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by Marc Narducci
Bishop Eustace Crusaders

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Vinny Paola scored a team-high 31 runs and had a .543 on-base percentage. Senior pitcher Keith Wallace has a 12-0 career record and was a first-team all-conference performer and Carpenter Cup selection. Junior Sam Steele hit .324 with 23 runs scored. Junior shortstop-pitcher Zac Gallen appeared in all 24 games, including eight as a relief pitcher, where he had two wins and a save. Key returning letter winners include senior right-handed pitcher Will DiCiurcio, senior outfielder Ryan Jose, senior second baseman-pitcher T.J. Maiorino, senior first baseman Tim Litz and senior outfielder Alex Tafaro. Devin Smeltzer, a sophomore outfielder, is a transfer from Eastern who must sit the first 30 days in accordance with NJSIAA transfer rules, but should be a solid addition to the program.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Defending champion Paul VI is the favorite in the Olympic National Division, although improved Camden Catholic and defending state Group 3 champ Seneca figure to be in the mix.

OUTLOOK: The Crusaders look to improve on their 14-10 record. Finding consistent pitching behind Wallace will be the key for Eustace. Coach Sam Tropiano has 516 career wins and 484 at Eustace and don’t be surprised by the end of the second half of the season if the Crusaders make a run at the S.J. Top 10 and also the division title.

Camden Catholic Fighting Irish

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior centerfielder Pete Galiano (.353) had a big summer competing for Haddon Heights American Legion and is among the top outfielders in South Jersey. Senior second-baseman Matt McElhatton batted .460 with 29 runs and 16 RBIs. Other key returning players are senior third-baseman Lou Rodriguez (.294), senior infielder Joe Radetich (.308) and sophomores Joe Craig (.326) and Albert Faiola. Senior right-hander Matt Brown, junior right-hander Colan Miller and senior left-handers Shea Hardy and James Malick are returning veteran pitchers.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Paul VI and Bishop Eustace, two local rivals, along with Seneca, pose the most competition in the always competitive Olympic Conference National Division.

OUTLOOK: Camden Catholic alum Bob Bergholtz takes over the reins, and there are few coaches who have shown as much enthusiasm. The Irish were 7-13 last season and appear to be improved. Camden Catholic won’t be listed among the National Division contenders, but the Irish shouldn’t be discounted either.

Cherokee Chiefs

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior centerfielder Jordan Glover was a first-team all-conference choice, while senior pitcher Colin Perro, a Monmouth recruit, and senior first-baseman and senior outfielder Ryan Kelly were second-team choices. Other returning veterans include junior pitchers Sean Kelly and Shane Elliott, seniors Jim Rossi, Casey Coyle, shortstop Shane Garrett and Nick Follet. Rossi is headed to Kutztown for baseball, while Garrett will attend Harford Community College in Maryland. Among the newcomers, senior Matt Datz and junior Justin Baglivo are candidates for the catcher’s job and senior Paul LaRosa is among the mound candidates.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Eastern enters as the Olympic American favorite, while Washington Township and Lenape should contend.

OUTLOOK: The Chiefs have the ability to not only improve on their 13-10 record but to contend for this extremely difficult division title. The Chiefs have pitching experience and if the offense is consistent, this will be a dangerous team.

Cherry Hill East Cougars (pictured)

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior shortstop Rob Taylor batted .500 and is among the top returning players in South Jersey. Senior centerfielder Jesse Gold was a second-team all-conference choice. Junior Alex Dimpter threw a no-hitter over Washington Township in the S.J. Group 4 playoffs and returns as the Cougar’s No. 1 pitcher. Senior Kurt Taylor is a third-year starter. Two other returning starters are third-baseman Zach Iannarelli and second-baseman Joe La Grossa. Other returning letter winners are sophomores Nick DiEva, Nick Ciocca and Mike Brambilla, juniors Zach Steinbock, Gary Hettinger, Nick DelVecchia and Alex Kramer, and seniors Kevin Wu and Tyler Feldman.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: There isn’t an Olympic American team that isn’t a strong contender, so Eastern, Lenape, Cherokee and Washington Township could all be in the mix.

OUTLOOK: East went 6-15 but made great strides at the end of the season. The Cougars should be improved, although the schedule as usual is brutal. If the young pitchers come through, this could be a dark horse team in a division that may be won with as many as three losses.

Cherry Hill West Lions

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Returning first-team all-conference performers are senior third-baseman Alex Injaian (.449, 38 RBIS), senior Brenden Delmonte (.410, 27 strikeouts in 20 IP) and senior center Zack Renna (.424, team MVP). Second-team choices include senior second-baseman Nick Trivigino (.397, 29 runs); Andrew Fisher (.403) and multi-position senior Vince Cahill (.4-0, 3.05). Other returning veterans are senior Danny O’Sullivan (.407) and junior Brad Machinski (.286). Players who could fit into the mix are senior Anthony Canavatchel, juniors Brandon Perna, William Allen, Matt GIampetro, Andrew Ohanian and A.J. Sohacki and sophomore Kyle Bordner.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Defending division champion Shawnee remains a formidable opponent.

