Pinelands Regional Baseball Relying on Youth, Speed, Pitching
Two sophomores could be keys to the Pinelands Regional High School varsity baseball team’s fortunes this spring. Last year, the Wildcats finished 11-13 (5-10 in the Shore Conference B-South division).
Head coach Robert Sanzari said that as a freshman, Joey Ventresca was an All-Division player as he pitched his way to a 3-3 record, 2.00 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 42 innings. When not on the mound, Ventresca played shortstop and batted .368 with five doubles and seven RBIs.
Another sophomore, third baseman Anthony Diaz, is coming off a season where he batted a .346 average, with six doubles, 12 runs scored, 12 RBIs and seven stolen bases. The speedy Diaz will be hitting leadoff.
“Speed and athleticism on defense and on the base paths are areas I feel we’re really strong,” said Sanzari, who is starting his fifth season as head coach and has a 40-54 career record. “We’re young but have experience because a lot of underclassmen saw significant playing time last season.”
Sanzari said another promising sophomore is lefty pitcher Noah Dean, who went 1-3 with a 1.94 ERA. He also had 33 strikeouts in 39.2 innings, along with two saves.
“He started his varsity career off by throwing 212/3 consecutive scoreless innings,” said Sanzari. “We have a young pitching staff that looks very solid.”
Pinelands also has a core of returning seniors, including catchers Brandon Weedo and Riley Stephenson, second baseman Chris Burke, outfielders Tommy Madge and Tommy Allen, and pitcher Joey McDonald. Returning at first base is junior Sean O’Rourke.
Burke batted .254 and had 10 RBIs, while Madge batted .250. McDonald was 1-0 with a 2.14 ERA.
Sanzari said newcomers include freshman catcher Jimmy Zazenski, sophomores second baseman Billy Crawford, pitcher Peter Hammond and outfielder Bobby LeFevre, and senior infielder Sean Crowley.
Key players lost to graduation include pitchers Jared Miller and Darien Martinez, catcher Bud O’Brien and outfielder Ryan Roth.
“We’ll look to compete for a B-South title this year, and Jackson Liberty and Lacey look like the best teams in the conference,” said Sanzari. “But I think we’re good enough to make a run for it and make things a little interesting.”
— Eric Englund