Spotswood hitting its stride at the right time - SENTINAL
Chargers poised to grab some hardware
BY RICHARD JEROME
A blistering .383 team batting average and some superb pitching have vaulted the Spotswood High School baseball team to a 17-4 record, and a No. 2 seed in the upcoming state tournament.
And coach Glenn Fredericks is delighted that his Chargers seem to be peaking at the right time.
"We struggled a bit in the beginning of the season," he said. "When we were getting good starting pitching, we weren't getting timely hitting, and when we were hitting, the pitching wasn't as strong. But ever since we beat Highland Park to clinch our fifth straight divisional title, we've been in double-digits in hits for eight straight games, average 14.8 a game. They're on fire like I've never seen a high school team.
"We have a lot of guys returning," added the coach. "They played ball all year round, so they had a whole extra season together as a unit. It's been great way to introduce the younger guys to the team."
For all the batting prowess, the Chargers, who went 19-5 last spring, have had some brilliant pitching, notably from senior righty Willie Beard, who is heading to Rutgers next year on a scholarship. Beard, who is 7-1 to date, pitched a perfect game against Metuchen earlier in the season, then in late April tossed a one-hit gem against East Brunswick at Trenton's Waterfront Park. Last Saturday, Beard threw his second no-hitter of the campaign, again whitewashing the Bears, as Spotswood took an 8-0 decision in the second round of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament. Beard, who has 70 strikeouts in 50-2/3 innings, fanned six and walked a pair.
"Willie just won his 20th career game to break the school record for lifetime wins held by my brother, Dan, who's our pitching coach," Fredericks points out.
As for the offense, SHS has strength from the first through ninth spots in the order. Mike Hohman, who has a 5-1 pitching record in addition to being perhaps the county's best second baseman, also broke a school record by rapping out his 100th career base hit. Hohman, who will play at Kean University next year, is hitting .471 out of the leadoff position, with 30 runs scored - in fact, he's crossed the plate in all but three of his team's 21 games. His double-play partner, shortstop Cody Pace, has been impressive as a freshman, both afield and at bat, where he has a lusty .373 average.
"He's been a huge plus," Fredericks says.
The emergence of Pace has allowed John Berner to move back to his normal position, third base. Berner leads the conference with six home runs and has knocked across 24 RBIs, forming a formidable back-to-back punch with catcher Anthony Addone, who leads the squad with 26 ribbies. Designated hitter Michael Collins, who bats fifth in the lineup, is batting a healthy .403 with 25 hits, and 14 RBIs - eight of them coming with two outs.
"Probably the biggest improvement on the team has come from center fielder Phil Spina, who is one of the best in the field but only hit .178 in a full season last year," said Fredericks. "He's got his average up to .377 and has been around .400 all year. Phil worked hard, got bigger and stronger and spent a lot of time in the cage."
Another player who has made strides is first sacker C.J. Mooney, who hit .222 last season but is now at .339, a good two-strike hitter who smacks it to all fields. So does speedy right fielder and cleanup batter Joe Petosa, who is hitting .437 with 22 runs. Over in left, first-year starter Brian Curci is a .300 hitter, batting last in the order.
"There are no easy outs on our team," says Fredericks, who is assisted by brother Dan, Mike Bruschini, Dale Rubino and Mike Feaster. As for the rest of the pitching staff, a quartet of lefties supplement Beard and Hohman, including Nick Brown, Jon Martin, Dan Hohman and Dave Lynch.
Last night, the Chargers faced South Amboy in the GMC quarterfinals; if they won, they'd play on Saturday. The states, meanwhile, commence on Tuesday.
"We've beefed up our schedule this year - the only way you improve is to play against top competition," Fredericks said. "That's really taken us a long way."
Diamond notes... While the Chargers are the only local baseball team still alive in GMCT play, there are several local girls teams hoping to make a run at the GMCT softball crown, with play set to start today.