Posted by Glenn Fredricks on Jun 16 2009 at 05:00PM PDT

Middlesex season in review (High school Baseball news)

Wednesday June 17, 2009, 9:39 PM

Player of the year: St. Joseph coach Paul Esposito makes it very clear how he feels about senior shortstop/pitcher Chris Bielak.

He's the best all-around player I've ever coached, Esposito said. There were guys who did different things better, but as an all-around complete baseball player, he's the best.

Bielak batted .488 against one of the state's most competitive schedules, delivering 40 hits and 22 RBI for the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament champion. He played a near-flawless shortstop, committing just five errors, and was 8-1 on the mound with a 2.02 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings.

Coach told me he wanted me to be a leader and be an example and I just went out there and worked hard and it paid off, Bielak said. I'm not really an outgoing person, but if I saw somebody doing something wrong I wasn't afraid to speak up.

Bielak will attend Marist in the fall, where he expects to pitch and play in the infield.

I think I'm a better pitcher, actually, Bielak said. I always love having the ball in my hand, pitching. But whatever the coach wanted me to do, I was happy to do it.

Esposito, no doubt, was just as happy with the result.

Team of the year: Iselin Kennedy's first state title trumps St. Joseph's second consecutive Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament title, although it would have been nice if they had played at some point.

Sure Iselin Kennedy (24-4) had a great player in All-Stater Brian Schroeder, but it was the timely contributions of everyone on the 12-man roster, later expanded to 14 in part to add a dedicated bullpen catcher for the state tournament, that produced a state title.

We would like to think that our success is not by luck but by practice, Iselin Kennedy coach Jerry Smith said. We made great strides through the year and became so confident that if we didn't score a guy from third with one out we were confident the next guy would do it.

Coach of the year: Ryan Lillis steered seventh-seeded North Brunswick into the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship game just four years removed from a winless debut campaign, while Woodbridge shook off a 2-5 start to win 12 of its last 17 games and advance to the GMCT semifinals under Lou Urbano, who won his 200th game in the process. Then there's the job Paul Esposito did at St. Joseph, building the county's premier program, which takes on all comers and plays the closest thing to mistake-free baseball seen in these parts.

But the choice is Iselin Kennedy's Jerry Smith, who molded a team with one great player and a handful of very good ones into a state champion.

There's no one better. He's the most prepared coach in the state with the scouting reports he puts together, Brian Schroeder, Iselin Kennedy's All-State senior, said. “He deserves the championship. All of the practices, it was worth it in the end.

Back to back: Iselin Kennedy did not win everything this year. St. Joseph (21-6) retained its Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament title, going 16-1 against Middlesex county competition. St. Joseph accomplished all of this while playing a gauntlet of a schedule that consisted of six schools that played for state titles --Christian Brothers of Lincroft, Randolph, St. Rose of Belmar and Shore Regional of West Long Branch, along with Christopher Columbus and Gulliver Prep of Miami -- as well as state powers Steinert of Hamilton, Immaculata of Somerville and Seton Hall Prep of West Orange.

Our program philosophy is to be a perennial top 10 team in the state year in and year out and to me that is not going to happen unless you play top competition, St. Joseph coach Paul Esposito said. “We want to face the best competition. We feel that is going to make us the best team we can be.

Team of the future: Monroe (16-6-1) looms as the biggest to threat to end St. Joseph's two-year reign as Greater Middlesex Conference champion. Among its top eight players, Monroe will return three juniors in Andy Sullivan, (5-2, 1.24), who won the GMC Cy Young Award, first baseman/pitcher Zach Batchelor (.359, 2-0) and pitcher/outfielder Keith Sanchez (3-1, .405). Also back are three sophomores, outfielder Nick Dini (.410), designated hitter Alex Vizcaino (.488) and outfielder Jimmie Small (.389), and freshman third baseman Victor Sorrento (.288).

Iselin Kennedy returns five members of the Middlesex all-junior team in pitcher/shortstop Joe Marciano, catcher Jay Stolz, first baseman/pitcher Alex Weinstein, outfielder Jorge Rivera and outfielder Kyle Grimes but will need someone to step up on the mound if it is to recreate this year's success.

Best of the rest: J.P. Stevens infielder Mike Zinno batted .464 with six hits, three triples and four home runs. Spotswood infielder Cody Pace batted .377 with three doubles, two triples and three home runs. Bishop Ahr infielder Andy Bowidowicz batted .444 with seven home runs and went 4-0 with a 3.07 ERA.

Performances of the year: Brian Schroeder earned the victory and the save, both in relief, and hit two three-run homers in Iselin Kennedy's 11-8 sectional semifinal victory over Nutley. Zack Hopf went 3-for-3 with three home runs and eight RBI in Woodbridge's 12-2 triumph over Spotswood on May 20.

Juniors achievement: Monroe pitcher Andrew Sullivan won the Greater Middlesex Conference Cy Young Award while fellow first team honorees Mike Muha of South Brunswick and Dario Santangelo of Bishop Ahr excelled at the plate and on the mound. Spotswood shortstop Cody Pace, is the best of the rest.

All-junior first team: Zach Batchelor, Monroe; Jordan Carter, Middlesex; Victor Diaz, St. Joseph; Zack Hopf, Woodbridge; Joe Marciano, Iselin Kennedy; Nick Marics, Edison; Mike Muha, South Brunswick; Cody Pace, Spotswood; Juan Perdomo, South Brunswick; Eric Perez, Woodbridge; Dario Santangelo, Bishop Ahr; Jay Stolz, Iselin Kennedy; Andrew Sullivan, Monroe.

All-junior second team: Kyle Grimes, Iselin Kennedy; Matt Heimall, East Brunswick Tech; Mike Maffia, Carteret; Billy Merz, Carteret; Kevin Olah, Middlesex; Joe Pace, Bishop Ahr; Dylan Papa, South Plainfield; Jorge Rivera, Iselin Kennedy; Alex Taylor, North Brunswick; Dom Vocisano, Piscataway; Alejandro Torres, New Brunswick; Kyle Waldron, Timothy Christian; Craig Warzecha, South Amboy; Alex Weinstein, Iselin Kennedy.

Sophomore slugger: Monroe outfielder Nick Dini, who batted .391 with 36 hits last spring as a freshman, posted 30 more hits and a .410 batting average as a sophomore.

All-sophomore team: Blake Cuomo, Sayreville; Dustin DeVoe, South Amboy; Nick Dini, Monroe; Brandon Downes, South Plainfield; Zach Gildenberg, South Brunswick; J.J. Glinka, East Brunswick; Daniel Hansen, South Plainfield; Mike Passanante, Middlesex; Junior Rodriguez, New Brunswick; Dave Rondesko, South River; Ryan Smith, Cardinal McCarrick; Justin Soto, East Brunswick Tech; Alex Vizcaino, Monroe; Matt Wagner, Colonia.

Freshmen: There are no pitchers on the all-freshman team, but there is a bevy of promising hitters, led by Metuchen shortstop Anthony Feltre, who clubbed 11 doubles among his 31 hits in batting .403.

All-freshman team: Franci Bueno, New Brunswick; Anthony Feltre, Metuchen; Jose Hernandez, Perth Amboy; James Lyczkowski, Woodbridge; Matt Mangarella, Spotswood; Juan Carlos Pena, Perth Amboy; Jeff Puckett, Dunellen; Victor Sorrento, Monroe; Dan Valles, Carteret; Dean Vitale, Spotswood.


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