Redbirds head to Myrtle Beach to prepare for baseball season


By Wayne Witkowski

Allentown High School’s baseball team has the remedy for winter blues after the wet weather forced practices indoors and dropped scrimmages.

Go south.

The Redbirds are headed to the Ripken Experience at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this week to play six games in four days from March 22-26 to help prepare for their April 1 opener at Hopewell Valley Central High School at 11 a.m. After that is an April 3 game at Hightstown High School.

The Redbirds have traveled south in past years during the preseason, and coach Brian Nice feels this group that is loaded with experienced players will benefit as it prepares for its Colonial Valley Conference schedule against teams from Nottingham High School, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North and Hamilton High School West.

“We’re all in the same boat, trying to figure out what’s going on,” said Nice, referring to teams around the state whose workouts have been confined to gyms after a few pleasant days at the start of the preseason. “I think we’re going to be OK. Most of our pitching is back.”

Jordan Winston, who is headed to Oklahoma State University in the fall on a financial package, and Ryan Huth, who committed to Princeton University to continue his football career as a lineman, lead the deep pitching corps. Both right-handers led the Redbirds to their first state football championship in New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group IV, routing Brick Township High School at Rutgers University in December for the title. Winston played quarterback for that team — rushing for more than 1,000 yards and passing for another 1,000 for the second straight season.

Winston, who played exclusively as a pitcher last season, may play in the field as well, but Nice said it has not been determined coming into this week whether he will be in the infield or outfield.

Senior left-hander Colton Johnson is a solid starter as well, and junior right-hander Jimmy Frein will be ready for increased innings as needed.

Pitcher Kyle Lysy is among the four graduates from last year’s team that finished 13-12. Also graduated are trusty shortstop Brandon Munoz, who was one of the leaders of last year’s team at the plate and in the field, outfielder Rob Matos and Ryan Gould, who was platooned at catcher.

Shortstop is one key area that Nice said is up in the air in an otherwise experienced infield, as senior Jackson Fogarty, a left-handed hitter, and sophomore Matt Tannenbaum are practicing there.

Three starters return to the infield: Huth, when he is not pitching, plays at first base, where he was solid last season; senior second baseman Aydon Chavis; and junior third baseman Giuseppe Arcuri. Chavis also was a standout for the football team.

Chris Reeder, a junior who rotated with Gould at catcher, has looked sharp in practice, as has sophomore Ryan Miller. Both may rotate at that position this season.

Pitching depth will be important, as the NJSIAA changed its rules for this season from innings pitched to pitch-count limitations, which puts an even greater burden of accountability on coaches and their players. Even Matt Coiante, another left-hander who started in the outfield last season and is expected to start in center field this season, is expected to get the call to pitch, especially toward the end of the season when the Redbirds hope to bunch Mercer County Tournament games with their regular-season schedule or if they have to make up rainouts.

Joining Coiante in the outfield is junior right fielder Austin Ferrier, while junior Frank Delguercio is starting again, playing in left field this season, and he is expected to be called upon for spot duty on the mound. He also may go to first base when Huth pitches. If Delguercio gets moved, senior Chris Anderson may step into that spot and also is a designated hitter.

Last year’s team had a young lineup with four sophomores starting. It lost in its opening game of the Mercer County Tournament to Princeton Day School and won in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III tournament over Northern Burlington County Regional High School, which was a state finalist in 2015, before getting eliminated in the next round.

They sealed those berths with a late-season surge, winning four of five games when Huth had some of his best hitting games of the season, along with Coiante’s consistent hitting. Graduated senior Ryan Mastromarino pitched his best game of the season in a crucial 5-1 victory over Princeton High School in late May.