By Jeff Appelblatt
There weren’t too many players Freehold High School’s baseball team would have rather had batting in the clutch than junior Mark Costanzo, and it looked like the .316 batter had the biggest hit of his career in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group IV championship game at Hunterdon Central Regional High School.
With the bases loaded and Freehold trailing, 2-1, the right-handed slugger lined a pitch toward third base. But what appeared to be a game-tying hit wound up a game-ending out. Hunterdon Central’s Sal Lombardo, who made the final catch, was hugging third with the bases loaded, giving him time to make the big catch.
Before Freehold loaded the bases in the final inning, the game was a pitching duel. However, the Colonials had to have expected that beforehand. The Red Devils’ pitching staff had an ERA below 2.00 entering the contest, and Hunterdon Central knew it would take work to get runs off Freehold ace Dan Chiusano.
The game played out as expected. In the complete-game effort, Chiusano gave up only four hits — but one of those hits was in the third inning with two on. That hit by Colin Mason knocked in two runs, which wound up being all the Red Devils needed to make it two years in a row as Group IV champs.
Freehold’s top pitcher won’t be able to keep his head down too long. The senior lefty plans to pitch at Kean University in the fall following his seven-win season with the Colonials.
The team’s No. 2 pitcher, Tom Holdorf, is also in his final year at Freehold. The senior, who threw a one-hit gem against Montgomery High School in the Group IV semifinals, anticipates pitching at Seton Hall University within the next year.
Next year’s Colonials will also be without one of its top infielders, shortstop Chris Cassandra. He will look to make a name for himself at New York University.
The aforementioned are three of nine Freehold baseball players this year that will be graduating, but 27-year coach Jon Block hopes his returning athletes can help defend the Shore Conference A North Division title his club won this year.
Along with Costanzo, the Colonials will have two of its other best hitters back for a year: Matt Granato and Nick Aiello.
Dane DellaValle has also looked like he’s eager to step into the No. 1 pitcher role. This year as a junior, DellaValle kept his ERA below 1.50, giving up only eight earned runs in 41.1 innings. He picked up five wins for the Colonials (18-9).
Catcher Phil Marcantonio has a year left behind the plate for the Colonials.