Vikings prepared to build off last year’s 20-win baseball season

By Warren Rappleyea

Several starters return from a squad that went 20-10 a year ago, but South Brunswick High School’s baseball team lost starting pitchers who accounted for 14 of those wins to graduation.

Last season was South Brunswick’s first 20-victory campaign since 1979. In addition, the Vikings went all the way to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Central Jersey, Group IV tournament finals, where they fell to Hunterdon Central Regional High School.

“We won last year because we stuck to the things that work,” coach C.J. Hendricks said. “That means knowing who you are as a player and what we are as a team. We try to keep things simple and play to the situation.”

Shortstop Ryan Moran is expected to lead the offense and spearhead the South Brunswick defense. The senior, who will bat third, primarily played second base last season when he hit .380 with two home runs and 16 RBIs.

Also returning are corner infielders Chris James and Alex Pollock. James will again patrol the hot corner after batting .286 with nine RBIs, while the lefty-swinging Pollock, a junior, also hit .286 and drove in five runs.

Power-hitting lefty Kevin Reyes will be back in right field, and Hendricks plans to bat the junior in the cleanup spot. Reyes is coming off a .288, 12-RBI season. The Vikings also have a superb center fielder in leadoff hitter Marco DiIusto, another junior, who batted .246 last year.

The remainder of the lineup will include second baseman Victor Huetz, left fielder Jordan Trimpert and catcher Adam Britton, who are all seniors. Chris Comacho and sophomore Mike Slover will also see time behind the plate.

Hendricks is planning to use senior Trey Sweeney and sophomore Jacob Ciccone as his primary starters for the back-to-back Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division games. Sweeney went 3-2 a year ago, while Ciccone won two games and saved two others as a freshman.

“They’re very different pitchers, and that should give teams a different look in division games,” the coach said.

Pollock and sophomores Mike Rogers and Justin Cross may also get some starts. The hard-throwing Moran will close games.

“Our pitching staff is very young, and I really want them to just stay the course,” Hendricks said. “The key for them will be challenging hitters, getting the ball over the plate and missing the sweet spot on the bat. We have a strong defense, and our pitchers need to use it.”

The Vikings’ April 1 season opener at Red Division rival Old Bridge High School was postponed due to the weather. South Brunswick was slated to host the Knights April 3. Sayreville War Memorial High School came to town April 5, with Robbinsville High School due in the following day and Ewing High School visiting April 8. South Brunswick resumes Red Division play with a home-and-home series that begins April 10 at Edison High School.

“One of the reasons for our success last year was that we practiced very hard,” Hendricks said. “It’s the same this year. We try and make practice as much like a game as possible. We work on different situations all the time. We want to look and play like the most prepared team on the field.”