Sports Shorts

Val Majewski of the Bowie Baysox, the class AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, has been selected to play in the Eastern League All-Star game tonight at Norwich, Conn., in Dodd Stadium.

Majewski, who starred at Freehold Township High School, is leading the Baysox in batting (.285), hits (80) and runs scored (40), and is second in doubles (19) and RBI (38). He has been the backbone of the Bowie outfield, seeing most of his time in right field.

The all-star selection is a good sign for the ex-Patriot, who is looking to work his way back to the major leagues. He was called up by the Orioles in September 2004 and won the team’s Brooks Robinson Award as the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Year. However, he missed the 2005 season after reinjuring his left shoulder and having surgery. He did play in the Arizona Fall League and spent 2006 with the AAA Ottawa team. This is Majewski’s second trip to the Eastern League All-Star Game, having gone in 2005.

After starring at Freehold Township, Majewski went on to Rutgers University, where he was an All-Big East outfielder who led the Scarlet Knights to the NCAA tournament and Big East championship. He was drafted by the Orioles in 2003.

Jason Bergmann has settled in as a starter for the Washington Nationals. The right-hander from Manalapan High School has a 3.47 earned-run average in his 10 starts for the Nats. His 1-5 record is hardly indicative of the way he has pitched. He went six innings and allowed just one hit in a no decision against the Atlanta Braves, and in back-to-back starts against the Philadelphia Phillies (one earned run in six innings) and New York Mets (one earned run in seven innings) was 0-1 despite giving up just two earned runs in 13 innings. In his one win, Bergmann went eight innings and allowed just one earned run while striking out a career-high 10 in a victory over the Braves.

Last year, Bergmann was called up by the Nationals in 2005 from New Orleans and was 2-0 pitching long relief. In 2006, he started out as a long-relief man before becoming a starter.

Bergmann is a graduate of Manalapan High School, where he was a strikeout force. He went on to Rutgers (where he was a teammate of Majewski) and was a member of the 2000 Scarlet Knight Big East championship team and the 2001 squad that made it to the NCAA Regional finals. He was drafted by the Nationals in 2003.

Jersey Shore hoops a proving ground for some

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

BY TIM MORRIS
Staff Writer

Mike DeCorso no longer looks at the Jersey Shore Basketball League as a summer tune-up for college.

The former Colts Neck High School star is now a college graduate (New York University) looking to play professionally, possibly in Europe or Australia.

“I’m going to try and stay in shape and try and play ball in Europe, next year hopefully,” said DeCorso. “I’ve talked to some agents and some of the guys here.”

DeCorso plays for the USA Financial team, the defending JSBL champions and one of his teammates, Tim Begley, is due back from Europe this week and can give DeCorso some valuable pointers about the ins and outs of playing there.

Begley, who starred at Christian Brothers Academy and then at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the Ivy League Most Valuable Player, plays professionally in Germany, and his club was playing for the league championship last week.

The 6-5 DeCorso is not the same player he was three years ago when he began playing in the JSBL, looking for serious competition and with an agenda of what he had to work on for the upcoming college season.

“Then, I was basically a jump shooter,” he recalled. “I’ve established a more all-around game and improved my strength. I’m a stronger player.”

The experience and lessons he learned at the JSBL rewarded DeCorso with his best season at NYU. He made the All-ECAC Second Team and earned Player of the Week honors. NYU won the ECAC championship.

“It was a great way to go out,” he pointed out.

USA Financial is DeCorso’s team away from NYU, and he was happy to see his summer teammates again.

“It’s great to see the guys and catch up on things,” he said.

For Dan Werner, the JSBL was an opportunity for him to play some serious basketball in a very competitive league. Werner, another ex-CBA standout, comes to the JSBL with an NCAA championship ring. He played on the University of Florida team that won the NCAA tournament this winter.

A sophomore-to-be, Werner figures to see extended playing time in 2007-08 with the Gators having graduated their starting five. The JSBL has the quality players that will help him improve his game as he looks ahead to next winter in Gainesville.

