By Wayne Witkowski
New Egypt High School’s baseball team opens its season with its third coach in four years. But two weeks before the preseason, things appeared in jeopardy.
“I like the [coaching] opportunity. They did not have a coach [up to] two weeks before the start of preseason, and they asked me to do it,” said Tom Corby, who is a history teacher for grades 10 and 11.
He has coached at the school from when it opened in 2001 as an assistant in three boys’ sports and as junior varsity baseball coach for five years.
“As soon as one of the kids heard [of my appointment], he text messaged me, ‘Thank you. You saved my senior year,’ ” Corby said. “I didn’t think of it that way, but [the seniors] have had three coaches in four years and maybe they’d wind up with someone from outside the district. At least I’m [working] here. It’s a good situation for them and for me — someone who knows the team and what kind of people they are.”
Corby was an assistant coach to his brother, Jay, with the boys’ lacrosse coach for three years and boys’ basketball from when the program began through the 2013-14 season. He was an assistant coach for the softball team from 2011-14.
“It was a little hectic for a while, and we were all wondering what’s going to happen — talking to people at school — but we’re all happy with coach Corby and are excited to be playing for him,” senior outfielder Jordan Bendick said.
Corby takes over a baseball team with five returning starters that must fill the void of graduated standouts Gino Tortoriello at catcher, Liam Snell at third base and Chris Tereszczyn as No. 1 pitcher.
Last year, New Egypt reached the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group I semifinals in a 14-7 season, losing to Pittman High School. It moves back for this season to the Central Jersey section, where it reached the finals in 2014, losing, 3-2, to Shore Regional High School.
Weather may have depleted an ambitious scrimmage schedule against larger-enrollment schools, and Corby said he may get only a couple in just before the start of the season against Delsea Regional High School and Shore Regional.
The Warriors were hoping the preseason would give them an opportunity to get off to a good start when they play Burlington City High School at 3:45 p.m. April 3 in the opening game of the Burlington County Scholastic League (BCSL) Tournament. The Warriors then play at Burlington County Institute of Technology-Medford Campus April 4 and open their BCSL Freedom Division schedule at home against Maple Shape High School at 3:45 p.m April 6.
Nate Peacock, a left-hander starting his fourth season, will be the ace and again play in center field when he isn’t on the mound. He will bat leadoff.
Kyle Frimel, a junior who got most of his playing opportunity on the mound last year, is expected to see a lot of innings there this season as well as playing in the outfield.
“This year looks like fun and success. We’re getting down to basics and enjoying the game, and we’ll definitely fight for a [state] section championship,” Frimel said. “I’ll just play wherever [Corby] puts me, and I’m fine being in the outfield.”
Juniors Neal Flogel and Anthony Burr bolster the middle infield, where they played second base and shortstop, respectively, last season. Mickey Horner, a senior, is back at first base. Third base is a tossup between sophomores Chris Fernicola and Matt Soles. Burr also is expected to get significant innings on the mound. Burr, Fernicola and sophomore Anthony DeSantis, a left-hander, also will pitch. Freshman Randy Steen, who is the younger brother of former standout Tyler Steen, shows promise as a middle infielder.
Corby said he and other coaches will need pitching depth with the new state rule that sets limits based on pitch count rather than innings thrown. Jim DeAnni, who played in the New York Mets’ farm system, remains as a volunteer pitching coach.
Catcher is an untested area. Senior Jared Heller was expected to step in there but will be limited to designated hitter duties after sustaining an elbow injury that will prevent him from throwing this season. Juniors Ryan Moor and Will LeVorse and sophomore Connor Healey are contending for the start there.
Speed in the outfield will be the trademark of this year’s team, Corby said. Bendick returns as a starter alongside Peacock, while sophomore Bryce Crispin also is expected to join Frimel in the rotation, depending on who might be pitching.
“Not a lot of balls will fall in out there,” Corby said. “The infield is pretty solid, too.”
“Our defense looks very solid, and our hitting should be very good,” Bendick said.
Corby said speed will enhance New Egypt’s small-ball approach of scratching out runs with good baserunning rather than relying on power hitting.