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After taking some major lumps in 2019, Long Branch is primed to jump up and surprise some teams in the Shore Conference in 2021. The Green Wave showed as much when it took a lead on Red Bank Catholic into the bottom of the sixth inning of their showdown in the Last Dance World Series before RBC pulled it out with a sixth-inning grand slam.

Unfortunately, Long Branch, the schedule is brutal. The Green Wave have been slotted into Class A North based on school size, but the program numbers in baseball pale in comparison to its divisional peers, which means the players on hand have to do a lot of the heavy lifting in order to compete against what will likely be seven very good teams.

Last summer, the group showed it might be ready to pick off a few of the A North squads. Seniors Andrew Conklin, Tyler Abbot, Dave Rodriguez and Robert Baez are ready to lead, with Conklin doing so as a solid catcher, Abbot on the mound and at multiple spots on the infield and Baez and Rodriguez in the outfield and at the plate.

Junior Thomas Brewer is the team’s top returning hitter and will move to shortstop as his primary position, with some innings on the mound also reserved for him as well. Classmates Adam Benetsky and John Welsh will also occupy lineup spots and play on the infield, while fellow junior Xavier Camacho plays in the outfield and gives Long Branch another quality pitching option.

Pitching will be an x-factor for a team that lost its two best options from 2020, but the position-player group is back to the level it was at in 2018, when the Green Wave qualified for the state tournament and were a tough out against a difficult schedule.

Long Branch at a Glance

Head Coach: Ben Woolley, second season
Key Losses: Ivan Navarro (2B/RHP), Ryan Wolff (RHP), Patrick O’Dwyer (1B/P), Jahquese Moore (OF)

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

Catcher: Andrew Conklin, Sr. (.204, 1 2B)

First Base: John Welsh, Jr.; Evan Pellot, So.

Second Base: Adam Benetsky, Jr.; Tyler Abbot, Sr.

Shortstop: Thomas Brewer, Jr. (.276/.323/.345, 2 2B, 4 RBI)

Third Base: Tyler Abbot, Sr. (.171, 1 2B); Adam Benetsky, Jr.

Leftfield: Dave Rodriguez, Sr. (.282/.349/.308, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 6 SB)

Centerfield: Robert Baez, Sr. (.333/.462/.381, 1 2B, 4 R)

Rightfield: Xavier Camacho, Jr.

Other Key Hitters

Shawn Rodriguez (Jr., C/UTIL)

John Hebron (So., C/3B)

Matt Lorme (So., INF)

Pitchers

Tyler Abbot, Sr., RHP

Xavier Camacho, Jr., RHP

Thomas Brewer, Jr., RHP

Adam Benetsky, Jr., RHP

Robert Baez, Sr., RHP

Andrew Chatman, Jr., RHP