Baseball 20 in 2020: No. 19: Point Beach
Shore Sports Network is counting down its top 20 baseball teams heading into the would-be 2020 season by profiling each one. You can read the division-by-division previews and each 20 in 2020 story here.
Shore Sports Network Baseball 20 in 2020 – No. 19: Point Beach
If any high school baseball team in New Jersey is built to cope with the psychological anguish of potentially losing the entire 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic, Point Pleasant Beach would be high on the list.
While the Garnet Gulls are anxious for a chance to chase an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I title after coming up one win shy last year, they are overwhelmingly heavy on juniors and sophomores who could get another bite at the proverbial apple next season.
Just don’t tell that to seniors Will Baranello and Aiden Conway.
Baranello moved to the United States from England before his junior year in 2018-19, played basketball in the winter and had a strong first year in his new home on the baseball diamond. By the end of the season, the left-hander was the No. 1 pitcher on a sectional runner-up and would most certainly have been the ace of this year’s team – one of the legitimate contenders in Group I.
Now, that entire journey to get to the Jersey Shore and the work by Baranello to take his game to the next level is on hold with just months left in his senior year of high school.
“Coming over from England where baseball is very different, I think there was a little bit of an adjustment period last year,” seventh-year Point Beach head coach Angelo Fiore said. “We took a few weeks to get used to the competition and to get comfortable but by the end of the season, we really liked what we were seeing out of him. He put in a lot of work in the offseason and I was really taken back watching his bullpens. I really feel like he had a good year last year but he was just about to catapult to another level this year.”
During his first two high school seasons, Conway was a part-time starter in the outfield and positioned to play more as a junior before injuries took their toll during the 2019 season. After 60 plate appearances in his first two seasons combined, he did not step to the plate last year and returned to the first practice of this season on March 6 eager to compete for playing time once again as a senior.
Now, Conway is waiting – hopefully not in vain – for one more chance at taking the field as a key member of a championship contender.
“He started as a freshman and a sophomore and he was part of that core we had going for us heading into last year and he unfortunately just got hurt,” Fiore said of Conway. “Obviously, we had guys step up and take over that spot in the outfield, but Aiden was definitely competing for one of those starting spots out there and looking pretty healthy and pretty good.
“Those are the kind of kids you feel for. Those seniors who have put in the time, have gone through the adversity, in some cases waited their turn. Those are the guys, as a coach, who you want on your team and you want to be the example for the younger guys.”
Yes, Point Beach is positioned to be a player in Class B Central, Group I and perhaps even in Ocean County and the Shore Conference with the dependable pipeline the Garnet Gulls are building upon under Fiore. But like most teams with promising young rosters, Point Beach also has its small circle of seniors that serve as leaders for the younger classes and help light the fire under the younger players.
Even as the season has stalled, that fire is burning in players like Baranello and Conway and coaches like Fiore are hoping to keep it that way for their sake and the sake of the younger players, regardless of what becomes of the 2020 season.
“The administration was behind us 100 percent and we were super pumped up about this year,” Fiore said. “We have a new baseball field this year with a press box and new bleachers ready to go. We have some good athletes really taking a long look at the program and we had some nice ones come in and probably aren’t getting the noteriety because we were so young, but we were able to put pretty good wins out there. I was really excited coming into the season.”
Baranello is slated to be the leader of a deep Point Beach pitching staff that shook off some injuries over the course of last season and is positioned to be as deep as anytime in recent memory should the season commence sometime in the next several weeks.
Junior right-handers Matt Van Brunt and Jeff Wall were steady pitchers throughout last season, although some injury woes at the tail end of the season prematurely ended Wall’s season as a pitcher. Van Brunt finished 3-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 25 innings and Wall was 2-3 with a 1.93 ERA in 25 1/3.
Sophomores Phil Trebour and Andrew Banick emerged as clutch hurlers for the stretch run – Banick as a starter to complement Baranello during the run to the Central Jersey Group I final and Trebour as the closer during that run. Banick pitched six strong innings to beat South Amboy in the sectional quarterfinals while Trebour appeared in all four state tournament games, allowing just two earned runs – both in the final vs. Middlesex – in seven innings.
Sophomore left-hander Owen West adds even more depth to the staff this season after being injured while playing basketball during his freshman year. With an influx of freshmen and some sophomore holdovers, the Garnet Gulls have more than a dozen mound options – most of whom will be back next year.
