Keyport set to turn corner during second half of baseball campaign

Keyport High School shortstop Jack DiPaolo catches a pop fly in the infield during a game against Ranney on April 21 in Keyport. Ranney defeated Keyport 12-0.

KEYPORT – The 2022 high school baseball season is in full swing and the Keyport High School Red Raiders are hoping to finish their campaign on a winning streak.

Coach Kyle Keelen believes his team is positioned for a strong second-half run after starting the season with a 3-5 record.

“We are going to make our run,” Keelen said. “We are done with the first half of our schedule. We feel we can build up our confidence and get some momentum going into the state sectional tournament during the second half of the season.”

Keelen believes the Red Raiders will improve as they start to play more teams from smaller schools like themselves during the second half of the season.

“We are going to compete a lot better,” the coach said. “I’m looking to see our guys put the ball in play more, play better defense and keep getting better as we compete to reach the Group I (state sectional) playoffs.”

On the mound, the Red Raiders are hoping to be able to rely on senior righthanders Anthony Longo and Jack DiPaolo. In 2021, when Keyport was 7-7, each pitcher had an ERA under 2.00.

Longo and DiPaolo are currently dealing with injuries that have kept them from pitching during the past few weeks.

Keelen said he hopes both players will be able to contribute on the mound during the second half of the season.

“I truly believe that once we get our one-two punch back that we can make a deep run in the state tournament,” the coach said.

With Longo and DiPaolo limited to playing the field and batting, sophomores Nicholas Dowd and Carter Williams have stepped up to anchor the starting rotation.

Seniors George Mitchell and D.J. Thomson have added depth to the pitching corps.

Keelen has been impressed with the play of Mitchell and Thomson this spring.

Thomson, who recently capped an outstanding basketball career by becoming only the second player in program history to score more than 1,700 points, played his first high school baseball season in 2021.

This is the first year Mitchell is playing baseball for the Red Raiders, after showcasing his athleticism on the football field at quarterback and on the basketball court.

The two seniors were a dynamic quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the fall as they led Keyport to a 6-3 record and an appearance in the state playoffs. During the basketball season, Thomson and Mitchell led Keyport to its first state sectional tournament championship game appearance since 2004.

Thomson and Mitchell each have a positive attitude and a competitive fire and Keelen believes those two intangibles and their athleticism can help the Red Raiders be successful on the diamond.

“They can go (to bat) and do the worst thing ever and still have a smile on their face and say ‘let’s get better.’ You need leadership like that on a team. Baseball is a tough sport. Those two kids always having a positive attitude helps the other kids keep positive and get better,” Keelen said.

The Red Raiders will host Keansburg on April 25 and face Rahway on April 27.