PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bishop Eustace fielded a young squad in 2016, which means a large portion of the starting lineup is back to lead the way this spring. At the top of that list is sophomore shortstop Matt Orlando, who made the all-conference first team as a rookie and played in the Carpenter Cup after hitting .394 with six doubles and 17 runs scored. A member of the Tri-State Arsenal in the summer and fall, Orlando is also a pitcher and should see more time on the mound this year. He recently made a verbal commitment to continue his career at Maryland. Another talented youngster is sophomore center fielder John Piacentino, who started as a freshman and made the all-conference second team. Senior Brian Bernetich is a key returner on the pitching staff who made the all-conference second team. Junior infielders Sky Duff, Joe Oczkowski and Dylan Decker, junior catcher Ryan Colbert and sophomore outfielder Mike Guzzardo are other important returners.
OUTLOOK: In a rebuilding season, the Crusaders still managed to go 13-12-1 and reach the South Jersey Non-Public A quarterfinals. With most of the team back, including several potential stars, expect a big bounce-back season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Camden Catholic graduated 13 seniors after a special 2016 season, including all-South Jersey infielder Nolan Gerold and stand-out pitcher Jay Crusemire. Leading the returners is senior outfielder/pitcher Billy Eisler, the Irish lead-off hitter who made the all-conference first team and played in the Carpenter Cup. Junior infielder Chris Holmes will again be a major contributor in the middle of the lineup. He’s been a varsity player since his freshman year and was terrific in four playoff games last spring, hitting .385 with a home run and four RBIs. Seniors expected to contribute include infielders Gavin Delp and Greg Brown, infielder/pitcher Daulton Miller and catcher Matt Crisci. Junior infielders Owen Gerold and Colin Cummins should also take on bigger roles.
OUTLOOK: The 2016 season was one to remember for the Irish, who went 19-8-1, won the Olympic Conference National Division and reached the South Jersey Non-Public A final. There are big holes to fill but they hope to build on that foundation.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cherokee was hit hard by graduation, losing five all-conference players. But the Chiefs have several key players back in the fold, including senior pitcher and Richmond recruit Jarrad Delarso, senior second baseman Jake Treiber (who will play soccer at Monmouth) and a pair of infielders who also pitch: senior Rowan recruit Nick Schooley and junior Jack Walters. Juniors Connor Cheeseman and Jake Korobellis are other experienced pitchers. Senior pitcher/infielder Shayne Clowar—a transfer from Bishop Eustace who made the all-conference second team—will also contribute along with senior catcher Andrew Cerria and juniors Matt Stil and Jimmy Franchetti.
OUTLOOK: The Chiefs went 17-10, competed in the Diamond Classic and reached the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals last year. They expect to remain competitive despite new faces in the starting lineup.
Cherry Hill East
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cherry Hill East brings back a solid nucleus, including senior second baseman Zach Padersky and sophomore third baseman Jake Andrey, who will both be crucial pieces of the lineup as well as the pitching staff. Other key players are leadoff hitter Justin Cain, a junior shortstop/pitcher, and senior first baseman Skyler Colton, a run producer in the middle of the order. Junior outfielder Michael Kenny and senior catcher Griffin Dabritz are other returning starters and several members of the talented sophomore class will have a chance to crack the lineup. Junior David Levin is an important contributor on the pitching staff, and other players looking to make an impact are seniors Ryan Taylor and Sam Goldman.
OUTLOOK: The Cougars have a lot of experienced players back and hope to improve on last year’s 4- 17 record.
Cherry Hill West
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior ace pitcher John Stankiewicz is back to lead the way for Cherry Hill West after earning all-conference first-team recognition and participating in the Carpenter Cup as a junior. The 6-4 right-hander, who has committed to Fordham University, will also contribute with his bat. An important player in the lineup is junior outfielder and La Salle recruit Nick DiVietro, who led off and made the all-conference first team. Senior outfielder Jake Azar, senior shortstop Isaiah Ishmail and junior third baseman Jack Owens are other regulars back in the fold. Sophomore John Gray saw time as a freshman and could be ready for a bigger role.
