under: National High School Invitational
By Alexis Brudnicki and Jim ShonerdAs games finish throughout the day, check this post for final scores, wrap-ups and postgame quotes.

Sarasota (Fla.) High 14, Lee County High (Sanford, N.C.) 2

Sarasota chased Lee County starter Nick Durazo out of the first game of NHSI action on Thursday, and got to the Yellow Jackets bullpen for nine late runs in a 14-2 win for the Sailors.

Durazo went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on just two hits, walking five and striking out five. The lefthander kept his team in the game for five frames before Sarasota ran away with the game.

“They committed a couple of mistakes that kind of opened the door for us and allowed us to get into their bullpen,” Sarasota head coach Clyde Metcalf said. “And their starter did a great job. He makes his pitches well and he kept us off-balance. Once we got into the bullpen we finally got things going. They made a couple crucial mistakes that opened the door for us and we took advantage of them.”

The Sailors counterpart, Tyler Leonard, threw a complete game, finishing seven innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits with a walk, a hit batsman and six strikeouts.

Eight different Sarasota players drove runs in, and four of those players notched multiple RBIs, but the most impressive player at the plate for Metcalf was Jason Sierra. The utility player went 1-for-4 with a three-base hit, a walk, a run scored and a run driven in.

“The offensive highlight was probably Jason Sierra’s triple,” Metcalf said. “He kind of gave us a nice little cushion. We’ve struggled a little bit on occasion to finish games. It was nice to get four or five runs up.”

Derrick Whitaker and Britt McRae bore the brunt of the damage from the Sailors in relief of Durazo. Out of the bullpen the two pitchers combined for 1 1/3 innings, nine runs (six earned), six hits and three walks.

-Alexis Brudnicki

[…] Continue Reading »


Mater Dei Makes Early Statement At NHSIPosted Mar. 28, 2012 9:05 pm by Nathan Rode
Filed under: National High School InvitationalUSA Baseball
Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.) is a perennial power in Southern California with three CIF Southern Section titles—two since 2005—and two Trinity League titles in 2007 and 2010. The Monarchs began the 2012 season at No. 6 in the Baseball America/National High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 25, but fell to No. 10 and then No. 18 after a 7-3 start heading into the National High School Invitational. The competition didn’t get any easier as Mater Dei was matched up with Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High, currently the No. 2 team in the Top 25. However, the Monarchs make a strong statement, erupting for 10 runs on 14 hits to beat the Gaels 10-3.”To start the game we were a little bit nervous, but in the second inning we settled down and found our rhythm,” Mater Dei head coach Burt Call said. “Our big at-bat was Brandon Perez, a freshman, coming up and putting us on the board. I think everyone just kind of followed suit after that. We had that huge explosion in the third. I’m very pleased with how they came out and competed against a very good Bishop Gorman team.”

With his team down 2-0 in the second inning, Perez—a shortstop—drove in the first Mater Dei run with a single to left field. In the third inning, the Monarchs strung together seven hits to score seven runs before even making an out and made it 9-2 on a wild pitch. From there it was up to righthander Davis Tominaga to shut the door. He allowed three runs (two earned) on 10 hits and three walks while striking out only one in the complete game.

“He’s been our No. 1 all season,” Call said. “He’s had some big wins for us. With him, it’s control. He works in and out. He’s able to bring it inside on a lefthander and also work away. And then his changeup is so effective. It keeps a lot of good hitters off balance. That’s what makes him so unique, having that changeup in his arsenal that he can throw at anytime.”

Tominaga ranged from 86-89 mph with his fastball and was able to neutralize Bishop Gorman’s biggest threat in third baseman Joey Gallo. A draft prospect as a first baseman, Gallo has a big, strong frame that generates some of the best raw power in his class. But Gallo went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fifth.

“We weren’t going to give him anything to hit, just keep the ball low and get my offspeed for strikes and establish that early,” Tominaga said.

Mater Dei will play the winner of Thursday’s first game, which is between Corpus Christi, Texas’ Carroll High and Gulliver Prep from Pinecrest, Fla. Ty Moore, the Monarch’s right fielder and No. 2 hitter, will start on the mound.



NHSI Day OnePosted Mar. 28, 2012 1:12 pm by Nathan Rode
Filed under: National High School InvitationalUSA Baseball
By Alexis Brudnicki
As games finish throughout the day, check this post for final scores, wrap-ups and postgame quotes.

American Heritage High (Plantation, Fla.) 6, Oxford (Ala.) High 2

American Heritage took advantage of timely hits, free bases and strong pitching to take down Oxford 6-2 in the first game of the National High School Invitational on Wednesday.

Oxford starter Tucker Simpson struck out seven and allowed only three hits on the day. The righthander gave up five walks however, and seemed distracted on the mound when Heritage put in a pinch-running Kevin Williams in the fifth.

“It did,” Oxford head coach Wes Brooks said of the pinch runner affecting Simpson. “He was slowing the game down because (Simpson) picked several times but I thought he did a good job. I thought the guy was going to steal early but I thought he did a good job of picking two or three times in a row and then quick-pitching.”

American Heritage head coach Bruce Aven acknowledged the change in pace of the game when Williams entered.

“Kevin has a lot of speed,” Aven said. “Both teams knew what we were doing. We were going to steal and they knew it. You play a little cat-and-mouse with it and see where it falls.”

Simpson walked three batters following Williams’ appearance on the basepaths and was taken out of the game. He gave up five earned runs total.

Alex Seibold started for Heritage, and went five innings, allowing two earned runs, walking one and striking out a pair.

“Seibold was our guy today,” Aven said. “When you’re in a tournament like this you can’t afford for your first guy to go out and get rocked in the first couple innings or you’re done. So for him to go five innings strong it gives us a chance to keep our pitching for the next game and the next game.”

Jackson Stephens highlighted the offense, leading all batters with three hits in the game for Oxford.

“He’s been hitting balls hard lately and just finding holes, not hitting them right at them,” Brooks said of Stephens. “He’s our three-hole hitter and he’s one of our better hitters. You want big-time players to make big-time plays in big-time games. He came and he showed up today and played well.” […] Continue Reading