Baseball – Bad Breaks: Senior Breakouts Put on Hold
Last week, we wrapped up a series that recognized the top returning players in the Shore Conference at each position. While that was a nice exercise in acknowledging established players who missed out on their chances to build on already-established careers, each season also includes great performances by players who had previously made little impact on the varsity level.
Over the next couple of days, let's take a look at a few players who were ready to do just that: go from either a sub-varsity player or varsity role player to a key cog within their respective programs. Obviously, we have know way of knowing which seniors would have broken out in their final high-school season, but here are a few names that looked ready to step up for their teams before spring sports were canceled in 2020.
Oscar Scott, CF/RHP, Point Boro – A transfer from Shore Regional, Scott did not play high school baseball as a junior in 2019 but has impressed on the travel circuit and was expected to make a significant impact as a starting centerfielder, middle-of-the-order hitter and key pitcher on the mound for the No. 3 Panthers.
Jared Terefenko, 1B/RHP, Red Bank Catholic – After getting a taste of starting at the end of 2019, Terefenko would have been a key hitter for Red Bank Catholic, as well as an x-factor on a pitching staff that did not have a whole lot of experience beyond junior ace Shane Panzini.
Declan Hoverter, RHP/2B, CBA – Hoverter had a breakout performance last year when he tossed a perfect game vs. Long Branch but with only nine innings pitched all of 2019, the 2020 season was supposed to be a chance for the senior right-hander to take a year-long spot in the starting rotation while manning second base.
Hayden Kunz, OF/RHP, Manasquan – As a versatile player who could start, relieve, play a quality outfield and battle at the plate, Kunz already proved his value for the Warriors but would have had a chance to expand his role as a senior.
Kiefer Samul, OF/RHP, Toms River South – A role player last year, Samul put in the work to join the pitching rotation on a more regular basis and settle in as one of Toms River South’s most reliable hitters following a strong summer performance.
Jack McCabe, 3B/RHP, Red Bank – Red Bank coach Nick Tucker found McCabe to be, arguably, the most improved player in the program after the lone week of practice in 2020. McCabe had the inside track to start at third base and among the team’s top five pitchers.
Sean Wodell, Sr., CF, Freehold Boro – Over the course of last year, Wodell became one of Freehold Boro’s more reliable players and would have had a chance to elevate to all-division status this year.
Dylan Hode, Sr., C, Manalapan – While he became the regular catcher as a junior, Hode sometimes played with a DH hitting for him and hit under .200 in the at-bats he did get. On the plus side, he walked more than he struck out and his proclivity for contact set him up for a big step up as a hitter during his senior season in 2020.
Kyle Fisher, Sr., SS, Point Boro – A versatile player who started in Cherokee’s outfield last year, Fisher would have been an ideal fit for a Point Boro team looking to replace a shortstop and an outfielder in the starting lineup.
Nick DeRose, Sr., 3B, Toms River North – After starting as a sophomore, DeRose lost most of his junior season to injury and was eager to rejoin the starting lineup for a breakout season at the plate.
Bryce O’Rourke, Sr., SS, Pinelands – Set for a full-time move to shortstop, O’Rourke came back as a leader for the Wildcats and hopeful to build on his numbers from a year ago.
Mike Rauso, Sr., OF, Middletown South – Rauso has been a reliable courtesy runner for a deep Middletown South team and those baserunning instincts would have had a chance to translate as a hitter and starting outfielder for the senior-laden Eagles.
Joe Terkildsen, Sr., SS, Brick Memorial – With a lot of open starting spots heading into the year, a youth movement was one possibility, but Terkildsen has waited his turn at shortstop and was set to provide an instant spark to the lineup.
Riley Engelhard, Sr., 1B/3B, Toms River East – After opting not to play last season, Engelhard returned to the program this spring intent on making an impact for an experienced team, which the 6-5 Engelhard was expected to do playing a corner infield spot and hitting in the top two-thirds of the order.
Ricky Glascock, RHP/1B, Southern – Glascock was expected to be a prominent starter for the Rams last year, but he left his first start with an elbow injury and did not return to the mound in 2019. The Rutgers-Camden commit came into camp healthy and improved, according to Rams coach Keith Cocuzza, and would have a been a huge key for a Southern team that returned a good offensive group.
Max Friedeman, LHP, Howell – Two pitchers beat Wall ace and current Monmouth University freshman Trey Dombroski during his high school career: one was CBA right-hander, Vanderbilt commit and MLB Draft hopeful Pat Reilly, and the other was Friedeman. An injury-saddled junior season kept the left-hander from making an impact in 2019 but Friedeman was poised to join the Rebels rotation as a healthier, stronger pitcher.
Matt Vernieri, RHP, Barnegat – Although he gave up some hits in his 26 2/3 innings last year, Vernieri also struck out 27 with a respectable 10 walks to go with it, so there was a foundation for a big senior-year finish for the Bengals right-hander.
Marc Rivera, RHP, Manalapan – An injury early last year set Rivera back within a deep pitching staff that had plenty of players to pick up innings and he finished with only 6 1/3 innings. This year, the senior right-hander was healthy and a key member of the rotation as camp got underway.
Alec Schwartz, RHP, Freehold Township – Headed to TCNJ next year, Schwartz was to be part of a deep Freehold Township staff that would have offered enough opportunity for a quality hurler like Schwartz to step in and up his contribution.
Tyler Birnbaum and Brayden Kiel, RHP’s, Red Bank Catholic – The Caseys brought back a good core of position players and one of the state’s best pitchers in Panzini, so the season likely would have gone as the senior duo of Birnbaum and Kiel went. Birnbaum was solid in 9 2/3 innings as a junior while Kiel was primed to improve on his 2 2/3 innings in 2019.