“It’s good competition, there are guys who have played in college and Europe,” he said of the JSBL. “Every chance I get to play in the summer, I’ll take.”

Jason Westrol, like Werner, is back at the Shore after his first year in college. The Manasquan High School All-Shore guard plays at Bentley College in Boston.

Werner, plays for UBS Financial and among his teammates is an ex-Red Bank Regional star Billy Gilligan, who is now one of the elder statesmen in the league. For him, the JSBL is a chance to continue playing the game he is so passionate about.

That’s also what the JSBL is to Duane Ailey, a 1,000-point scorer at Howell High School. Ailey played his college ball at Husson in Maine and is now an accountant working in Manhattan. But he’s never far away from the hardwood.

“I still have the itch to play,” said Ailey, an 2005 grad of Husson. “I’ve been playing basketball since I was 7 years old.

“It feels good to play against players like these who have played overseas,” he added.

Ailey, whose team is Alley Oop, still harbors his dream of playing professionally, maybe in Europe, and he knows that the JSBL let’s him display his talents against quality competition. He hopes to catch the eye of an agent or scout. But even if his professional aspirations don’t come to fruition, you can still find him on the basketball floor.

The league is filled with former area high school stars, like Werner and Westrol, who are now playing in college.

Manny Ubilla, the player who started Freehold Township’s ascension as a Shore power, had a tremendous season at Fairleigh Dickinson and is playing for T&T Coast. Jerome Hubbard, who starred at Neptune and Brookdale Community College and is now playing for Stockton, is one of his teammates.

Raritan’s Qa’rran Calhoun, who was a freshman at St. John’s University last winter, is suiting up with Rod’s Tavern, as is guard Matt Presby, the Manalapan grad who is at Gettysburg.

Then there is Stern’s Trailer, a team consisting of former Monmouth University players, including Corey Albano, Marques Alston, John Giraldo and Raheem Carter. They can reminisce about their college days while continuing their days as teammates.

The JSBL plays its games at the McCann Center at St. Rose High School in Belmar. There are doubleheaders at 7:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The regular season goes until July 25 with the first round of the playoffs July 30.

Summer basketball allows coaches to evaluate talent

BY JEFF APPELBLATT Correspondent

BY JEFF APPELBLATT
Correspondent

SCOTT PILLING staff Freehold Township's Lorinne Coogan makes the pass in front of the defense of Howell's Lauren Kolacki during a summer league game in Freehold Township on July 3.SCOTT PILLING staff Freehold Township’s Lorinne Coogan makes the pass in front of the defense of Howell’s Lauren Kolacki during a summer league game in Freehold Township on July 3. The average person would probably not name basketball among the list of top summer sports to watch.

Schools are out and the majority of basketball seasons are over.

But for basketball coaches, the summer may be the best time of the year to watch basketball. Whether it be a local recreation league or the WNBA, summer basketball is perfect for regular season preparation.

Freehold Township head coach John Sciarappa, who runs the Freehold Township Recreation League, sees it as the perfect opportunity to get players ready for the following season.

“The varsity team was very young and we played great this year,” Sciarappa said about his Lady Patriots. “I owe that to the summer league. It really gave them a nice start.

“Players know what I’ll be running after playing [for me] in the summer,” he added. “This gives me a chance to give a look.”

Though the league has seen a vast decrease in participants this summer (from 18 teams to seven), that doesn’t mean the league has lost any of its significance.

“I don’t understand what these other programs are doing,” Sciarappa said about the drop in teams. “There’s only seven this year [referring to teams from Long Branch, Lakewood, St. Rose, Howell, and two from Freehold].”

But the 30-year coach won’t let the decline bother him. He’s too focused on his own players.

“This league gives me more of an idea and a ground to know who the better players are,” he said. “They’re given an opportunity to show me what they can do.

“I want them to develop,” he added. “I want them to show me everything they could.”

So if Sciarappa coaches one of the Freehold squads, who coaches the other?

Sciarappa.

But what if the two teams face off vs. one another?