OUTLOOK: The Lions finished second to Shawnee by a half game and went 14-11 overall. This year’s team has the experience not only to improve on that record but also to be a viable South Jersey Top 10 team and division and sectional title contender.

Eastern Vikings

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Three all-conference performers lead a veteran group – seniors Mike Marchitto and Steve Volpe and junior second-baseman Nick Tierno. Other returning starters are senior Tom Bordi, seniors James Santore, shortstop Tyler Love and junior pitcher Steve Priolo. Sophomore Tom Flacco, a transfer from Camden Catholic, is among the key additions. Others to watch are infielder Ben Hoffman, Ryan Delaney, Matt Costa and pitcher Will Nicoletto.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Just about everybody in the Olympic American division, including Lenape, Cherokee and Washington Township.

OUTLOOK: The Vikings went 22-7 and shared the Olympic Conference American Division with Lenape and Washington Township last year. There is enough experience now to win the division and be a factor in South Jersey Group 4.

Gloucester Catholic Rams

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Elliott McCummings batted .435 with 2 HRs and 30 RBIs. Junior Mike Shawaryn is among the top prospects in South Jersey. He was 7-0 with a 1.56 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings. Five players have made Division I commitments. Infielder Joe Brooks (.444, 4 HRs, 43 RBIs) will attend East Carolina. Outfielder Pat Kane (.423) is an Old Dominion recruit. First baseman John Brue (.551, 9 HR, 56 RBIs) is headed to St. Joseph’s University, while third-baseman Brett Tenuto (.472) is a Stony Brook recruit and shortstop Rob Alessandrine (.451) will attend Monmouth.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: The Rams are a prohibitive favorite in the Tri-County Diamond Division. They move to Non-Public A where defending state champion St. Augustine’s, Bishop Eustace, St. Rose and St. Joe Metuchen are among the contenders in this loaded field.

OUTLOOK: Gloucester Catholic has won consecutive state Non-Public B titles and while the competition will be stiff in A, the Rams remain a serious contender. Despite graduating consensus South Jersey Player of the Year Cody Brown, the Rams will again vie to be the No. 1 team in South Jersey and the state and possibly earn a national ranking as well.

Haddonfield Bulldogs

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior outfielder Matt Bhaya batted .353. Senior Matt Binder was 6-1 with a 3.16 ERA. Sophomore outfielder Michael McLaughlin batted .447 with 27 RBIs and earned all-conference honors; he also saw time on the mound. Senior Chris Dengler (.316) and senior outfielder Vince DelDuca (.281) are other experienced veterans. Returning letter winners include three seniors: Jim Cashman, Dan Ciemniecki and Robert Perkins. Players up from the JV who are expected to contribute are senior Jack Speake, sophomores Mark Ostbye and Carter Fichter, and juniors Steven Noll and Matt Bigelow.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: In the Colonial Conference Liberty Division, West Deptford, the team that beat Haddonfield in the S.J. Group 2 final, appears to be the favorite.

OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs finished 14-9 and runner-up in both the Colonial Conference Liberty and S.J. Group 2. Once again, Haddonfield should be contenders in both, although like just about every other team, the Bulldogs will be looking for mound depth. Finding a No. 2 pitcher behind Binder will be a key to the team’s success.

Lenape Indians

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior left-handed pitcher John Williams returns after missing a season with a torn labrum and will be a welcome addition to the staff. Senior Pat Rodier started in right field, but could move to third base. Senior Josh Bauman played left field last year but could move to centerfielder. Senior Kevin McGarry was used mainly as a designated hitter last season but could play first base. Other key veterans are senior Bobby Isopi, Jr., left-handed pitcher Mevin Milley and senior right-handed pitcher Austin Moody. Two letter winners to watch include junior Jason Clapper and junior Matt Jolly.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Every team in the Olympic American, with Eastern possibly being the slight favorite.

OUTLOOK: The Indians were hit hard by graduation but will still be competitive. Getting Williams back is a major plus and Lenape has enough experience on the mound to surface as a potential divisional contender.

Moorestown Quakers

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Four seniors earned first-team all-Burlco Liberty Division honors. Pitcher Dan Schurer was 2-1-1 with a 1.53 ERA. Joey Frey hit .423 with 4 HR and 28 RBI; he’s also a Delaware recruit. First-baseman Nick Savino batted .397 with 2 HR and 16 RBI. He was also 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA. Shortstop Andrew Lisa hit .438 with six HR and 17 RBI. Other players who saw varsity time include junior second-baseman Jesse Fante (14 runs scored); junior third-baseman Drew Pederson (.452); senior left-fielder Jonathan Michnick; sophomore centerfielder Dallas Clark (.302); and senior outfielder Chance Embler (.311).

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Rancocas Valley and Northern Burlington are the top contenders along with Moorestown in the Burlco Liberty Division.

