Baseball – Countdown 2020: Top First Basemen at the Shore
The 2020 spring sports season in New Jersey has officially been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means the top athletes in the state won't have a chance to show off their skills and compete for their schools at all this spring. Amateur sports is a big part of the culture in Monmouth and Ocean Counties and the current shutdown of competition represents a major change for the athletes who compete, the coaches who coach them and the people who follow them on a day-to-day basis.
Baseball is particularly big at the Shore and the 2020 season would have featured some big-time talent to boot. There will be no 2020 All-Shore team to recognize the top players, but we at Shore Sports Network want to take a tour through the conference to recognize the very best players at each position on the field. With that being said, SSN Baseball Editor Matt Manley has compiled lists of the top players at each position on the field with some input from coaches in the area. The goal is to recognize the players who have been the best during their careers and had some momentum coming into this year as well. There are also plenty of players who would have been debuting at the varsity level this season but this feature is designed for the players who have already established track records.
The Countdown series opened up Wednesday with shortstops and now moves across the diamond to first base. The typical first-base profile is an offense first player with power and while this group covers the hitting portion of that description, there is some athleticism and versatility within this countdown. There is also a pair big pitchers on the list as well, with both players heading into the year expecting to save their arms by playing first base on days in which they were not on the mound.
As with each list, we'll start with No. 10.
10. Cole Kelly, Sr., 1B, Ocean
Over his two high school seasons, Kelly has collected 50 hits, which is tied for second-most among returning Shore Conference first baseman – both for his career and over the past two years. The 6-5 slugger also ranks fourth among that group with 36 RBI, with 22 coming during his junior year hitting in the heart of the Ocean order. Kelly got that cleanup treatment from opposing teams last year and saw his average dip by more than .100 points, which motivated him to refine his approach heading into 2020 as a senior leader.
Coach’s Insight: “He has been one of our top RBI guys for the last two years as a sophomore and a junior and we were expecting him to have his best year. He worked on his swing and his approach to try to hit for a little bit more average. With his size and strength, he doesn’t need to put a whole lot of effort into his swing. When he gets the barrel on the ball, it will go.” – Cip Apicelli, Ocean head coach
9. Joe Stanzione, Jr., 1B, Middletown South
Middletown South’s Class of 2020 plus 2019 graduates Robby Zega and Trevor Brey did the heavy lifting in Middletown South’s turnaround 2019 season and the Eagles’ sophomore pitchers were key in helping the staff pull its weight. Mixed in Middletown South’s 17-win campaign was Stanzione, who mostly served as the team’s DH and tied Zega for the team lead with seven doubles. The Eagles will dearly miss the outgoing seniors, which include five returning starters around the lineup, but Stanzione will be a proven cornerstone hitter in 2021.
Coach’s Insight: “When you see him swing the bat, it’s intimidating. He has always been a big, strong kid for his age and now that he is a junior, he looks like a man up there. The bat looks like a toothpick in his hands and he swings to do damage.” – Chris LeMore, Middletown South head coach
8. Alec Glen, Jr., 1B/OF, Point Beach
After working his way into the starting lineup as a freshman in the outfield, Glen settled in at first base last year and figured things out in the batter’s box. Glen’s 27 RBI in 2019 tied him for 13th in the Shore Conference as a sophomore and his .473 average was fifth-best in the conference. While playing in Class B Central helps a good hitter like Glen pad his numbers a bit, he was actually even better in non-divisional games last year, hitting an eye-popping .617 (21-for-34) with four doubles and eight RBI.
Coach’s Insight: “He is the kind of kid who can play at next level because he is disciplined hitter. We’ve had conversations with him about moving to a corner outfield position to make him more attractive to colleges. As a freshman, he played right field for us and showed he can do it. He runs well, hits the ball real well and his arm has gotten stronger.” – Angelo Fiore, Point Beach head coach
7. Braedin Hunt, Sr., 1B/OF/RHP, CBA
Hunt’s 2019 stats hold him back when comparing him to other returning hitters around the Shore and they don’t do his skills justice. Hunt’s season-long, junior-year slump was hard to wrap one’s head around after watching the way he dominated A North pitching in 2018, when he posted the third-highest batting average of any player in the A North division, as well as the fifth-highest slugging percentage among the same group. He still packs a lot of power in his swing and while his pitching is likely to be the focus of his college career at Virginia Commonweath (VCU), his power at the plate could definitely open eyes in Richmond.
