By BRIAN CUNNIFF
The new high school baseball season was scheduled to begin Monday for some teams and Tuesday for the others. The following is a look at each of Cape May County’s teams:
CAPE MAY TECH
Cape May Tech begins the season with a new head coach in Kyle Morinelli, who takes over for Jason Vilimas.
The Hawks enjoyed a solid 12-11 season a year ago and return a good amount of the players from that group.
The top returning players are juniors Cooper Gehring (OF), James Longstreet (INF/P) and Anthony Paluch (OF/P) and sophomore Aidan Hofmann (P/SS). Gehring hit .409 as a sophomore while Longstreet tied for the county lead with 21 RBI and went 4-1 on the mound last spring.
Other key returning players include seniors Sam Lynch (1B), Tyler Chiera (OF), Mike Brown (OF) and Zach Powers (C).
Newcomers include junior Zach Kershaw (OF/P), sophomores Joel Sheptock (P/OF), Nick Clemens (2B/P), Billy Holly (UT/P) and Chris Endicott (1B) and freshmen Ryan Couse (C) and Tyler McDaniels (P).
“I expect us to compete and have our new players to step up for the five seniors that left,” Morinelli said. “Most of our pitchers are juniors and sophomores that I expect to become stronger over the course of the season.”
The Hawks were scheduled to host Bridgeton in their opener on Monday.
LOWER CAPE MAY
The Caper Tigers are looking for improvement after last season’s four-win finish. Although on the younger side, third-year head coach Ryan Slaney’s team seems to have better depth than in year’s past.
Kenny Haungs (SS/P), Matt Jefferis (3B/OF/P) and Ben Morris (OF) are team’s returning seniors. Returning juniors include Jonas Lumbruno (OF), Mark Ryan (C), T.J. Shoffler (2B), Anthony Benigno (1B) and Jackson Schiffbauer (OF/P). The top sophomore is David MacDonald (P/OF), who opened eyes last season with his pitching performances as a freshman.
Key newcomers who expect to contribute include seniors Paul Gilbert (INF/P) and Jake Baxter (UT/P) and sophomore Aidan Lowery (3B/P).
“Going into this season we lost a large graduating class of seniors, many of whom were everyday starters for our program last season,” Slaney said. “However, we are returning some key players to last years end of year success as we focused our attention on rebuilding for the future. I believe although younger, we will do better this year than what our final record showed last season.”
Lower Cape May opens the season Tuesday at Pleasantville.
Middle Township will begin the new season with a very young team, with as many as four freshmen seeing significant playing time, after going 9-12 last spring.
Returning seniors include Garrett DiPalantino (P/SS), Jake Cooper (P/OF), John Carlson (INF), Drew Ludman (INF/P) and Drew Harris (C). Cooper is the team’s top returning hitter after posting a .375 batting average while leading all Cape May County players with 30 hits last spring.
There is quite a bit of talent in the younger classes, led by sophomores Luke Salvo (INF/P) and Ethan Bossuyt (INF) and freshmen Owen Hall (INF/P), Ryan Gallagher (INF/P), Ben Harris (P/OF) and Matt Barccas (OF).
Middle will face a very difficult schedule this spring.
“We should be a decent team but many of the teams we’re playing are very strong,” Middle coach Chuck Dougherty said.
Middle was scheduled to open the season Monday at ACIT.
Ocean City has been Cape May County’s premier high school baseball program for the past several seasons. This spring should be no different, as the Raiders will lean on a very talented pitching staff that might be among the best in South Jersey.
Ocean City (16-5 in 2018) lost highly-touted lefty Dan Nunan to graduation and the Los Angeles Angels farm system but seniors Brandon Lashley (P/SS) and A.J. Campbell (P/3B) return. Lashley struck out 77 batters and posted a 1.69 ERA in 42 innings, won four games and was selected for the prestigious Carpenter Cup, while Campbell went 3-0 with a county-best 0.66 ERA last season. Sophomores Gannon Brady (OF/P) and Matt Nunan (OF/P) and freshman Tommy Finnegan (P/1B), already a University of Kentucky commit, give the pitching staff great depth.
Other key returning players include seniors Shane Ferry (C), Brandyn Pokrass (OF), Tommy Brezeale (1B/P) and M.J. McGinn (3B/OF/P), junior Jaden Millstein (OF) and sophomore Joe Reptti (SS/C). Millstein batted a team-best .405 last season.
Ocean City, led by second-year coach Andrew Bristol, was scheduled to open the season Monday against Oakcrest.
Wildwood went winless last season but hopes better days are ahead with most of its players returning.
The Warriors are led by senior Will Long (P/SS/C), a four-year starter and team captain who hit .411 with a county-best nine doubles last season. Another top player is junior Corlen Vallese (P/UT).
Sophomores Ethan Burke (C/P), Nick Cripps (CF/C/P) and Miguel Claudio (3B/P) were starters last season as freshmen. Other returnees include senior Jovaniel Pagan (OF) and junior Nik Finnochario (OF).
Quite a few newcomers are expected to have significant roles, including sophomore Mason Foltz (P/2B), a transfer from Myrtle Beach, S.C., whose older brother will pitch for Duke next year. Others include freshmen Dominick Troiano (P/1B/SS), Ernie Troiano IV (P/OF/2B), Josh Vallese (OF/P) and Preston Cafiero (OF/P).
“This year we are very young again, but we should be better than last year because we had quite a few younger players get a bunch of varsity experience last year,” said Wildwood coach Rich Hans.
Wildwood is set to host Camden Academy Charter on Tuesday in its season opener.
With quite a few starters returning and the addition of two talented newcomers, Wildwood Catholic is seeking improvement from last spring’s six-win effort.
Two senior captains lead the way for the Crusaders in Justin Klemick (OF/P/SS) and Giacomo Antonicello (SS/2B/P). Klemick hit .404 with 20 RBI in 2018.
Returning juniors include Ben Church (P/3B/1B), Tyler Cruz (P/1B), C.J. Deegler (C/2B), Tommy Bolle (OF) and John Belansen (2B). Sophomores with varsity experience include Chris Cruz (C) and Matt Moretti (2B/OF).
The Crusaders expect a boost from two junior transfers. Sean Dougherty (2B/OF/P) was a two-year starter at Middle Township and batted .373 for the Panthers in 2018, while Tommy Belansen (OF/SS/P) was in the talented program at St. Augustine Prep.
“I believe our team will really surprise this season,” said second-year coach Jim Norris. “Though it wasn’t much, last year we doubled our win total from the 2017 season and we are returning a good chunk of that team. We have excellent athletes who know and understand the game of baseball. If everything goes well and our players play to their potential, I believe it will be a special season.”
Wildwood Catholic was scheduled to begin the season Monday at Atlantic City.