OUTLOOK: The Lions were a top-five team in South Jersey for the majority of 2016, as they went 15-7 and reached the quarterfinals of both the Diamond Classic and the South Jersey Group IV playoffs. The program has been consistently strong over the last several seasons and should continue that trend this spring.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Clearview suffered major losses to graduation after one of the best seasons in school history, including pitcher/first baseman Kenny Mendoza, who is now in the Texas Rangers organization. The good news is the return of a pair of seniors at the top of the lineup in outfielder Trip McCaffery and shortstop Tim Dezzi, who are both outstanding fielders and made the all-conference first team last year. McCaffery, who has committed to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, is an excellent leadoff hitter who batted .390 with 23 RBIs, 28 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. Dezzi, a St. John’s recruit, hit .365 with 20 RBIs and 20 runs scored. Sophomore third baseman Mike Decker broke into the starting lineup as a freshman and came through with some clutch hits toward the end of the season, while senior catchers Steve Schanne and Brian Clark return after splitting time and senior Pete Liccio is back at second base. The Pioneers graduated their top three pitchers and will be counting on senior lefty Joe Sponheimer and junior twin brothers Alex and Chris Soriano, among others, to eat some innings.
A pair of transfers from Gloucester Catholic should also contribute—junior outfielder Sean Dougherty and sophomore pitcher Brandon Drapeau—and other members of the talented sophomore class will press for playing time.
OUTLOOK: The Pioneers finished 22-6-1 in a magical 2016 season to set a school record for wins. They also claimed the South Jersey Group IV championship, won the Tri-County Conference Royal Division title and advanced to the Diamond Classic semifinals. Although a repeat performance can’t be expected considering the star players who graduated, another successful season appears likely under new coach Rolando Gautier, who replaces long-time skipper Rocco Cornacchia.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Eastern returns a talented core led by two of the best players in the state: junior center fielder Jack Herman and senior third baseman Davis Schneider. Herman was named South Jersey Player of the Year as a sophomore, as he hit .553 and set school records with 52 hits and nine home runs. It will be fun to see what the Maryland recruit can do as an upperclassman. Schneider, who has committed to Rutgers, joined Herman on the all-South Jersey and all-conference first teams as he hit .439 with 16 doubles. The duo will once again cause headaches for opposing managers in the middle of the lineup. Senior outfielder Lou Priolo, a Rider commit, is another returner who made the all-conference first team and junior outfielder Ronny Silvestro is back after a solid season in the leadoff spot. Senior shortstop Steve Love, senior first baseman Frank Pallante and senior catcher Zach Ray are other returning regulars. The Vikings graduated their top two pitchers; junior right-hander Jesse Barbera, who earned the win in the Diamond Classic final, could be ready to lead the staff.
OUTLOOK: The Vikings’ successful 2016 season included a 22-7 record, the Olympic Conference American Division championship and their first-ever Diamond Classic title. Expect more of the same this spring if their pitching develops behind a terrific lineup.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Although Gloucester Catholic graduated its top two pitchers—including all-South Jersey right-hander Tyler Mondile, now in the Cincinnati Reds organization—most of the starting lineup returns, and the Rams have also welcomed in one of South Jersey’s top players in Brendan Bean, a senior transfer from Wildwood. Bean, a left-handed pitcher/first baseman who has committed to Penn, went 5-0 with a 1.39 ERA and hit .429 with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 13 games last year. As a sophomore, he hit .538 and was named all-South Jersey. Bean should fit nicely into a lineup that returns seven regulars from last year. Junior shortstop and leadoff hitter Evan Giordano, who has committed to Stony Brook, led the team with 10 doubles and was joined on the all-conference first team by senior second baseman Adam Bonomo and junior outfielder Jason Bobiak. Senior catcher Sam Punzi, an Iona recruit, and senior first baseman Chris Turco, who is headed to Albany, are key hitters in the middle of the lineup along with sophomore outfielder Lillo Paxia, who has verbally committed to Florida State. Junior third baseman Kyle Pierman is another returning starter and the Rams will also be count- ing on senior infielder Alex Persichetti and senior catcher Joe Liscio, who has committed to Misericordia. Along with Bean, the pitching staff will be led by seniors John Kasper, Angelo DeAngelis and Chris Garwood and juniors Drew Guldin (a UMass-Lowell recruit), Ian Murphy (a St. John’s recruit) and Andrew Vail.