Coach’s Insight: “The way the ball comes off his bat is just different. It makes you think of guys like Joe Dudek and Brandon Martorano when you see him square the ball up. I think he put a lot of pressure on himself to be the hitter he was as a sophomore and he ended up trying to do too much in a lot of his at-bats last year. He dedicated himself in the offseason to getting himself back where he was at the plate mentally as a sophomore and I liked what I saw in that first week.” – Marty Kenney Jr., CBA head coach
6. Matt Santos, Sr., 1B/RHP, Toms River East
Santos transferred from Toms River North to Toms River East between his freshman and sophomore school years and made an instant impact as a pitcher in his first year on the east side. Last year, the 6-3 Santos displayed the bat to match, slugging a team-high nine doubles and 11 total extra-base hits to go with his team-high 14 RBI. Santos was especially brilliant in Toms River East’s run to the South Jersey Group III semifinals, in which he blasted a go-ahead home run in the top of the seventh inning in an extra-inning win over at Ocean City – a game in which he also threw seven one-hit innings on the mound.
Coach’s Insight: “At the end of the year, he really carried us, especially in the state tournament. He was unconscious at the plate – just great at-bats every time he got up there and came up with some huge hits, not to mention the job he did on the mound.” – Keith Smicklo, Toms River East head coach
5. Jack Scrivanic, Sr., 1B, Red Bank Catholic
As a sophomore, Scrivanic got thrown into the proverbial fire as the team’s starting first baseman and had an interesting year. He hit only .218 with three extra-base hits but those three extra-base hits were all long balls and one of them was a walk-off homer. Last year, Scrivanic was a complete hitter, hitting just under .300 against RBC’s tough schedule while tying for 10th in the Shore Conference with 28 RBI – aided by a pair of grand slams in back-to-back games. Scrivanic is headed to Wagner in the fall and will look to build off a stellar two-year varsity career after missing a chance to show his offseason improvement as a senior.
Coach’s Insight: “Jack lost about 25 pounds and came in in great shape. He has always had the footwork to play third base and now he is athletic enough to be really good over there if that’s the way we want to go. It’s going to help him at the plate too. He is just quicker and faster all-around.” – Buddy Hausmann, Red Bank Catholic head coach
4. Tom Guidice, Jr., 1B/3B, Manalapan
Guidice is the highest-ranked non-senior of the Shore Conference first baseman and his ability to play other positions is part of the reason. He showed he can play a quality third base and cut it in the outfield as well, but Manalapan’s depth at those positions have allowed coach Brian Boyce to ease him into varsity play at first base. He showed last year his bat plays anywhere, hitting well over .300 with nine extra-base hits against one of the conference’s toughest schedules.
Coach’s Insight: “He took the younger kids under his wing, even as a younger guy himself. He is a fierce competitor, he works hard and he’s all business on field. He wants to be up in big spots and I think you saw that with some of the big hits he had for us last year as a sophomore. He’s also got some versatility - he’s very good at first, very good at third, he did a nice job in the outfield when we played him out there, so he’s a guy who is comfortable moving around.” – Brian Boyce, Manalapan head coach
3. Dan Cowles, Sr., 1B, Colts Neck
Only two first basemen finished ahead of Cowles and his .409 batting average in 2019 – one of whom is Glen at Point Beach and the other is No. 1 on this list. His robust on-base percentage was the seventh best in the Shore Conference and he also cracked the top 20 in slugging percentage. Cowles, who is headed to St. Thomas Aquinas College, swings from the left side (one of only two lefty-swingers in this top 10) and showed his chops in the state tournament with an RBI single off Wall fire-baller Teddy Sharkey.
