Posted by Glenn Fredricks on Mar 24 2010 at 05:00PM PDT

Spotswood baseball team anxious to put ’09 season behind them


Perhaps it was the law of averages. Maybe you can blame it on youth. Whatever the reason, the Spotswood High School baseball team finished 12-13 last year, the first time since 1993 the Chargers did not win more games than they lost. Coach Glenn Fredricks, entering his sixth season at the helm, will tell you the season left such a bad taste in the collective mouths of his players, those who return are committed to achieving a winning record. Before looking at whether or not this can be accomplished, let’s analyze why Spotswood suffered through such a challenging 2009. Thirteen opponents were of the Group IV variety. Other out of conference games included bouts with traditional powers, Immaculata and Hunterdon Central. The Chargers, lest anyone forget, are a Group II team and compete in the GMC Blue Division.

“We’re challenging ourselves to not let it happen again,” Fredricks said about the record, as his team plays through its preseason scrimmage schedule. “Once our chemistry develops, I think we’ll be good. First goal, as always, is to win the GMC Blue.”

A positive for Spotswood is the remnant from the 2007 State Group II and GMC Tournament championship team, all-conference shortstop Cody Pace. Pace is a co-captain and one of the premier players in the state. He, along with junior catcher, Shawn Weeks, provides important leadership for what otherwise is a young lineup with two sophomores in the starting pitching rotation, and two others in the infield. But those sophomores are experienced.

Chris Stout is a 6-4 lefty whose stature on the mound belies his youth. As a freshman, Stout was involved in close games against quality teams, including two one-run decisions. While Fredricks will not label Stout as his number one hurler, he will get plenty of starts. The other sophomore is Anthony Berg, a righty who made eleven appearances as a freshman. Fredricks expects Berg to be improved due to his experience. Senior Jeff Coy returns with the best mound statistics, a 3-1 record and 1.98 earned run average. But the wild card on the staff could turn out to be Pace, who led the conference in saves (six) last year. “He may start games out of necessity,” said Fredricks. “One of the keys to winning is putting the best arms out there. If we determine Cody has that ability to start, that’s what we’ll do.”

Fredricks admits a liability last season was his pitching staff. “The team ERA was 4.51 and teams had an on-base percentage of around .400,” Fredricks said. “We agreed those statistics were just too high. Everybody feels accountable and wants to get those numbers down.”

With Weeks, who quarterbacks the football team, behind the plate, Spotswood starts one of the top backstops in the conference. Described as one of the most coachable players on the team, Weeks wields a solid bat and is defensively sound. The infield and outfield only need to replace two starters so the Chargers appear set. One of those graduated, however, was first baseman, Brian Smith, who hit nine home runs. So far, Stout and Anthony Piepanza have been dividing time at the position. At second, Matt Mangarella, a sophomore, started last season as a freshman and hit a credible .300. Also back is another sophomore, Dean Vitale. Pace returns from hitting .377 and is 9 hits shy of 100 for a career, a mark he should reach this year.

In the outfield, senior Mike Liming moves from leftfield to center. He is flanked by John Relay, a junior, in right field and either Corey Brown, a freshman, or Joe Cappa, a senior, in left field. Fredricks says a few more are in the mix to play the outfield but final decisions have not been made. “What we went through last year will remind us we have to get back to the basics,” said Fredricks. “However, it will be just as challenging a schedule. “We play Immaculata and Hunterdon Central again, and have games against North Hunterdon, Roselle Park and New Providence,” he added. “So we have our work cut out. It’s up the team to respond.”


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