OUTLOOK: The Rams posted a 24-4 record in 2016, reaching the South Jersey Non-Public A semifinals and the Diamond Classic final. A perennial state championship contender, their expectations haven’t changed heading into the 2017 season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Duke commit Joey Loperfido, a senior shortstop, is primed for a terrific final season after being named all-South Jersey as a junior. He hit .431 with 28 RBIs, 26 runs and six triples, which led the area. Junior catcher John Cristino and senior infielder Dan Brown are other key returners in the middle of the lineup, and junior Ryan Sehdev is also expected to contribute. Senior Nick Dipadova and junior Jake Small are experienced hurlers who will lead the pitching staff.
OUTLOOK: The Bulldawgs went 16-6 and reached the South Jersey Group II quarterfinals. With Loperfido leading a strong returning nucleus, they should be a team to watch again this spring.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kingsway brings back an experienced group of everyday players led by senior enter fielder Rob Scanlan, who batted .386 and made the all-conference first team. Other key pieces of the lineup are senior first baseman/DH Jake Mooney (team-high 15 RBIs); senior shortstop Mike Biasiello (.333 average); and senior catcher Josh Ritchie (.297 average). Senior outfielders Sam Craig and Shane Miller and senior infieldersColin Garraway, Joey Dellaquilla and Jimmy Knoll are other returners who will contribute. Several sophomores could potentially crack the starting lineup, including Sean Szestowicki, a transfer who started JV as a freshman at Gloucester Catholic and saw varsity time as a runner and defensive replacement. The Dragons graduated their top two pitchers but bring back a potential ace in Biasiello (3.60 ERA). Other pitchers expected to take on bigger roles are Craig, senior Ben Manning and junior Alex Crothers.
OUTLOOK: The Dragons went 14-10 and lost in the first round of the South Jersey Group IV playoffs. Their offense should be improved with so many returners, and another winning season is possible if the pitching develops behind Biasiello.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Lenape’s strong returning nucleus includes a pair of players who are headed to major college programs: senior shortstop Tommy Gardiner, who signed with Maryland, and junior second baseman Jake Topolski, who has verbally committed to Duke. Topolski made the all-conference first team last year and Gardiner was selected to the second team. Senior outfielder and leadoff hitter Mike Doulong is another key returner who joined Topolski on the all-conference first team. Senior outfielder Ben Harris—who will continue his career at Morehead University in Kentucky—was an all-conference second-teamer. Senior first baseman Mike Audet, a University of Rochester recruit, and junior third baseman A.J. Pena are other important returners. Audet and senior Teddy Jozwiak lead the pitching staff.
OUTLOOK: The Indians went 15-9, their most wins since 2012, and advanced to the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals and Diamond Classic semifinals. A talented lineup should help them continue that success.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Moorestown has a pair of exciting players to build around in sophomore pitcher/third baseman Brian McMonagle and junior outfielder Chris Baker, who both made the all-conference first team and played in the Carpenter Cup. McMonagle, a right-hander, went 4- 0 with a 2.01 ERA and also had a solid season at the plate. He recently accepted a baseball scholarship to Boston College and it will be interesting to see what he can do as a sophomore. Baker, the Quakers’ leadoff hitter, is coming off a breakout season in which he led the team with a .417 average and had 30 hits, five doubles and 18 runs scored. Outfielder BrianGerber, a Pittsburgh recruit, joins catcher Alec Ciniglia and infielder Brian Clark as key senior leaders returning to the starting lineup. Other returners who will compete for playing time are seniors Ryan DeVany and Brendon Parker and juniors Jack Broker, Alex Karanjia, Mitchell Lisa and Tim Sever.
OUTLOOK: The Quakers have a solid returning cast from a team that reached the Central Jersey Group III quarterfinals and will look to improve on their 10-9 record.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Moorestown Friends graduated a terrific senior class that featured three Friends League first-teamers and one honorable mention selection. New leaders will have to emerge and some of the candidates include first baseman Teddy Kinzler, outfielder Vishal Doshi and catcher/third baseman Surya Reddy. Sophomore second baseman Kyle Effies contributed as a rookie and should only get better, and outfielder Jakob Hull is another sophomore expected to contribute.
OUTLOOK: The Foxes finished with an 11-6 record, reached the Friends League championship game and lost in the first round of the South Jersey Non-Public B playoffs. They hope to remain competitive despite the losses to graduation.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: All-conference second-teamers Richie Giandrea, a senior shortstop, and Eric DiDomenico, a junior first baseman, are back to lead Paul VI. Senior outfielder Billy Duke, who will continue his career at Catholic University, and senior catcher James Towson are other regulars who return. Junior outfielder Will Gambino, a transfer from Haddonfield who is committed to The Citadel, should have an immediate impact in the middle of the lineup and will also be one of the Eagles’ top hurlers. The pitching staff graduated ace Shane Kubrak but brings back senior Tavian Gibson, who will lead the way along with Gambino. Juniors Tanner Clark and Joe Matricadi and senior Michael Thompson are other key arms. Varsity newcomers include infielder John Urbach, outfielder Anthony Curtis, outfielder/pitcher John Napolitano and catcher Ryan Maylie, all juniors.
