TASTY TIDBITS Prep poised to make a run at baseball “three-peat”

North Bergen softball rests hopes on unproven hurler

THREE-PEAT? – St. Peter’s Prep celebrated winning the Marauders’ second straight Hudson County Tournament title last spring, defeating Union City in the title game. Do the Marauders have what it takes to make it a ‘three-peat?’ The season begins April 1.
THREE-PEAT? – St. Peter’s Prep celebrated winning the Marauders’ second straight Hudson County Tournament title last spring, defeating Union City in the title game. Do the Marauders have what it takes to make it a ‘three-peat?’ The season begins April 1.

St. Peter’s Prep has won the last two Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournaments.

There’s nothing to be said that the Marauders can’t win a third straight title.

Right, Coach Pat Laguerre?

“It’s going to take a little time before we gel,” Laguerre said. “But once we do, we can become pretty good.”

Although right now, the Marauders are in a pinch, just like every other baseball and softball team in the county, because of the recent snowfall and frigid temperatures. They simply cannot get outside to practice.

“We try to be as creative as possible,” said Laguerre, who at least has the brand new Perkins Athletic Center, a.k.a. “The Perk,” to use for batting practice with the indoor cages installed there. “It helps that we have the new building, but still, there’s really not much you can do indoors. You can’t really throw or face live pitching.”

Once the Marauders are able to get outside – and weather reports are not favorable for any considerable melting of the mess for another week – they will feature one of the county’s best 1-2 pitching punch in senior left-hander Paul Cuccinelli and junior righty Jack Carey.

Carey was especially impressive down the stretch last season, firing a 10-inning one-hitter against Memorial and Justin Willis in the county tournament semifinals. Carey has already given a verbal commitment to Duke (both of his parents went there), so he’s not auditioning for any colleges when he takes the mound. Carey was a member of the Hudson Reporter All-Area Baseball team last year.

“He’s super talented,” Laguerre said of Carey. “It gives us a kid we’re confident with. He’s been fortunate to play in a lot of big games already.”

Cuccinelli was unbelievable down the stretch last season, delivering clutch hit after clutch hit. And even when he made an out, the ball was absolutely smoked coming off his bat.

“He’s a good two-way player,” Laguerre said of Cuccinelli as a pitcher and first baseman. “He pitched well for us last year and hit well. We have two solid starters we can depend upon. I’m excited to see what they can do this year.”

Other Marauder hurlers include Mateo Sollecito, John Curran, Mark Schiavo and Sean Hess, who is coming off an injury.

The catching position is wide open, with three candidates vying for playing time. Senior Sean Borkowski and juniors Frank Vuolo and Eugene Keohane are all battling for time behind the dish.

Carey and Cuccinelli will share time at first. Corel Caddle, the younger brother of former Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year Corey Caddle (now playing football at Fordham), is the second baseman. The younger Caddle is a junior.

Matt McDermott, who started at shortstop last year, returns this season after earning Hudson Reporter All-Area honors a year ago. Senior Justin Yannece and junior Jarred Rosso are sharing time at third.

Cuccinelli sees time in left field, with Dominic Melo in centerfield and Schiavo and sophomore Jeremiah Guzman sharing time in right.

The Marauders open April 1 against St. Anthony if the snow is gone by then. That may be a big if. The Marauders are also headed to Fort Lauderdale for three games in April that will count on their regular season record. They will also be a part of the Weehawken Autism Awareness baseball smorgasbord April 27-30.

“We know that people will be coming after us, but we welcome the challenge,” Laguerre said. “We always think we have a bulls’ eye on our backs. We won two straight. We’re excited to see what we can do this year. The league is very competitive.”…

One of the county’s best softball teams is trying to do its best indoors as well.

North Bergen, a perennial favorite among local softball teams, is hard at work daily at Robert Fulton School’s gymnasium. Although there is one glaring weakness with the Bruins, one that veteran coach Tom Eagleson has not had to endure over the last 25 years. Eagleson, the granddaddy of Hudson County coaches, doesn’t have an experienced pitcher to slide into the slot left open by the graduation of last year’s Hudson Reporter Pitcher of the Year and Most Valuable Player Victoria Avella.

“It’s been a very long time,” Eagleson laments.

But Eagleson is giving the ball to junior Lauren Cabrera to see if she can do the job.

“We’re putting pretty much everything we have behind Lauren,” Eagleson said. “We don’t have one pitcher in North Bergen High School. Lauren goes to High Tech. We’re banking on Lauren to do the job.”

Eagleson said that his new pitcher worked hard in the offseason to get ready.

“She found a pitching coach in New York State,” Eagleson said. “She worked on her changing her motion. She’s looked pretty good so far. The big question is: Can she pitch every day? I don’t know. We’ll soon find out.”

Eagleson also suffered a tough loss in the offseason when Hudson Reporter All-Area selection Arianna Diaz tore a ligament in her knee, putting Diaz on the sidelines for the season.

Senior Alyssa Lopez is the starting catcher, where she’s been all four years. Eagleson likes Lopez’ power.

“She’s the best power hitter I’ve had since Cassandra Chenet,” Eagleson said of Lopez. It’s fine company to be in since Chenet led the state in homers her senior year.

Junior Angelique Rivera has recovered from the two knee injuries she’s had to endure in each of the last two seasons. Rivera is another slugger who worked tirelessly in rehabbing the last injured knee.

“She sure can hit,” Eagleson said of Rivera.

Junior Imani Cabrera and freshman Kailyn Troya are battling for time at second base. Last year’s right fielder Marilyn Rodriguez has moved in to play shortstop for the injured Diaz.

Junior Jaila Grimes is the third baseman. Eagleson calls Grimes “one of the best players in the county.”

Senior Casandra Minyetty played enough centerfield last year to earn the starting nod this year, with junior Cassandra Fernandez and sophomore Keryri Felix flanking Minyetty.

The Bruins open the 2017 season against Dwight Morrow of Englewood on April 1.

“Even after losing Diaz, the big question mark is the pitching,” Eagleson said. “If Lauren can do it, we’ll be in contention. I think she can do it.”

Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Final Top Five: 1. Hudson Catholic (26-4). 2. St. Anthony (23-6). 3. St. Peter’s Prep (19-8). 4. North Bergen (22-6). 5. Snyder (15-10)…

Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Final Top Five: 1. Secaucus (26-4). 2. Lincoln (17-6). 3. Bayonne (18-7). 4. Hudson Catholic (18-8). 5. Weehawken (22-4)…–Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com