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The last time Manalapan played an official high school baseball game, the Braves lost a heartbreaking, controversial 1-0 decision to Eastern in the NJSIAA Group IV semifinal. There aren’t many players left from that team, but the two returning starters from that club will surely remind their less experienced teammates that redemption is on the menu in 2021 – just as it was supposed to be in 2020.

The two returning players on the Braves are seniors Joe Mazza and Tom Guidice – both of whom handled the bat well as sophomores, with Mazza also working his way up to the No. 3 starter role. Now a senior committed to play at Rutgers, Mazza is the senior ace heading into the season while Guidice will be a middle-of-the-order bat with talent around him.

Manalapan junior Tom Guidice. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Speaking of talent around an established returnee, Manalapan’s pitching has a chance to stack up with just about any team in the Shore Conference. Junior right-hander Tyler Kane will back up Mazza and while he has not thrown a varsity inning yet, he was electric during the Last Dance World Series last July, including a two-inning relief appearance in which he struck out six. Justine Simone fits in nicely as the No. 3 pitcher and the Braves have the kind of depth that could produce some more candidates to be the No. 3 at some point.

Guidice will bring some stability to the infield, which will be younger than last year’s group projected to be. Ken Sclafani jumps in at second base as a senior, while junior Max Graime and sophomore Sean Caputo rise up through the program to play first and shortstop, respectively. Catcher, meanwhile, belongs to senior Anthony Matteis, who would have started at first base last year with senior Dylan Hode occupying the catcher spot. Now, Matteis brings a solid bat and good defense to the most important position on the field outside of the mound.

Manalapan sophomore Joe Mazza. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

The outfield has a chance to be loaded, with the overflow supplying the Braves with a very good designated hitter. Anthony Matrone looked primed for a breakout last year, while Anthony Mauro and Ethan Rodriguez also return after missing a chance to start a year ago. Chris Marzo also showed a knack for the big hit in the Last Dance and will find his share of at-bats as well. Manalapan also has another talented sophomore in Cristian Bernardini as part of the mix.

Class A North is a beast of a division and Manalapan is always in the mix. With the kind of depth the Braves boast to go with an imposing one-two punch on the mound, they shape up to be the team most fit to survive the gauntlet.

Manalapan at a Glance

Head Coach: Brian Boyce, 14th season
Key Losses: Nick DiPietrantonio (SS), Hunter Serrano (RHP/2B), Dylan Hode (C), Chris Nicol (LHP), Kyle Sciallo (3B)

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

Catcher: Anthony Matteis, Sr.

First Base: Max Graime, Jr.; Ethan Rodriguez, Sr.

Second Base: Ken Sclafani, Sr.

Shortstop: Sean Caputo, So.; Dylan Reiner, Jr.

Third Base: Tom Guidice, Sr. (.337/.413/.484, 6 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 14 R, 12 RBI)

Leftfield: Ethan Rodriguez, Sr.; Chris Marzo, Sr.

Centerfield: Anthony Matrone, Sr.; Cristian Bernardini, So.

Rightfield: Anthony Mauro, Sr.; Dylan Reiner, Jr.; Gino Gambale, Sr.

DH: Chris Marzo, Sr.; Cristian Bernardini, So.

Other Key Hitters

Joe Mazza (Sr., OF) (.344/.382/.500, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI)

Tyler Kane (Jr., INF)

Pitchers

Joe Mazza, Sr., LHP (4-2, 2.26 ERA, 34 IP, 28 H, 16 BB, 19 K)

Tyler Kane, Jr., RHP

Justin Simone, Sr., RHP

Aiden Tumbleson, Jr., RHP

Nick DiMaggio, Sr., RHP

Sebastian Czajkowski, Sr., RHP

Liam Martin, Jr., LHP

Dan Burns, So., RHP

Dylan Schaffer, Fr., RHP

 

College Commitments

Joe Mazza – Rutgers University

Tyler Kane – George Mason University

Tommy Guidice – St. Thomas Aquinas College

Anthony Matrone – Long Island University

Justin Simone – Ursinus College

Ken Sclafani – Hood College

Ethan Rodriguez – Alvernia University

Chris Manzo – Carnegie Melon University