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SHS varsity boys won their first-ever state championship
BY VINCENT TODARO
SPOTSWOOD - Local and state officials honored a varsity baseball team that took its school to new heights and captured the state title.
The Spotswood High School Chargers were present at a July 23 Borough Council meeting to be recognized by dignitaries for their unlikely achievement. Despite coming from a small town, the varsity boys team won the state championship in June, defeating Indian Hills High School 11-1 in five innings to lay claim to New Jersey's Group II title.
"I'm personally very proud of their achievements, and I recognize how hard the entire team worked and came together as a team," Mayor Barry Zagnit said later. "They came together to go against some mighty opponents."
The team captured its first sectional title with a 1-0 victory over Somerville and then won the school's first ever Greater Middlesex Tournament championship with a 7-6 win over J.P. Stevens High School. It then traveled to New Egypt High School and beat the South Jersey Group II champs, Sterling, in a 13-2 rout. That paved the way to the June 9 championship game with Indian Hills in Toms River, where Spotswood became the state champ.
The team went 26-4 on the season, a school record.
Zagnit issued the team a proclamation at the July meeting, and state Sen. Barbara Buono and assemblymen Peter Barnes and Patrick Diegnan were all on hand to congratulate the team.
"Up until now we've never had a team like this," Zagnit said.
Glenn Fredricks, the team's coach, knows that firsthand. He played baseball at Spotswood High School, as did his brother Dan, who now serves as pitching coach for the varsity team.
"For myself and my brother, it's special," Glenn said of the victory. "It's like giving us closure for what we tried to do as players."
Glenn graduated from Spotswood High School in 1994, and Dan in 1997. The two did play on the team together one year, when Dan was a freshman pitcher/outfielder and Glenn a second basemen/pitcher.
Glenn said this year's team included a "good blend" of players, including underclassmen and a core of senior leadership. Among the players with years of experience on the team were William Beard, Mike Hohman, Anthony Addone, John Michael Berner III and Phil Spina. Brian Curci, Daniel Hohman, Richard Kuhn Jr., Brian Scott, Nicholas Brown, Michael Collins, David Lynch, Christopher J. Mooney, Joseph Reid, Timothy J. Snook, Jamie Cullen, Patrick Dwyer, Jonathan Martin, Joseph Petosa, Vincent Vizzi and Cody Pace rounded out the team.
Glenn, who has coached the team for three years, said the team's consistency finally paid off in a big way. Making the victories sweeter, he said, is the schedule the team faced.
"I think this was by far the toughest schedule I've seen at SHS," he said. "The schedule magnifies the amount of wins we had."
Council President Curtis Stollen called it a "remarkable achievement" that the team will remember 50 years from now.
"They'll accomplish other great things but always remember this one," Stollen said.
Fredricks thanked Athletic Director Graham Peabody for his support.
"He was a big part of our success and doesn't get enough thanks," he said.
Beard delivered a dominant season
Player of the year: Despite a 91-mph fastball and a sharp, biting curve, Willie Beard of Spotswood didn't become a complete pitcher until he stopped tipping off to batters which of those pitches was on its way.
Last season, Beard was 8-2 with a 2.02 ERA, but a 12-0 loss to Old Bridge in the quarterfinal round of the 2006 Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament gave Beard some indication of what still needed work.
"I left the ball over the middle of the plate too much," Beard recalled of his loss to Old Bridge.
With his mechanics tweaked to better conceal his delivery, and his ability to pitch to the corners of the plate enhanced, the right-hander turned in a dominant season in 2007. He was 12-1 with a 1.93 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings. He was 5-0 during Spotswood's nine-game winning streak to close the season, including victories in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament final against J.P. Stevens and the NJSIAA Group 2 final against Indian Hills.
In consecutive starts in the first two rounds of the county tournament, Beard pitched a no-hitter against East Brunswick and a one-hitter against Spotswood, embellishing the latter victory with 13 strikeouts.
"Willie is two times the pitcher that he was last year," Spotswood coach Glenn Fredericks said. "He was very good last year, but now he's throwing his curve with the same arm action as his fastball, he gets his fastball up to 91 (mph) and the batter can't sit on either pitch. Willie has never lost an American Legion game in four years. He's just a winner."
Beard will pitch for Rutgers next year.
Coach of the year: In Glenn Fredricks' second season as Spotswood's head coach in 2006, the team came close to scaling unprecedented heights, going 19-5-1 and reaching the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 final, where it lost to Gov. Livingston. But this season, the weight of heavy expectations on a team with many returning starters never appeared to faze Fredricks' team, which went 26-4 and closed the year on a nine-game winning streak. A 1994 graduate of the school, Fredricks is 63-18 at Spotswood since arriving after a stint as an assistant coach at Immaculata.
TEAM OF THE YEAR: Following its 5-2 loss to Ewing on opening day, Spotswood suffered very few speed bumps on its way to an historic 26-4 record that included the first state and county championships in the school's history.
On the days when Willie Beard could not pitch, the falloff was not appreciable with senior Mike Hohman on the mound. He was 8-1 with a 1.86 ERA. Hohman also concluded his career as the all-time hits leader at Spotswood with 115. He committed just one error this season at second base, and he batted .484 with 23 walks, 15 stolen bases and 43 runs scored.
The team hit consistently up and down the lineup, with third baseman John Berner leading Spotswood with seven home runs and tying catcher Anthony Addone for the team lead in RBI with 32.
In eight of Spotswood's final nine games, the team allowed two runs or fewer. The one exception was the 7-6 victory over J.P. Stevens for the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship. Spotswood wrapped up its season with an 11-1 victory over Indian Hills for the NJSIAA Group 2 championship.
Career leaders: Highland Park pitcher/infielder Rob Rubenstein concluded a spectacular career with a school-record 153 hits and a .470 batting average.
Other players who closed out the 2007 season as their school's all-time career base-hit leaders were Rafael Cordero (124) of Iselin Kennedy, John Haas (104) of South Brunswick, Chris Stallone (97) of South Plainfield and Mike Hohman (115) of Spotswood.
All sophomore/freshman team: Jared Shukis, Edison; Juan Perdomo, South Brunswick; Mike Zinno, J.P. Stevens; J.R. Seader, Piscataway; Pete Senysyn, Carteret; Elijah Yarborough, North Brunswick; Luis Batista, Perth Amboy; Mike Perone, Middlesex; Bryant Riquelme, Metuchen; Cody Pace, Spotswood; Joey Petosa, Spotswood; Brian Schroeder, Iselin Kennedy.
THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS:
#34 WILL BEARD**** (RUTGERS UNIV.-$)
#5 MIKEY HOHMAN*** (KEAN UNIV.)
#13 JOHN MICHAEL BERNER III*** (NJIT-$)
#23 PHIL SPINA**
#3 ANTHONY ADDONE** (BLOOMFIELD-$)
#26 BRIAN SCOTT
#18 RICKY KUHN
#21 DANNY HOHMAN
#19 BRIAN CURCI
$=ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIP AWARD