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Last season was a bitter pill for Middletown South’s senior-laden team, not only in the spring when the 2020 high school season was canceled by later in the Last Dance World Series as well. After advancing to the second week of the tournament in dramatic fashion, Middletown South had to withdraw from the tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test on its roster.

The silver lining was the seniors and the team as a whole got to enjoy a memorable moment in the form of Anthony Esposito’s walk-off grand slam in extra innings. They also got some experience for a handful of players returning in 2021 and will try to keep the program churning under coach Chris LeMore, whose first game coaching the Eagles was delayed by a year.

The best news for Middletown South is the Eagles should be strong on the mound. Mike Keenan, Jack Shea and Matt Pontari are all senior right-handers with experience, with Keenan and Shea throwing big innings as sophomores in 2019 and Pontari looking very sharp in the Last Dance last July. Sophomore Ben Schild is also a major factor in the staff and is likely to be its ace sooner rather that later with his advanced feel for pitching.

Middletown South sophomore Ben Schild. (Photo by Steve Meyer)

Offensively, Middletown South will be a work in progress – not so much because of a lack of talent but because the Eagles have a lot of options and not a lot of game experience among them after so many of this year’s returnees waited behind the talented 2020 class. First baseman Joe Stanzione is the one proven hitter in the bunch after he turned in a productive sophomore season in 2019, while third baseman Mike Cowell was red-hot in the Last Dance. Juniors Joe Bartos and Stephen Boguszewski will play up the middle on the infield and Greg Trezza and Jackson Stoll are the catching candidates with whom LeMore – a former catcher himself – will work.

Pontari and fellow senior Patrick Eagone will be two dependable outfielders and the third spot could be a carousel, with Schild, Brendan Roche, Ryan St. Clair and Tom DeMarco among the candidates. Evan Wood and Will Christopher are also in the mix for both at-bats and innings on the mound. The picture still needs to gain some clarity, but Middletown South’s pitching should help the Eagles overcome some of the missing experience.

Middletown South senior Joe Stanzione. (Photo by Steve Meyer)

Middletown South at a Glance

Head Coach: Chris LeMore, first season (eighth overall)
Key Losses: Chris O’Connor (SS), Chris Lotito (CF/RHP), Danny Minze (RHP/OF), Jack Sheridan (2B/RHP), Anthony Esposito (C), Mike Rauso (OF/LHP), Mike Barbara (OF), Jack Shangold (RHP)

Around the Diamond (Returning 2019 starters in bold with available stats)

Catcher: Greg Trezza, Sr.; Jackson Stoll, So.

First Base: Joe Stanzione, Sr. (.333/.395/.431, 7 2B, 17 R, 14 RBI); Ben Schild, So.

Second Base: Joe Bartos, Jr.; Will Doyle, Sr.

Shortstop: Stephen Boguszewski, Jr.

Third Base: Mike Cowell, Sr.; Evan Wood, Jr.; Will Christopher, So.

Leftfield: Matt Pontari, Sr.; Brendan Roche, Jr.; Ryan St. Clair, Jr.

Centerfield: Patrick Eagone, Sr.; Tom DeMarco, Sr., OF

Rightfield: Ben Schild, So.; Matt Pontari, Sr.

DH: Evan Wood, Jr.; Will Christopher, So.; Ben Schild, So.; Brendan Roche, Jr.; Jackson Stoll, So.

Other Key Hitters

Peter Costanza, Jr., 3B

Ben Cocoilo, Jr., C

Robert Cangielosi, Jr., C

Pitchers

Mike Keenan, Sr., RHP (4-3, 4.64 ERA, 34.2 IP, 50 H, 12 BB, 21 K)

Jack Shea, Sr., RHP (4-0, 1.68 ERA, 16.2 IP, 13 H, 10 BB, 5 K)

Matt Pontari, Sr., RHP

Ben Schild, So., RHP

Evan Wood, Jr., RHP

Mike Cowell, Sr., RHP

Brendan Roche, Jr., RHP

Will Jagerburger, Jr., RHP

Mike Mirro, Jr., RHP

Will Christopher, So., RHP

 

College Commitments

Matt Pontari – Montclair State University