OUTLOOK: After going 17-6 and finishing runner-up in the Liberty Division and in S.J. Group 3, Moorestown has the experience and ability to win both titles this year. Coach Bill Donoghue, among the best in South Jersey, should reach a milestone since he enters the season with 196 victories.

Moorestown Friends Foxes

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Junior shortstop Spencer Bard was an All-Friends League selection. Other returning starters are sophomores Steve Mannion and Ethan Magaziner, senior second-baseman Steve Dwyer, senior centerfielder Danny Salowe, and juniors Alex Howard and Colin Gregory. A newcomer to watch is freshman Adam Quaranta.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Shipley and Friends Central are the teams to beat in the Friends League.

OUTLOOK: The Foxes should contend for one of the Friends League playoff spots. They went 9-6 last year and appear to have enough experience to improve. If that happens, coach Ron Obermeier should reach the 100-win milestone since he enters the season with 90 wins.

Paul VI Eagles

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Ned Kerr has 97 career hits and was a first-team all-conference performer. Junior Nick Gallo had 21 doubles and earned all-conference honors. Senior first-baseman Paschal Petrongolo was also a first-team all-conference choice. He has 98 career hits and earned a scholarship to Jacksonville State in Alabama. Other returning starters include senior shortstop Brian Almond, senior third-baseman Tyler Keen and sophomore Devin Ruiz. Two seniors looking to have bigger roles are pitcher John Ryan and outfielder Joe Catrambone.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: The Olympic National Division remains wide open. While Paul VI is the defending champion, Seneca, Camden Catholic, Timber Creek and Bishop Eustace all have the ability to contend.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles went 21-9, and besides winning the division, advanced to the S.J. Non-Public A final before losing to eventual state champion St. Augustine. While the pitching is inexperienced, the Eagles have a dynamic offense that should continue to keep them contending for the division and a sectional title.

Seneca Golden Eagles

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Three starters return from last year’s Group 3 state title team:?senior Cameron Bahr (.315, 2 HR, 23 RBI), senior Kory Smith (.382, .475 OBP) and Jason Renna (.353).

BIGGEST?COMPETITION:?Defending Olympic National champion Paul VI is the favorite while Bishop Eustace is a contender and Camden Catholic appears vastly improved.

OUTLOOK: The Golden Eagles were hit hard by graduation, especially with the loss of Kevin Comer, who was drafted and signed by the Toronto Blue Jays. This is still a formidable program, but the Golden Eagles won’t start the season as the favorite in the division. In fact the division is so difficult that last year Seneca won a state title, while not capturing the National Division.

Shawnee Renegades

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior Kevin Boswick was an all-conference choice, and plans to continue his education and baseball career at Lehigh come September. Junior Jarret DeHart was injured last year, but started as a freshman. He has already made a verbal commitment to Louisiana State University. Three returning second-team all-conference choices are senior Conner Arsenault, junior Nick Montefusco and junior Brian Lawler. Also back is senior left-fielder Steve McCollum. A key returning letter winner is junior pitcher Dylan Mengel, while junior Eric Spires heads a list of key newcomers after enjoying a strong JV season. Other key newcomers include senior Stephen Caplan, junior Jesse Pagliuso, senior Rob Beachy, senior Chris Vaughn and junior Andrew Rizzo.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Cherry Hill West and Pennsauken are the main competitors to Shawnee in the Olympic Patriot Division.

OUTLOOK: The Renegades will be a major contender not only in the Patriot Division but in S.J. Group 4 as well. The pitching is solid and the return of DeHart is huge for coach Brian Anderson’s Renegades.

Washington Township Minutemen

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Junior Ryan Long was a second-team all-conference choice after batting .321 with 26 runs and 14 RBIs and a .515 on-base percentage. Twin brother Matt Long struck out 11 in eight innings pitched and also batted .260 with 13 RBIs and was 8-8 in stolen bases. Junior first-baseman Shaine Hughes batted .296 with 14 RBI. Senior second-baseman Connor Hanrahan hit .281 with 14 RBI. Brian Sommermann hit .348, but missed the second half of the season with a concussion. Junior Bill Grubb was 3-0 with a 0.44 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 16 innings. A key letter winner is senior Vinnie Nocella, who batted .353 (12-34) with 14 RBIs. Other letter winners of note include junior Brandon DiCiano, and seniors Matt Laudenslager, Tyler Flockton and Tom Monteith. Among newcomers to watch are junior Tom Hildebrand and sophomore Mark Scarpa.

BIGGEST COMPETITION: Eastern and Cherokee pose the biggest threats in the American Division.

OUTLOOK: After sharing the American Division with Lenape and Eastern, the Minutemen will be serious contenders in the division and S.J Group 4, although not necessarily the favorites. This is a program that always graduates a number of seniors, but under Bill Alvaro, the younger players are ready to step in. This season should be no different.

Click here for the spring schedules.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family’s High School Spring Sports Preview, January, 2012.
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