High school baseball season for some of the Cape May County schools has already begun and strong pitching has been an early theme.
Cape May Tech’s Carson Denham tossed a no-hitter in a win over a Kentucky school in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Middle Township’s Zach Wyatt struck out 10 batters and allowed just two hits in a 1-0 loss to Pitman.
Ocean City received three stellar pitching performances during its annual trip to St. Petersburg, Fla. Dan Nunan struck out 12 in a 13-3 win over Grace Lutheran (Fla.), Brandon Lashley had 10 strikeouts in a 9-0 win over Landmark Christian (Ga.) and A.J. Campbell allowed just three hits and one run in a 4-3 loss to Canisius (N.Y.).
Lower Cape May and Wildwood Catholic are scheduled to start their seasons against one another Friday, while Wildwood is set to begin its season next week.
The following is a look at each of the area high school baseball teams:
CAPE MAY TECH
Cape May Tech went 8-14 under first-year head coach Jason Vilimas last season. But with nine players back from last year’s group, the Hawks are looking for marked improvement.
Five seniors lead the way, a few of whom have already been multiple-year starters. Carson Denham (1B/P) and Jack O’Donnell (OF) each batted better than .300 last season, while Zach Robbins (IF/P) and Michael Paluch (OF/P) both posted ERAs below 3.50. Jack O’Donnell (OF) also returns.
Underclassmen with experience include juniors Mike Brown (OF) and Zach Powers (2B/OF) and sophomores James Longstreet (3B/P, 1.63 ERA) and Cooper Gehring (2B).
Junior Paul Gilbert (2B) and freshman Aidan Hofmann (SS/P) are the top newcomers to the varsity.
“We’ve returned the core of our team, along with our pitching staff, and expect to compete for the Cape-Atlantic United Division this season, and put ourselves in a position to make a push for the (state) playoffs,” Vilimas said.
Tech began its season this week, going 2-2 in four games in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Highlighting the trip was Denham’s 15-strikeout no-hitter in a 9-1 win over Kentucky Country Day School.
— Brian Cunniff
LOWER CAPE MAY
Lower won just five games last spring but has six returning starters and should be improved.
Senior Justin Nicholas (1B/P) is one of the county’s top hitters. He batted .458 with 15 RBI last spring. Other returning players include seniors Brennan Ray (OF), Kevin Weber (OF/P), Liam Mulligan (C), Cade Bonner (P/1B) and Jake Muller (OF).
The top newcomer is Seth Antonicello (P/INF), a senior transfer.
The Tigers, coached by Ryan Slaney, open the season Friday at home against Wildwood Catholic.
— Brian Cunniff
Middle features one of the area’s top pitchers in senior Zach Wyatt, who posted an ERA below 2.00 last season. He also opened this season strong, striking out 11 and allowing just two hits in a tough 1-0 loss to Pitman in Middle’s season opener on Saturday. Wyatt also batted .320 last season.
Senior Aaron Garcia (P/INF) and junior John Carlson (C) are also top returnees.
Seniors Kaleb Maguire (OF/P) and Steve Burner (OF/P) are also back, along with juniors Drew Harris (OF/C), Garrett DiPalitano (INF/P), Drew Ludman (P/INF) and Rob Ferguson (P) and sophomore Sean Dougherty (INF).
Middle, which finished 8-14 a season ago, was also scheduled to play Vineland Wednesday but the game was rained out. The Panthers host Pleasantville Friday at 11 a.m.
Middle coach Chuck Dougherty, in his 27th season, is six wins shy of 300 for his career.
— Brian Cunniff
Ocean City went 2-1 this week in St. Petersburg, Fla., getting strong pitching performances from senior Delaware commit Dan Nunan, junior Brandon Lashley and junior A.J. Campbell over the three games.
Nunan struck out 12 batters in five innings in a 13-3 win over Grace Lutheran (Ga.), Lashley had 10 strikeouts in a 9-0 win over Landmark Christian (Ga.) and Campbell conceded just one run in 6.1 innings in a 4-3 loss to Canisus (N.Y.).
Campbell, who also plays third base, had four hits in in the win over Grace Lutheran.
Other top Raider players include seniors Dom Monteleone, Syd Unsworth, Issac Robertson (.417 BA in 2017), Peyton Bristol, Parker Bristol, Sean Zellers, Wyatt Stetzer, Frank Piernikowski and Mike Beebe; juniors Brandyn Pockrass and Tom Breazeale; and sophomore Jaden Millstein.
Andrew Bristol, a longtime assistant under former coach Craig Mensinger, who resigned after last season following 360 career victories, is the team’s new head coach.
Ocean City hosts Holy Spirit Monday in its first Cape-Atlantic League game.
— Tom Williams
Wildwood has fielded a very competitive team over the past few seasons but the Warriors are in classic rebuilding mode after losing a lot to graduation.
Wildwood brings back just four players with significant varsity experience. They include seniors Brian Hernandez (P/OF), juniors Will Long (P/SS) and Andrew Zielinski (3B/P) and sophomore Corlen Vallese (1B/P). Other returnees include senior Vito Hernandez (2B) and sophomore Cornell Bryant (P/OF/3B).
The top new players, all of whom should see time, include freshmen Ethan Burke (C/OF), Zach Cripps (C/OF) and Miguel Claudio (INF/OF).
“We’re rebuilding,” Wildwood coach Rich Hans said. “We’re very inexperienced at all positions.”
Wildwood opens its season April 8 at Clayton.
— Brian Cunniff
Wildwood Catholic begins anew after winning just three games and bringing in a first-year coach in Jimmy Norris. But the Crusaders return quite a bit from last year’s team and are optimistic for more success.
Seniors Josh Eckert (3B/P), Phil Pfaffman (OF) and Mike Sharkey (P/OF), junior Justin Klemick (SS/OF) and sophomore Ben Church (OF/INF/P) are the team’s top returning players. Others with experience include seniors John Feraco (OF) and Greg Carroll (1B/P), juniors Cory Krause (OF) and P.J. Bogle (OF) and sophomores Mike Cisrow (OF/SS), Tommy Bolle (OF) and John Belansen (2B/OF).
The top newcomers include junior Giacomo Antonicello (SS/2B), sophomores Tyler Cruz (1B/P) and C.J. Deegler (C/3B) and freshmen Chris Cruz (C/3B) and Matt Moretti (OF/2B).
“I believe our team will play better than many people predict,” Norris said. “We have some of the best baseball talent Wildwood Catholic has had in years and our players strive for excellence every time they step on the field. I think we will raise some eyebrows in a good way this season.”
Wildwood Catholic begins the season Friday at Lower Cape May.
— Brian Cunniff