By Warren Rappleyea
Shore Regional High School is using the Greater Middlesex Coaches Summer Baseball League to develop players for the varsity team as well as for its other teams.
With the demise of the league’s Junior Division, Blue Devils head coach Patrick O’Neill opted to employ one team with two sets of players. For its Tuesday games, Shore Regional used a lineup comprised of players entering their sophomore years along with incoming freshmen.
On Thursdays, the lineup comprises mainly players who will be seniors and juniors next season. Jay Kuhlthau, the Blue Devils’ junior varsity coach, is in charge of the summer program.
“We have 40 players between the two groups, but not everyone can make it all the time,” said Kuhlthau, a former Shore Regional shortstop/third baseman who graduated in 2007. “This way, all of the guys who wanted to play could.”
The younger team struggled a bit. After being no-hit in its first game, the younger Blue Devils showed continuous improvement and have been more competitive with each game.
“For the younger guys, it’s really more about getting experience, especially for the incoming freshmen,” Kuhlthau said. “We wanted to get them acquainted with the competition and also to play at a higher level. I think it opened their eyes. For the most part — with the exception of a few bad innings here are there — they have done pretty well.”
This group includes sophomores Noah Carroll, Sal LaRosa, Brett Young and left-handed pitcher Gabe Zwerin, as well as incoming freshmen Christian Bauman, Terry Carlstrom, Timmy Donohue, Cody Fleischer, Matt Ippolito, Sam Martucci, Patrick O’Dwyer, Alex Palmberg, Richie Pekmezian, Zach Rivera and Ryan Westerland. At the plate, LaRosa, Fleischer and Bauman have been stinging the ball.
With 10 players graduating from a group that went 13-9 this spring, there will be plenty of competition for varsity jobs and many of the contenders are playing with Kuhlthau’s older group, which has played .500 ball this summer.
“This gives the juniors and seniors a chance to work on new positions — we encourage all of our guys to play more than one position — and to get some extra at-bats,” Kuhlthau said. “It’s really an opportunity for players to show what they can do, and the fact that they’re coming to the games and working on things is always a positive.”
The Thursday roster includes seniors Alex King and Dean Smolokoff, as well as juniors Jared Breithoff, Bailey Crochet, Tommy Dunleavy, Chris LaBruno, Jim Maletto, Mike Shirvanian and Hunter Ward. Sophomore Max Cameron is also on the team.
Shirvanian and LaBruno have excelled on the mound, while Smolokoff and Dunleavy are among the squad’s top hitters.