A challenging schedule will be the task that the Old Bridge High School baseball team is prepared to take head on.
“We’re looking to compete every game,” Old Bridge coach Matt Donaghue said. “Our schedule is loaded. We know that. But, we feel like we have athletes on the field, and we can compete with everyone that we face. With that being said, our pitchers have to throw strikes, we have to make the plays behind it, and we have to start generating runs on offense.”
Connor Freel, a senior pitcher, spoke how the Knights must take on the rugged schedule.
“We know we have a tough schedule,” Freel said. “It’s one of the hardest in the state. It’s like that every year. We can’t have any excuses. Pitchers have to throw strikes. We have to play great defense. We have to be aggressive at the plate. It’s that simple. As players, we know we need to come out every day looking to compete.”
The schedule is sturdy from the start.
Old Bridge was slated to open against Morristown High School, a perennial state power, on March 31 in Old Bridge. On April 4, another state heavyweight, Saint Joseph Regional High School, paid a call from Montvale in Bergen County.
The Knights take on a local rival, Sayreville War Memorial High School, on April 7 at 11 a.m. in nearby Sayreville.
The rugged schedule also features Old Bridge’s trip to Jersey City to meet Saint Peter’s Prep on April 14 and a visit to West Orange to play Seton Hall Prep on April 21. Both parochial schools are among the best in the state each spring. Old Bridge also makes the journey to Morris County to meet Randolph High School on May 18.
Donaghue is confident that Old Bridge can improve on its 12-15 finish of 2017 by being aggressive.
“Just stay hungry and aggressive,” Donaghue said. “No matter whether it’s the first pitch or last pitch, we’re going to stay aggressive. At the plate. On the base paths. We’re going to look to be aggressive and play our style.”
Old Bridge’s season in 2017 came to an end with a first-round exit in the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional tournament.
Freel offered some answers on how the Knights cam advance in the state tournament.
“It starts with the defense,” Freel said. “Everything is going to have to come together. Like I said before, pitchers have to throw strikes. The defense has to be ready to make the plays behind them. And, our offense needs to look to score runs.”
Donaghue is fond of his club’s work on defense.
“I think our [senior] catcher, Ryan Bradley is going to have a great year offensively and defensively,” Donaghue said. “He’s the captain of our defense. I think he’s really progressed a lot over the past year. I think our two middle infielders [junior second baseman Danny Chiofalo and junior shortstop John Cardile] are very athletic and make a lot of plays. Our third baseman [senior Matt Laconti] is really good too. We just have a group of really good guys. I think they will keep us in every game.”