By Matthew Rocco
A combination of veteran starters and young newcomers is looking to carry the Monmouth Regional High School baseball team back to postseason glory in 2016.
Turnover definitely hit the Falcons after last season, as a dozen seniors were lost to graduation. One of those seniors was top hitter Matt Vincenti, who led Monmouth Regional with a .461 batting average. The Falcons also bid farewell to Corey Shevlin, Christian DeFazio and Bill Herman, who played important roles on the pitching staff.
But the 2016 squad isn’t without senior leadership. With some promotions from junior varsity, Monmouth Regional will have 10 seniors on its roster, including returning starters Garrhet Reedy behind the plate and Christian Hoplock in the outfield.
Following a 9-13 campaign in 2015, the Falcons are anxious to get back to where they were in 2013, when they won the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group II championship. Monmouth Regional will take it one step at a time, starting with a challenging preseason schedule that was drawn up to prepare the Falcons for whatever comes their way this spring.
“We put together a really strong scrimmage schedule so when it comes time to compete against anybody, we’re ready,” head coach Paul Crivello said. “We’re an up-and-coming team.”
New to the Falcons this year are sophomore Charlie Kelly (outfield/pitcher) and juniors Noah Eggenschwiler (pitcher/outfield), Josh Rife (pitcher/infield), Derek Radzik (pitcher), Mike Valerio (infield), Alex Palmieri (pitcher), Trevor D’Meo (infield/pitcher) and Jay Eustace (pitcher). Monmouth Regional also added two seniors to the varsity team in Alec Fruchter (catcher/outfield) and Trenton Sartor (outfield).
Reedy, a Stockton University commit, is poised to be a centerpiece of the Monmouth Regional lineup coming off a season in which the catcher ranked fourth on the team in batting average and third in slugging percentage. Reedy hit .329 on the year with seven doubles and a pair of triples.
The Felician University-bound Hoplock batted .315 last season, coupled with a .486 on-base percentage. Also back in the lineup for 2016 is senior infielder and pitcher Andrew Slinger, a right-hander who struck out 15 batters in 19 innings a year ago. Seniors P.J. Mellaci (outfield), Chris Raike (pitcher), James Seldner (pitcher), Skylar Marvin (infield/outfield/designated hitter) and Chris Marcincak (infielder) give the Falcons added experience and depth.
Monmouth Regional’s returning junior class consists of Josh Jackson (infielder/catcher), Mark Abrams (outfield), Joe Malfara (pitcher) and Paul Birzin (pitcher). Jackson is another key piece in the lineup. He hit .308 with seven doubles, two home runs and 17 RBIs in 2015. Abrams posted a .308 average in 28 at-bats.
Crivello believes the Falcons have a winning mix of young talent and senior leaders. He said the veterans in Monmouth Regional’s lineup know how to approach their at-bats, and the younger players learn from watching their teammates. As for the pitching staff, Crivello sees plenty of upside.
“We have good young arms that really want to compete and believe in each other. They back each other up. We’ll have a lot of confidence on the hill,” he said.
The team expects to be a title contender in 2016. The Falcons are aiming for the Shore Conference A Central Division title, and they also want to make a run in the postseason tournaments.
“Overall, we’d like to come together as a group and become more of a family-oriented team by the end of the year,” said Crivello, who will begin his third season at the helm. “It’s great because they’re doing it now. They’re going to be a lot of fun to coach.”
Opening day for the Falcons is April 1 at home against Raritan High School. First pitch will be 10 a.m. Monmouth Regional will host Academy Charter High School April 4 starting at 4 p.m.