By Warren Rappleyea
With six key position players and two starting pitchers back in the fold, Ocean Township High School’s baseball team looks forward to another strong season after posting an 18-10 mark a year ago.
Spartans coach Cip Apicelli will also look for a strong showing in the postseason after reaching the round of 16 in both the Monmouth County and Shore Conference tournaments, as well as the second round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III playoffs.
“I think we’re going to be tough on the mound,” the coach said. “We have to show up every day, play good defense and put forth the effort. At the plate, our guys can hit from one through nine in the order; they have to do it in the games.”
On the hill, Ocean Township returns right-handers Jake Talerico, who went 3-1, and junior Travis Lillie, who was 3-0. Both hurlers posted ERAs under 2.00. Seniors Alec Keezer, Brian Kochenash, hard-throwing J.T. Toomey and 6-foot-4 lefty Scott Bradley will also get their share of innings. The staff will be further bolstered by the return of junior left-hander Phil DeMarco, who missed most of last season with an injury. Freshman Max Winters could also see action on the mound.
Mark Chernin will again handle the catching duties after batting .290 with a pair of home runs and 18 RBIs a year ago. Brian Olesen is back at first base, where he batted .305 with a home run and team-leading 30 RBIs. Kochenash is back at shortstop, where he hit .275 and scored 20 runs, and Tyler Rothback, who drove in 15 runs to go with a .265 batting average, will patrol the hot corner. Keezer, who saw some time in the infield last spring, is at second base for the Spartans.
The speedy Talerico will be in center field, and junior Kenny Pickett is the left fielder. Both players drove in 10 runs last season while hitting about .270. Jack D’Auria has earned the nod in right field. The sophomore has hit the ball well during the preseason and finds ways to get on base, Apicelli said. Tyler Rawding, Brandon Stevens and junior Anthony Tedesco provide depth in the outfield and will likely see some time in the designated hitter role along with DeMarco. The versatile Winters gives Ocean Township options in the infield, and Carver Martinez is the reserve catcher.
“We’ve played pretty well in our scrimmages, but offensively we’re still figuring it out,” the coach said. “I think we’ll score runs; it just may take a little time for everyone to get comfortable in their roles.”
Ocean Township completed its scrimmage schedule March 30 and will open the season with three games in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, April 1-2. The Spartans will face off against teams from New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Apicelli’s team returns home to meet Long Branch High School April 4.