By Brian Deakyne
MIDDLETOWN — One season after claiming the Central Jersey Group III sectional title and the highly coveted Monmouth County Tournament, the Eagles are primed for a repeat in both categories.
In fact, the Middletown South baseball team is hopeful this year’s squad can take their program one step further.
“Last year, we built the foundation and we got a taste of winning and what that feels like,” Middletown South head coach Ryan Spillane said. “The guys are hungry, they’re committed, we’re disciplined. We all have one goal, and that’s to win another championship.”
The Eagles rallied to top Howell, 3-2, in the semi-finals of the Monmouth County Tournament last season, and later stunned everyone, winning the sectional title as a 9-seed, beating top-seeded Wall, fourth-seeded Jackson Liberty, and second-seeded Brick in the finals.
Middletown South lost their ace from 2011 — Will Siegfried — but is expecting to have a strong year on the mound, led by senior Howie Brey, the schools quarterback on the football team.
Brey recently committed to Rutgers University as a pitcher.
“You can’t replace a kid like Siegfried, he was a special pitcher,” Spillane said. “On the same side, we have a bunch of young arms and we’re going to be able to fill his innings, it’s just going to be a matter of who steps up and takes his innings right now.”
The Eagles graduated 10 seniors from a year ago; although they are hopeful that the experienced gained last year can help this year’s team.
“We have guys that have been there and done that. That’s going to help. The experience is going to help. The leadership is going to help when it gets to that point,” Spillane said.
Seniors Brian Healy, Erik Obsteins and Stefan Poggioli will all play prominent roles for Middletown South this season after making strong contributions as juniors.
Mike Grossi and Piero Vescio are expected to be featured pitchers for the Eagles as well.
“We have six or seven guys that can be good pitchers, and whoever plays well in the scrimmages will get the innings. Right now, we don’t know who number two or number three will be,” Spillane said.
South finished 19-9 in 2011, along with a 7-5 record within the division, placing them in third place in the A-North, behind Manalapan and Marlboro.
“That’s our number one goal, to win A-North,” Spillane said. “We haven’t done that since I’ve been here and I don’t think we’ve done that in 12 years. I am certainly confident in our chances, it’s just a matter of being able to do all the little things, eliminate mental mistakes. I think if we do that and we play good defense, we have to be considered one of the favorites.”
In order for the Eagles to put together a dominant season and to repeat as champions, the formula is simple.
“We need to stay focused,” Spillane said. “Whether it’s practice, games or scrimmages, we need to focus on what we’ve set out to do. So far we’ve done a pretty good job of it. Once it gets into the grind of the season, that’s the tough part in terms of staying mentally tough.”