Southern Baseball Squad Has Tough Time During First Week of Season

Apr 11, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Southern’s Aiden Hosszu (right) high-fives Cole Markley after he crosses the plate during the Rams’ 8-7 loss to Central Regional on April 6.

Unlike last season, when 90 percent of its starting lineup consisted of seniors with years of experience, such is not the case with the Southern Regional baseball team this season. So far this year, inexperience has been an X-factor.

“There is some inexperience and then there’s just some stuff we have to work through,” said head coach Keith Cocuzza, following the Rams’ 8-7 loss to Shore Conference Class A South rival Central Regional on April 6. “Last year we had a lot of seniors, some of whom had two or three years of varsity experience, and that makes a difference in the tight games.”

With seven and sometimes eight seniors occupying spots in the starting lineup each game of their stellar season last spring, along with the benefit of a bunch of good arms rotating on and off the mound, the Rams regularly found ways to win games and often played well with the lead – even when those leads were slim. During the first week of the new season, Southern lost three straight by a total of four runs.

“It’s hard to replace three top-notch pitchers, so it’s going to take a little time to iron out the kinks,” Cocuzza said. “But we’ve gotten three good starts from the first three guys we put out there this week. It’s just our relief pitching that needs to find itself right now.”

Trailing by two heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Rams came through with a big at-bat, sending eight batters to the plate and scoring a trio of runs to grab their first lead of the contest. After Aiden Hosszu swatted a one-out single to left field, Brady Clark was hit by a pitch and Cole Markley reached on a two-out error to load the bases for Austin Pharo, who delivered a bases-clearing double down the left-field line to make it 3-2.

The Golden Eagles came right back in the top of the fifth with a run to knot the contest at 3-3, but with Joe Colonna, who had singled, and Nick Downey, who had reached on an error, on first and second, Hosszu lined a ball over the left-field fence for a three-run home run and a 6-3 lead.

Again, the gap quickly closed in the top of the sixth, as Central stormed back – not only to equal the Rams’ output, but regain the advantage with a five-run onslaught. The Rams cut the deficit to a run when Marcos Matias doubled to lead off the bottom of the sixth and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Colonna, but the Rams couldn’t equalize in the seventh.

In the season opener, Southern lost a 3-1 decision to Donovan Catholic, followed by a 9-8 loss to Toms River East on April 5. Cocuzza said errors at critical points of games and relievers giving up bases to too many batters has been the difference thus far.

“You expect a transition period, after graduating so many guys, but you don’t expect to lose games,” he said. “Still, I’m happy with the guys we have on the team. We’re going to fight and compete, and we’re going to score some runs, like we did today. Our biggest issue is our bullpen and giving up extra bases and giving the other team extra outs when our pitchers are struggling. That’s the stuff we need to change.”

— David Biggy

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