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The 2020 season would have been a pivotal one for the Pinelands baseball team, with two of the better players in recent program history (Joey Ventresca and Noah Dean) graduating the year prior and leaving the program to prove it can turn over after losing impact players and an impact senior class overall. The good news was the Wildcats had a 6-foot-7 ace in Patrick Apgar to dominate once or twice per week and ease the transition.

That transition year did not happen and now, there is no ace like Apgar to overpower opponents while the rest of the group gets their varsity wings. It will have to be a more traditional process and it will also have to be done with a new head coach in Dan Mulligan – the third head coach in the last four seasons for the Wildcats.

The silver lining for Pinelands is two-fold. First, the Wildcats play in a division with a lot of younger rosters trying to learn on the fly, so there are not many players with a significant amount of more playing time than Pinelands’ group has. The second bright spot is one of Pinelands’ players does have some valuable experience as a varsity standout.

Rian O’Rourke was one of the Shore’s most productive freshmen in 2019 – a top-of-the-order hitter on a roster that had talent. O’Rourke played third base as a freshman and will shift over to shortstop for his junior season. Pinelands has a chance to be solid up the middle with O’Rourke and seniors Alex Ulrich (catcher), Jack Lawrie (centerfield) and Michael Schaffer (second base) providing quality defense and production in the lineup.

First baseman Anthony Weedo is another senior in the lineup and junior Casey Baglivo will play across the diamond from him at third. Pinelands will be younger at the corner outfield spots, with junior Tyler Ross in line for one of the spots and sophomores Robert Gordon and Hunter Theuret also competing for time.

O’Rourke will be a key figure in the pitching staff as well, but it is likely that junior Stephen DeMilio emerges as the No. 1 starter for Pinelands. With some senior influence around the diamond, pitching will be the x-factor for Pinelands and if DeMilio, O’Rourke, Schaffer and Ulrich are up to the task in leading the staff, the Wildcats are capable of putting up a very good season in a division of fairly young rosters.

Pinelands at a Glance

Head Coach: Dan Mulligan, first season
Key Losses: Patrick Apgar (RHP/1B), Bryce O’Rourke (INF/RHP), Matt Cox (INF/P), Cade Farmer (OF/P), Cassey Bunting (C/1B)

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

Catcher: Alex Ulrich, Sr.; Jacob Fowler, So.

First Base: Anthony Weedo, Sr.

Second Base: Michael Schaffer, Sr.

Shortstop: Rian O’Rourke, Jr. (.366/.410/.451, 6 2B, 15 R, 7 RBI, 7 SB); Stephen DeMilio, Jr.

Third Base: Casey Baglivo, Jr.

Leftfield: Robert Gordon, So.

Centerfield: Jack Lawrie, Sr.

Rightfield: Tyler Ross, Jr.; Hunter Theuret, So.

DH: Ethan Edwards, Jr.

Other Key Hitters

Brendan Sweeney (Sr., 2B)

Pitchers

Stephen DiMilio, Jr., RHP

Rian O’Rourke, Jr., RHP

Alex Ulrich, Jr., RHP

Michael Schaffer, Sr., RHP