Ron Hayward knows that last year was one gigantic learning experience for his young St. Anthony baseball team.
“We knew last year would be a struggle,” said Hayward, the long-time coach at Marist who moved over to St. Anthony last year. “Once we learned the game and got to see how varsity baseball was, then we would be fine.”
Now, with a year of experience under their belts, the Friars should be loaded for bear this spring.
“I would be real disappointed if we didn’t win something,” Hayward said. “We should have a good year and be ready for the [county and NJSIAA] playoffs.”
Hayward knew that having a team comprised of mostly freshmen would be tough to compete.
“It wasn’t about talent,” Hayward said. “We knew we had talent. It was just a change of the mind frame here at St. Anthony and losing for so long. But we beat some good teams like Hudson Catholic and Marist and we hung with St. Mary’s [Rutherford]. We lost 10 one-run games. I thought we played well at times. We never really got blown out. Just getting familiar with varsity play was the toughest part.”
That’s no longer a worry.
Senior Thomas Petrosino, who had to sit out all of last season after transferring to St. Anthony from Marist, is back for his final year. Petrosino will be the Friars’ pitching ace and the team’s shortstop when he’s not on the mound.
“He stayed ready, doing things on his own,” Hayward said.
Sophomore Justice Ramirez is another talented right-handed pitcher and will be a solid No. 2 behind Petrosino.
Bernard Shivers, the football standout, is a junior righty, joined by junior Rashard Outlaw and promising freshman Antonio Canales.
It appears to be a very deep and talented pitching staff.
Leo Colon will be the one behind the plate. Colon’s father, Hoboken Detective Leo Colon, Sr. was also a fine catcher during his days at Hoboken High. The younger Colon is a good defensive backstop like his old man.
Outlaw and fabulous freshman Adam Selinski will share the first base duties, while junior Josh Roberts will return to his spot at second base.
Petrosino and Ramirez will share shortstop responsibilities, as long as one is on the mound for the other. Ramirez and Selinski will share third base duties, so Hayward will do a lot of mixing and matching with his lineup, depending upon who is pitching that day for the Friars.
Oneal Truche is the right fielder. Truche is a senior.
The centerfielder is someone Hayward is very familiar with – namely his son Elliott, who made Hudson Reporter All-Area honors last year as a freshman.
Elliott Hayward is a sophomore who is already getting major college looks.
“He works hard,” Hayward said of his son. “I expect him to play the game the way he knows how to play. He doesn’t have to worry about who’s watching him. He just needs to go play baseball. He has colleges wanting him to make a commitment.”
And yes, no misprint. He’s only a sophomore.
Left field is shared by Shivers and sophomore Isaiah Ortiz. Junior Robert Simpson will see time in the outfield and at designated hitter.
The Friars open their season next Saturday against St. Peter’s Prep. Talk about getting thrown into the fire.
“We like the challenge,” the elder Hayward said. “We wanted to play a tougher schedule this year. “They’re prepared for it. We’re definitely not afraid to play anyone.”
Memorial ready to forget last year’s ‘disappointment’
Just how much was the 2016 high school baseball season a colossal failure for Memorial?
“It’s say it was about 99 percent disappointing,” said Memorial head coach Danny Marroquin. “The whole season was frustrating. We never reached the expectations that other people had for us.”
The Tigers began the season ranked high in the state’s Top 20, but dropped like a rock when they lost their first five games.
“I think we all got caught up in the preseason hoopla,” Marroquin said. “We couldn’t handle it. We started slow and finished slow. If you’re a Memorial baseball team, you have to win the big games. We didn’t pull them out. We didn’t play Memorial baseball and that was frustrating. I thought we would get to one championship and we didn’t get to any.”
The Tigers lost a heartbreaker to St. Peter’s Prep in the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournament and three days later, fell to Passaic in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV tournament. The Tigers finished their season 17-10.
“It was a learning experience for the kids we have back from last year,” Marroquin said. “We have no regrets from last year and we’ll take it from there.”
Leading the returnees is senior right-hander Justin Willis, who was expected to be one of the top pitchers in the state last year, yet only won three games. Willis did earn Hudson Reporter All-Area honors last year.
Willis is already signed to attend Vanderbilt University in the fall, so maybe the pressures will be gone.
“I just expect him to be Justin,” Marroquin said. “I think it overwhelmed him last year. I want him to be the same guy who does well for all those USA teams. I have confidence he will have a very good year and that people will be talking about him again.”
The Tigers’ No. 2 pitcher is senior Daury Genao, who merely pitched to a 10-1 record last year and a 0.51 earned run average. Genao also batted .481 with six homers and 30 RBI.
“He was as good as it gets,” Marroquin said of Genao, who will miss some time due to a broken ankle he suffered playing basketball.
Junior Joshua Casado, senior Abe Castro and promising sophomore Jacob Acevedo are others who will round out the Tigers’ starting staff.
The catcher is senior Albert Munoz, who has missed most of the last two seasons due to injury.
The first baseman is senior Joey Rosato. Senior Lazaro Lopez is the team’s second sacker. Marroquin hopes that Lopez bounces back like Munoz.
Josh Casado is the shortstop in the place of Genao. Willis mans third base when not pitching.
Miguel Reyes is the sophomore third baseman when Willis pitches.
Senior Abe Castro is in left, with junior Pedro Morales and sophomore Elvis Castillo sharing centerfield and sophomore Dioni Hernandez in right.
The Tigers open April 1 against Hoboken in the Mile Square City.
“We expect to be better than last year, but the expectations aren’t as great,” Marroquin said.
Then the Tigers face Bayonne on the following Monday. It doesn’t get any easier. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com