SCOREBOARD The makings of a dynasty

Prep wins fourth Hudson County baseball title in last six years

CHAMPS AGAIN – St. Peter’s Prep won the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournament last week with a 6-4 win over Bayonne, capping an undefeated campaign against Hudson County opponents.
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CHAMPS AGAIN – St. Peter’s Prep won the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournament last week with a 6-4 win over Bayonne, capping an undefeated campaign against Hudson County opponents.

Right before the current high school baseball season was about to begin, amidst the ridiculously cold weather and the even more absurd snow storms, the St. Peter’s Prep baseball team, anticipating having a solid season with a team that could actually contend for county and state supremacy, was hit with a rash of nagging and annoying injuries.
It wasn’t an epidemic, so to speak, but it was certainly enough of a pile of injuries to make even a veteran head coach like Pat Laguerre scramble a bit and hope that other players on his roster could step up and unexpectedly contribute right from the outset.
“This team was very unique and the depth of the team made it unique,” Laguerre said. “We were fortunate to have experienced guys who played some key innings for us last year. That was a big key for us, having that depth. We were able to put guys in that were going to be able to help us.”
So when experienced, reliable veterans like Correl Caddle and Ryan Dorneo were sidelined at the beginning of the season, it was time for others like Anthony Franconeri, Lance Lucarelli and Andrew Chapparo to step up and make the most of their opportunity to get on the field.
“We got great contributions from those guys,” Laguerre said. “That was a big part of our success. Putting those guys in and having those guys contribute early was huge for us. It gave the rest of the team confidence moving forward. They all played big roles early and provided the team to get some confidence.”
Franconeri was a true warrior in the purest sense. A product of the program, Franconeri was a fill-in pitcher and backup first baseman before the start of the season. But Franconeri rose to the occasion during the course of the season, pitching well when given the chance and hitting .556 with eight RBI.
“He did a great job for us,” Laguerre said of the senior Franconeri. “Every game he played for us, he got a hit. He’s been very versatile and done everything we’ve asked of him.”
The depth in the field also carried over to the mound, where the Marauders were led by the brilliant Jack Carey, but got help from people like John Curran, Zack Oswald and relief pitcher extraordinaire Jack Kramer.
Last Thursday, the Marauders received just enough pitching from the Duke-bound Carey and clutch relief work from the junior Kramer, helping the Marauders gain a 6-4 victory over Bayonne to capture the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournament championship.
It marked the second time in three years and the fourth time in the last six years that the Marauders won the county title.
There was a time in the past where winning the Hudson County championship was an elusive feat for the Marauders, but not anymore.
They are as close to a dynasty as you can have in the county, winning all 11 games played in the regular season within the confines of Hudson County and the four games in the tourney to bring home the golden glove.
“Having the pitching we have gave us a significant advantage,” said Laguerre, who enjoyed his seventh year at the helm of the Marauders and now has four county titles to his credit
Laguerre also won one county championship when he was the head coach at the now-defunct St. Mary’s of Jersey City, so he has a stranglehold on winning the county title as a coach.
Having Curran as a solid No. 2 pitcher behind the brilliant Carey also helped tremendously. It’s a main reason why the Marauders posted a sensational 23-5 record during the 2018 season.
“John got valuable experience last year,” Laguerre said. “His last four starts for us this year were flawless.”
Simply put, Carey is one of the best pitchers in New Jersey and should definitely be in the mix when All-State teams are selected later this month. Saying that Carey is one of the best in the Garden State says a lot, because it’s a state that is jam-packed full of talent. Carey is one of the best, if not the very best. He has a brilliant career in the future and could very well hear his name selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft this week.
If a team is willing to take a chance and throw a boat load of moola in Carey’s direction after he’s selected, he might become a professional.
Carey posted a 3-1 record on the mound with a 2.04 earned run average and 69 strikeouts in 37 innings of work. He batted .444 with three homers and 23 RBI. All totaled, he was the straw that stirred the Marauders’ drink.
“As good as he is, he was not a one-man show,” Laguerre said. “We had others. We found ways to get a win. We didn’t have to rely on him to do everything.”
Curran was clutch on the hill, pitching to a 3-0 record and a 1.35 ERA. But Oswald was the biggest surprise. The sophomore left-hander was 4-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 23 innings.
“He came up big for us,” Laguerre said of Oswald. “He won some big games. He beat Bayonne in the regular season.”
The Marauders beat all Hudson County comers. They just fell a little short against Don Bosco Prep in the NJSIAA Non-Public A North semifinals, surrendering four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to fall, 7-6.
Except that stunning defeat, it was a season to remember for the Marauders and Laguerre.
“Everything went according to plan,” Laguerre said. “We knew that we were going to be based on pitching and defense. We had a very resilient team. Even when we fell behind, we were always able to regroup.”
That idea commenced with the season opener against Hudson Catholic, when the Marauders came from behind to win, and continued through the county playoffs.
“The kids feel good about themselves,” Laguerre said. “To win four [county titles] in six years is an accomplishment. But I think of the two that we didn’t win. That’s just me.”
The Marauders will be back next year, no question. Standout shortstop Kyle Hess, already committed to Notre Dame, will be back. Second baseman Chapparo is now a fixture in the middle of the infield with Hess. Matteo Sollecito, who was excellent on the mound and at the plate, will also be back. No one is going to feel sorry for the Marauders, who have become Hudson County’s baseball dynasty.
“It was great to watch this year develop,” Laguerre said. “Every single kid on our roster got better. That was the beauty of watching this team come together. That’s the beauty of coaching kids.”
And of course, winning another county championship.

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.