The 2019 season ended with a dominant run of Jackson Liberty Baseball’s grading class the same season, and last year it would probably have seen the entire Shore Conference Class B South division – Jackson Liberty included – look up at a loaded Point Pleasant Boro team table. With this in mind, this season will give Jackson Liberty a chance to win a third straight Class B South title, albeit technically.
Although Jackson Liberty may have a better chance of winning the Class B South title this year than it would in 2020, the Lions lost some important pieces from the 2020 team that were not. Senior Jake Hickman will be an important return to the infield as a player with some university experience on a 20-plus winning team.
With Hickman at second base, Jackson Liberty has three other starting fields with some intrigue. Junior Garrett Drew was ready to start as a sophomore a year ago and will man shortstop, while junior third baseman RJ Vashey is healthy after an injury would have kept him out for most of 2020. The Lions are at their youngest at first base and catcher, with freshman Zaine Toneske to begin with and novice Brett Benecke became the third freshman to start behind the record for Lions – a list that included older brother, Brendan (class 2013).
Jackson Liberty’s top all-rounder is two-way midfielder Dan Keenan, who was a .319 hitter as a sophomore and a lockdown closer to a team that won 23 games in 2019. He will be flanked by classmates Casey Braun and Carl Barth, with Ethan Bloomfield and Nick Conti ready when Keenan or Barth pitcher.
Bloomfield will also be prominent left-handers in the rotation along with Barth and junior Chris Sasso, while Toneske and Drew are available as depth behind the upper arms. Pitching is the biggest question mark at first, but if it clicks, the lineup looks like another winner at Jackson Liberty.
A look at Jackson Liberty
Head coach: Jim Rankin, season 13
Key loss: Shane Hickey (Sr., SS / RHP), Brandon Kinsman (Sr., C / 2B), Tim Duffy (Sr., RHP), Ryan Gallacher (Sr., RHP), Aaron Montgomery (Sr., C), Gavin Maarberg (Sr., OR), Matt Milne (Sr., 1B / C),
Around the Diamond (Returning 2019 starts in bold with available statistics)
Catcher: Brett Benecke, Fr.
First base: Zaine Toneske, So .; Chris Sasso, Jr.
Second base: Jake Hickman, Sr. (5-for-11, 3 R, 2 RBI)
Shortstop: Garrett Drew, Jr.
Third base: RJ Vashey, Jr. Sean Yurgel, Sr.
Left field: Casey Braun, Sr.
Centerfield: Dan Keenan, Sr. (.319 / .380 / .377, 4 2B, 17 R, 16 RBI)
Right lane: Carl Barth, Sr.
DH: Chris Sasso, Jr. Zaine Toneske So .; RJ Vashey, Jr.
Other important hits
Ethan Bloomfield (So., OF)
Nick Conti (Jr., 2B / SS / OF)
Dan Keenan, Sr., RHP (3-0, 3.15 ERA, 20 IP, 7 PM, 14 BB, 30 K)
Ethan Bloomfield, So., LHP
Carl Barth, Sr., LHP
Chris Sasso, Jr., LHP
Zaine Toneske, So., RHP
Garrett Drew, Jr., RHP
Dan Keenan – Kean University
Carl Barth – Kean University