The last time Manalapan played an official baseball game in high school, the Braves lost a heartbreaking, controversial 1-0 decision to Eastern in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Group IV. There are not many players left from that team, but the two returning players from that club will surely remind their less experienced teammates that redemption is on the menu in 2021 – just as it should be in 2020.
The two returning players at Braves are seniors Joe Mazza and Tom Guidice – both handled the bat well as second-year students, while Mazza also worked his way up to starting role No. 3. Now the senior senior is committed to playing at Rutgers, Mazza as senior- ace on its way into the season, while Guidice will be a mid-order bat with talent around him.
When we talk about talent around an established return, Manalapan’s pitching has a chance to gather with just about any team in the Shore Conference. Junior right-hander Tyler Kane wants to back up Mazza, and although he has not thrown a varsity inning yet, he was electric during the Last Dance World Series last July, including a two-inning relief appearance in which he knocked out six. Justine Simone fits in nicely as the No. 3 pitcher and the Braves have the kind of depth that can give a few more candidates to become No. 3 at some point.
Guidance will provide some stability to the infield, which will be younger than last year’s group expected to be. Ken Sclafani jumps into second base as a senior, while junior Max Graime and second-year Sean Caputo step up through the program to play first and short stops, respectively. Catcher, meanwhile, belongs to senior Anthony Matteis, who would have started at first base last year with senior Dylan Hode occupying the catch. Now Matteis brings a solid bat and good defense to the most important position on the field outside the mound.
The outfield has a chance to be loaded, with the overflow supplying the Braves with a very good designated hitter. Anthony Matrone initially saw outbreaks last year, while Anthony Mauro and Ethan Rodriguez also returned after missing a chance to start a year ago. Chris Marzo also showed an ability for the big hit in Last Dance and will also find his share of bats. Manalapan also has another talented sophomore in Cristian Bernardini as part of the mix.
Class A North is an animal of a division, and Manalapan is always in the mix. With the kind of depth the Braves boast of going with an impressive one-two strokes on the mound, they form to be the team most suited to survive the glove.
A look at Manalapan
Head coach: Brian Boyce, 14th season
Key loss: Nick DiPietrantonio (SS), Hunter Serrano (RHP / 2B), Dylan Hode (C), Chris Nicol (LHP), Kyle Sciallo (3B)
Around the Diamond (Returning 2019 starts in bold with available statistics)
Catcher: Anthony Matteis, Sr.
First base: Max Graime, Jr. Ethan Rodriguez, Sr.
Second base: Ken Sclafani, Sr.
Shortstop: Sean Caputo, So. Dylan Reiner, Jr.
Third Base: Tom Guidice, Sr. (.337 / .413 / .484, 6 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 14 R, 12 RBI)
Left field: Ethan Rodriguez, Sr. Chris Marzo, Sr.
Centerfield: Anthony Matrone, Sr. Cristian Bernardini, that is.
Rightfield: Anthony Mauro, Sr. Dylan Reiner, Jr. Gino Gambale, Sr.
DH: Chris Marzo, Sr. Cristian Bernardini, that is.
Other key hitters
Joe Mazza (Sr., OF) (.344 / .382 / .500, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
Tyler Kane (Jr., INF)
Joe Mazza, Sr., LHP (4-2, 2.26 ERA, 34 IP, 28 H, 16 BB, 19 K)
Tyler Kane, Jr., RHP
Justin Simone, Sr., RHP
Aiden Tumbleson, Jr., RHP
Nick DiMaggio, Sr., RHP
Sebastian Czajkowski, Sr., RHP
Liam Martin, Jr., LHP
Dan Burns, So., RHP
Dylan Schaffer, Fr., RHP
Joe Mazza – Rutgers University
Tyler Kane – George Mason University
Tommy Guidice – St. Thomas Aquinas College
Anthony Matrone – Long Island University
Justin Simone – Ursinus College
Ken Sclafani – Hood College
Ethan Rodriguez – Alvernia University
Chris Manzo – Carnegie Melon University