• Lions in the running for an A North title

    first_imgBY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer BY DOUG McKENZIEStaff Writer The Middletown North baseball team entered yesterday’s game with Ocean Township tied for the lead in the public school race in the A North Division. The Lions, at 6-4 overall and 6-3 in the division, are a work in progress, according to third-year head coach Bryan Kernan, but have played relatively well through the first half of the regular season, considering the difficult schedule they’ve faced. “I’d though we’d be about 6-4, maybe 7-3 at this point, with games against CBA, Ocean and Monmouth Regional early on,” the coach said. But don’t look for the Lions’ schedule to ease up any time soon. The A North division is loaded with quality teams this season, and with the exception of CBA, who entered the week undefeated, all of the division teams have been taking turns beating up on each other. “Our division is so competitive, Kernan said. “Between teams like Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan, Ocean, Middletown South, there’s no day off. Every game is competitive. I keep telling the guys that you’ve got to play your best game every day to survive in this division.” And the team has been getting the message, according to Kernan, and has played its way into position to make a run at the division title. “This is a hardworking group of kids,” the coach said. “They have good character. We’ve been down by three or more runs four times and came back to win, including two games where we’ve won in our final at-bat. These guys are hungry for wins, and they don’t give up.” Thus far, the Lions have done a nice job both in the field and at the plate. Junior center fielder Chris Sadecki has been the spark at the top of the lineup, batting to a .411 clip thus far, while senior catcher Matt Pignatello has been equally effective in the No. 2 hole, hitting .500 through 10 games. Senior right fielder Dennis Freshnok hits third, where he has contributed five doubles, while cleanup batter Artie Kaylor, a senior infielder, is hitting .471. Sophomore first baseman Chris Rotolo, one of three sophomores to start for the Lions, is hitting .545, while senior infielder Mark Baker is batting .333. Another sophomore, shortstop Kevin Mager, is lingering around the .400 mark, while sophomore second baseman Mike Collison, senior first baseman Chris Susi, senior third baseman Lou Obregon and junior catcher Ryan O’Mara have also contributed to the offense. Despite having so many players hitting for high averages, Kernan said that his team needs to improve its hitting in key spots — with runners in scoring position. “We need to get some timely hitting,” he said. “The other day against Howell [a 3-1 loss on Saturday], they walked nine guys but we only had two hits. We left guys on base all day.” Another the coach would like to see improvement is on the base paths. “We’ve got good team speed, but we’re not running the bases very well,” he said. “If we’re going to continue to be successful, we need to play smarter on the bases.” Defensively, Kernan has been pleased with his team’s play. “I’m a big advocate of catching the ball,” the coach said. “We’ve been doing that lately.” And that strong defensive play has helped the pitching staff settle in. Junior Al Rodriguez is 3-1 early on, while senior Alex Mazalatis is 2-1. Obregon is 0-1, but has pitched well, and was scheduled to get the start yesterday against Ocean. On top of yesterday’s game with the Spartans, the Lions will face another stiff test later today when they face the top-ranked Colts of CBA. From there, they will take on Manalapan on Saturday. And Kernan entered the week expecting battles in all three games. “Every time you put on the uniform this year, you need to bring your A game,” he said. “It’s not like when I was in school and you could bring your B game some days and still get a win. This is just another week in A North.” And it’s just those types of weeks that could help teams like Middletown North, Middletown South, Ocean, Freehold Township and Howell make quite a bit of noise once the postseason rolls around.last_img

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