Point Beach’s bats, meanwhile, are poised to take a step forward with the entire lineup back from a year ago and most of the group jumping from sophomore year to junior year. Trebour and Van Brunt will again be the double-play combination up the middle with Trebour at shortstop. Sophomore Colin Matuschat got time at third base last year and Banick, Wall and Baranello both man a corner outfield spot when they are not on the mound.
Point Beach’s best bats from a year ago are junior catcher David Terra-Nova and junior first baseman Alec Glen. Terra-Nova hit .318 with six doubles, a triple, a homer and 13 RBI while Glen was the best hitter on the team from start to finish with his .473 average with 27 RBI. With a sophomore-year shoulder injury behind him, Glen could also see more time in the outfield.
Junior Hunter Alia is the starting center fielder and brings an element of speed to the lineup (15 stolen bases in 2019) at the top of the order.
Point Beach’s encouraging finish to last season dressed up an up-and-down season that saw the Garnet Gulls just sneak over the .500 mark, finish second in the Class B Central division. Fiore’s hope for his team in 2020 was a team ready to come of age and set up a long run at the top of the division and a march to glory in Central Jersey Group I.
“As a program, we’re evolving to a point where we have beaten some big teams,” Fiore said. “Over the last couple of years, we have beaten Brick, Jackson Memorial and St. Rose, to name a few. We’re not a layup anymore.”
With so much of the team due back in 2021, a canceled season might just be a minor bump in the road but it would be a lost opportunity for this version of the roster, particularly Baranello and Conway.
“We’re fortunate, as a program, that we have so many guys who will be coming back next year but you feel for the seniors,” Fiore said. “And even for the younger guys, this year was an opportunity for them too. It doesn’t matter how old you are – if you have a chance to win a championship, you don’t want to give those opportunities up.”
Point Pleasant Beach
Head Coach: Angelo Fiore, seventh season
2019 Record: 14-11 (10-2, second in B Central)
Top Returning Hitters (with 2019 Stats)
|Alec Glen (Jr., 1B/OF)||74||35||6||1||0||12||27||.473||.518||.581||3|
|David Terra-Nova (Jr., C)||66||21||6||1||1||10||13||.318||.423||.485||4|
|Hunter Alia (Jr., CF)||80||25||0||0||0||22||8||.313||.409||.313||15|
|Andrew Banick (So., OF)||29||9||2||0||0||9||4||.310||.429||.379||2|
|Phil Trebour (Jr., SS)||69||20||2||2||0||18||14||.290||.432||.377||10|
|Will Baranello (Sr., OF)||68||17||4||1||0||16||12||.250||.414||.338||9|
|Matt Van Brunt (Jr., 2B)||68||17||2||0||0||8||16||.250||.311||.279||4|
Top Returning Pitchers (with 2019 Stats)
|Will Baranello (Sr., LHP)||5||3||39.1||40||21||43||2.70||1.55|
|Jeff Wall (Jr., RHP)||2||3||25.1||28||9||17||1.93||1.46|
|Matt Van Brunt (Jr., RHP)||3||2||25||28||10||15||2.24||1.52|
|Phil Trebour (Jr., RHP)||0||0||21.2||14||13||18||2.58||1.25|
|Andrew Banick (So., RHP)||3||2||29||34||10||15||4.10||1.52|
Big Shoes to Fill: Alec Glen, 1B/OF
With no seniors graduating from last year’s team, there aren’t any shoes to fill, much less big ones. That leaves Glen, who is coming off a huge 2019 season as a sophomore, to fill his own after he hit .473 with 27 RBI as a sophomore. With so many threats around him in the order, Glen likely won’t have to shoulder the load, but building on a season that included those kind of numbers won’t be easy.
Top Newcomer: Owen West, LHP
West likely would have been a key rotation piece as a freshman in 2019 but a basketball injury knocked him out for the spring baseball season. At 6-foot-4 with quality stuff from the left side, he has the tools to add another live arm to a Point Beach rotation that will look even more imposing whenever baseball resumes.
Breakout Player to Watch: Hunter Alia, CF
Alia was a dynamic player at the top of the order as a sophomore and with a year to develop as a hitter, the junior centerfielder should develop some more extra-base power to add to his contact and speed game that he has already displayed during the first half of his career.
Check back this evening to find out which team is No. 18