OUTLOOK: The Eagles’ 7-16 season included a playoff victory and a devastating loss to Cam- den Catholic in extra innings in the South Jersey Non-Public A quarterfinals. They hope to keep moving forward as a program.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Although a strong senior class from last year has moved on, Seneca has a terrific player left to build around in junior outfielder/pitcher Nick Decker. As a sophomore, he led the team with three home runs and 21 RBIs and emerged as one of the Golden Eagles’ best pitchers on his way to all-conference first-team recognition. Decker, who has committed to Maryland, should continue to get better as an upperclassman. Senior Josh Knapp, an all-conference second-teamer, is another experienced hurler along with seniors Scott McNamara, Nick Trendler and Ed Valerio. Junior Kevin Gsell is a returning starter in the infield and junior Ryan Lopez has varsity experience behind the plate.
OUTLOOK: Seneca went 15-8 and ended its season with a 1-0 loss to Highland in the South Jersey Group III quarterfinals. There are some important spots to fill, but expect another solid season behind Decker.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Shawnee is strong up the middle with senior shortstop Max Milano, an all-conference second-teamer, senior second baseman Avery Epstein and junior catcher Colin Wetterau, who has committed to St. John’s. Senior first baseman/outfielder Jax Luzinski and senior firstbaseman/DH Mark Beachy are other key parts of the lineup, and senior outfielder Greg Albert—an all-conference second-teamer as a sophomore— is back after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Senior Shawn Levondosky will also compete for time in the outfield. Junior Sean Heine leads the pitching staff, while senior Jake Coolahan and juniors Brian Hendry and Dylan Deveney are other experienced pitchers.
OUTLOOK: The Renegades ended the 2016 season on a nine-game winning streak to finish with a 12-10 record. They have a solid nucleus returning and will look to build on that momentum.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: St. Augustine graduated a big chunk of last year’s state finalist, but several key players return, including senior third basemanGreg Elfreth, a Widener recruit, and senior pitcher/outfielder Jake Catalano, who has committed to UNC- Asheville. Junior Josh Hood started at shortstop as a sophomore and junior Nick Lonetto is back as the No. 1 catcher. Junior Jack Billings served as the team’s closer last year, earning experience in several pressure situations. He will figure prominently into the pitching staff. Junior pitcher/outfielder Kevin Eaise, who has verbally committed to Penn, returns to the rotation and senior pitcher Mike Miles will also be part of the staff before continuing his career at Barry University.
OUTLOOK: The Hermits went on an impressive playoff run last spring, claiming their first sectional title since 2011 and reaching the Non-Public A state final to finish with a 20-9 record. Despite the losses to graduation, Catalano is a solid ace and St. Augustine expects to remain competitive.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Washington Township brings back six everyday starters and a top-of-the-line starting pitcher in senior Rich Racobaldo, so this looks like a promising season. Racobaldo, a righty, went 3-2 with a 1.30 ERA to earn all-conference second-team honors and should be primed for a strong finish to his four- year varsity career. He’ll throw to a terrific senior catcher, Alex Gattinelli, another four-year varsity player who hit .373 with three home runs and 22 RBIs on his way to all-conference first-team recognition. Gattinelli is aiming to reach 100 career hits this spring. Junior outfielder Lorenzo Morello (.316 average, 20 runs) and senior shortstop Ryan Swift (.338, 19 runs) are important players at the top of the lineup. Other returning starters are senior first baseman Joe Stoever, senior second base- man Danny McGee and sophomore third baseman Luke Kaschak. Junior Eric Cartafalsa and senior Dan Tracy are key pieces of the pitching staff.
OUTLOOK: The Minutemen got hot in the playoffs and advanced to the South Jersey Group IV semifinals, finishing with a 12-13 record. The Olympic Conference American Division will be challenging as usual, but look for Township to be in the hunt.
To see all of the spring baseball schedules, click here.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 11 (January, 2016).
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