After the first week of the 2021 local high school baseball season, there was one team sitting atop the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League standings, right there with the perennial big boys like state-ranked St. Peter’s Prep and Bayonne, the 2019 Hudson County Tournament champions, the last time the county tourney was held because the entire spring season was wiped out in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perched right there with the well-known favorites sits Ferris High School. Yes, the Bulldogs currently own a 5-1 record at press time. Sure, they made the county finale in 2017, but the Bulldogs are generally not considered to be a juggernaut.
Just do not sell that idea to young head coach Josh Beteta, the man entrusted to take over the Ferris program after the retirement of legendary Hudson County Hall of Famer Mike Hogan.
Beteta honestly believed that he had the making of a contender. He had some proven veterans combined with the arrival of some talented newcomers.
Possible contender for the crown? Sure thing, says Beteta.
“We’re not surprised at all,” Beteta said about the early season record. “I know it sounds crazy, but we’re still not playing well. We are just not clicking. We all know what we potentially can have.”
One of the early season victories was a thrilling win over Randolph, the Morris County power now coached by former Rutgers-Newark head coach Mark Rizzi.
The Bulldogs knocked off Randolph, a program with eight NJSIAA state championships to their credit and countless league and county titles in an area that is packed with talented teams.
Then came Hudson County wins over Hoboken, Hudson Catholic, Union City and Kearny to push their record to 5-1.
Sure, there is plenty of season left to play, but as we stand right now, the Bulldogs sit atop the HCIAL standings. And the coach does not believe his team is playing solid baseball.
“Some games we have the hitting and others we have the pitching,” Beteta said. “We still have a lot more to show people. When we put it all together, we could be scary.”
Ouch. That bold statement says it all.
The Bulldogs have one of the best two-way players in the county in junior pitcher/first baseman Denny Furcal, who earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors as a freshman in 2019. The crafty lefty has already struck out 14 batters in eight innings, earning two victories in the process.
“He’s not a hard thrower,” Beteta said of Furcal. “He has a good mix of pitches. He knows how to pitch. He is always thinking ahead, like one batter ahead or one inning ahead. He is a very smart player. And he’s a very good defensive first baseman and a good hitter.”
Another talented pitcher is senior right-hander Marcus Monroe, who pitched a two-hitter, striking out 10 against a previously undefeated Kearny team.
“He’s a smart baseball player and a smart kid,” said Beteta of Monroe, who will graduate from high school with 60 college credits from Hudson County Community College. “I like that stat better than the 10 strikeouts. He really uses his brain at the plate, in the field and on the mound.”
Junior righty Jaiden Garcia has been active in the early going, seeing action on the mound in three of the Bulldogs’ five wins.
“Jaiden throws strikes and gets outs,” Beteta said. “I like that about him.”
Sophomore Jacob Ruiz is another right-handed flame thrower.
“He’s another hard thrower who is an intelligent kid both on and off the field,” Beteta said. “He may be quiet most of the time, but he’s a dog on the mound.”
Who let the dogs out? Maybe Ruiz did. He struck out nine in a 3-2 win over rival Hudson Catholic, but also walked seven in the game. Moving forward, he is going to have to throw more strikes to stay on the mound. Both Monroe and Garcia entered the game to bail out the talented and promising youngster.
Sophomore Justin Hernandez, the team’s regular shortstop, is also at Beteta’s beckon call to pitch.
And the best of the bunch could very well be the team’s youngest player. Davien Abreu is an extremely promising freshman who pitched four impressive innings in the win over Hoboken.
Abreu went to the famed and respected Wladyka Baseball program over the fall and winter months, working closely with former First Team All-State hurler Jim Wladyka, currently an assistant coach at Don Bosco Prep.
“He worked out with Wladyka Baseball and that helped all of us,” Beteta said. “I think a lot of Jim rubbed off on Davien. He just wants the ball all the time.”
The Bulldogs have two catchers, namely senior Jerome Banks, who has the most experience of any Bulldog player, and junior Chris Gonzalez. The two have been splitting time almost evenly, but Banks has been hitting the ball very well.
“It’s been special watching him,” Beteta said. “He’s been on a tear.”
And the two have been in the Bulldogs’ lineup one way or the other.
“We have to have both of them in the lineup,” Beteta said. “One catches and the other is the DH [designated hitter].”
Furcal and Monroe both see time at first base, with Garcia and Ruiz sharing time at second base. Having that kind of versatility with his roster helps a young coach like Beteta. He has so many players to rely upon.
Ruiz and Monroe rotate at third base.
The left fielder is senior Yaraldi Amparo, who has been the team’s leading hitter in the early going.
“His play has been a big surprise,” Beteta said. “It’s a good surprise. We knew that he was gifted. I guess he just needed a chance.”
Sophomore D’Angelo Ponce is the team’s player to watch in centerfield.
“He’s a stud,” Beteta said. “He’s been our best hitter. He is the future of our program. He’s exceptionally gifted.”
Sophomore Jonathan Correa is the starter in right field.
“He’s our best defensive outfielder,” Beteta said. “He’s very good with the glove.”
Junior Jean Carlos Vasquez is the team’s best reserve.
“He’s been doing everything for us,” Beteta said. “He’s our jack-of-all-trades. He is fast, good with the bat and can even serve as a relief pitcher. He’s a very heady player and we use him a lot as a courtesy runner.”
So there they are, the Bulldogs of Ferris, making a lot of noise and enjoying the view from the top.
“I’m happy,” Beteta said. “I really am.”
Monday, May 3 is a game scheduled for 7:30 p.m. against St. Peter’s Prep at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium. The showdown with Bayonne is on tap for Monday, May 17 in Bayonne at 7 p.m., also at Cochrane. Let the fun begin.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com, follow Jim on Twitter @ogsmar and listen to the Hudson County Sports Podcast, brought to you weekly by Stan’s Sports Center, 528 Washington Street in Hoboken, on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Listen to this week’s guest, former Hoboken High, Duquesne University and NBA player Derrick Alston, the current head coach of the Westchester Knicks of the G-League.