Coach’s Insight: “Danny is a big kid and he hits the ball hard. He is a middle-of-the-lineup guy, an RBI guy. As a sophomore, he hit down in the lineup a little bit and we moved him up last year and he got big hits for us. This offseason, I know he worked a lot on turning on the ball a bunch. He really hit the weight room to try to get stronger so he could make that adjustment and become more of a pull guy at the plate.” – Mike Yorke, Colts Neck head coach
2. Alex Galvan, Sr., 1B/3B/RHP, Manasquan
Before he was a First-Team All-Shore Basketball Player, a Louisville baseball commit or pitcher on the draft radar of multiple Major League organizations, Galvan was a clutch-hitting freshman first baseman for a state championship Manasquan team. He ran an on-base percentage better than .400 in 2017 and went 5-for-16 with three RBI in Manasquan’s run to the Group II final. Since then, Galvan has caught the right eyes with his right arm, but he showed last year he still swings a dangerous bat. On top of that, Galvan is an exceptional athlete who can run the bases and play both corner infield spots.
Coach’s Insight: “Galvan changes the game so much. He got hurt for two weeks last year and we really missed his energy. He is always talking, cheering for the other guys on the team, pumping guys up. There is never a moment too big for him. We’re facing (Red Bank Catholic junior and Virginia commit Shane) Panzini and (Galvan) is smiling and having fun with Panzini when he is facing them and that loosens everybody else up.” – Brenan Gordon, Manasquan head coach
1. Carmine Petosa, Sr., 1B, Jackson Memorial
Petosa made a big impression in the summer between his freshman and sophomore seasons and committed to Wake Forest before he stepped to the plate for a varsity at-bat. Once he did, Petosa established himself as a middle-of-the-order threat for a Jackson Memorial team that won 25 games, a South Jersey Group IV championship and the No. 1 spot in the Shore Sports Network final Top 10. After a strong varsity debut in 2018, he followed it up with an even bigger 2019, although he played in seven fewer games because of his team’s struggles during tournament time. Petosa was second among first basemen in average, No. 10 in the Shore Conference in on-base percentage, eighth in slugging percentage and one of 11 Shore players to hit five or more home runs in 2019.
Coach’s Insight: “He has been so consistent in two years with us. He gets overlooked defensively too, and that’s probably because he is so consistent driving in runs and getting on base. He is such a higher-level hitter. He’s not afraid to hit ball other way. He is intimidating too – he looks like a 30-year old in the box, and he hits like an older player. His maturity is a key.” – Frank Malta, Jackson Memorial head coach
Other Notable Seniors
Dan Greene, Sr., 1B/RHP, Central – The No. 1 pitcher for Central heading into 2020, Greene also led the Golden Eagles with 20 hits. He hit .317 with four doubles, 11 RBI and saw time as a sophomore on Central’s 2018 Shore Conference Tournament runner-up team.
Jared Terefenko, Sr., 1B/3B, Red Bank Catholic – The University of Bridgeport commit seized a spot in the starting lineup as a junior and proved his value by hitting .286 with three doubles and a .444 on-base percentage.
Pat Reilly, Sr., 1B/RHP, CBA – While he is one of the state’s best pitchers, Reilly also showed something with the bat by hitting .280, clocking a pair of home runs and driving in 12 runs. He started off 2019 at third base and has shifted to first base to save his arm for the mound.
D.J. Dekis, Sr., 1B, Raritan – After starting for Raritan’s Group II runner-up team, Dekis was one of the Rockets' most consistent hitters as a junior in 2019, when he hit .283 with six doubles and 18 RBI.
Tommy Jensen, Sr., 1B, Ranney – Jensen is one of only two seniors on Ranney and is coming off a strong showing as the Panthers DH in 2019 (.333, three doubles, two home runs, 16 RBI).
2021 Watch List
Chris Corchado, Jr., 1B, Freehold Twp. – After a strong showing as a freshman (.379 average) Corchado followed it up with another solid season as a sophomore, hitting .290 with four doubles and 15 RBI playing in the always-challenging Class A North division.
Matt Rigby, So., 1B, Rumson-Fair Haven – Part of a young Bulldogs core, Rigby hit .339 with three doubles in 56 freshman at-bats during the 2019 campaign.
Brian Yadlon, Jr., 1B/LHP, Monmouth – In his first year as a starter, Yadlon finished second on Monmouth in RBI (21) while hitting .316 with five doubles as a sophomore.