“I sit back and let the varsity players coach the team,” Sciarappa said. “Or I lay back, watch the game, and let the kids coach themselves. It builds camaraderie. Besides, I think they like that better than listening to me.”

When he is coaching, his players know his game plan.

“Every four minutes we’re rotating another five,” he said. “I don’t care who the best player is, I just want the kids to be competitive and show me everything [they] can.”

In his own words, his overall method of coaching during the summer: “I’m just sitting there giving them knowledge.”

Sciarappa can only hope that the knowledge he’s giving this summer leads to a successful 2007-08 season for Freehold Township.

Sports Shorts

Duneside Perch equaled the New Jersey Sire Stakes (NJSS) record for 2-year-old pacing colts when he won the second round of the NJSS at the Meadowlands in 1:51.4. He won his $46,750 division by three lengths with Ron Pierce in the bike. He is now 2-2 for his career. Duneside Perch is the son of Cam’s Card Shark. He tied the record held by Jeremy’s Gambit and Falcons Icon.

The first of the two $46,750 divisions of the NJSSA went to Yankee Rocketeer with John Campbell in the bike. The son of Artsplace soared to a 1:53.4 victory.

Big Foot Open brings state’s top archers to Jackson

Black Knight Bowbenders hosting competition

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

BY TIM MORRIS
Staff Writer

ERIC SUCAR staff Mike Schultz of Little Egg Harbor takes aim on July 5 while practicing for this weekend's Big Foot Open in Jackson.ERIC SUCAR staff Mike Schultz of Little Egg Harbor takes aim on July 5 while practicing for this weekend’s Big Foot Open in Jackson. The bows may have the best of modern technology (sights, stabilizers, etc.) and the targets may be 3-D, however, for two days, the Black Knight Bowbenders will be turning back the clock with their 13th annual Big Foot Open.

The event, which will be held at the club’s range on Anderson Road in Jackson on Saturday and Sunday, will resemble the days of yore when archery was king and the target competitions were one way of determining who was the best in the land.

The Big Foot Open will crown its version of the best with the Top Gun competition among its many activities. The Top Gun 3-D shootoff will be held on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. This will pit dot archers against 3-D archers. The challenge for dot shooters is to guess the yardage on unmarked 3-D targets, while the test for the 3-D shooters is hitting the dot on a field target.

There will only be eight shooters in the Top Gun, determined from competition held Saturday morning.

Other highlights are the Last Man Standing (11:30 a.m.) and Big Foot Skins Game (2 p.m.) both on Sunday.

The public is welcome to come and watch many of the state’s best archers in action as they test their skills in a variety contests. There is no admittance fee and the Big Foot Open is for anyone who owns a bow.

The Last Man Standing is for traditional shooters using finger shooter with recurve or Longbows. Archers will shoot two arrows at five targets at unmarked distances. After each round of shooting, the field will be cut in half until three remain. They will divide the prize money 50-30-20 after the final target.

The skins game is an exhibition money shoot. The format is three arrows per target shot at nine field faces for a total of 27 arrows. Top score on each target will win the purse for that target. If there’s a tie, the money for that target carries over to the next target.

The Big Foot competition itself consists of 14 field targets, 14 hunter targets and 30 MacKenzie/Reinhart 3-D targets (unknown distances). On Saturday morning, the dot and 3-D shooters will participate in their normal competition (14 field and 14 hunter targets for the dot archers and the 30 targets for the 3-D shooters). At 2 p.m., the shooters will turn in their score cards with the top four dot and top 3-D scorers qualifying for the Top Gun competition.

Archers can shoot only 3-D or only dots, or both if they choose, and they can compete just for fun and not turn in a card. Both the dot and 3-D ranges will be open Saturday and Sunday. Registration each day is from 7-10 a.m.

In addition to the actual archery competition, the Big Foot will offer an archery/sporting goods swap meet.

For additional information on the Big Foot, go to www.blackknightbowbenders.com or call (732) 833-1100.

Higginson exceeded her own running goals

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

BY TIM MORRIS
Staff Writer

ERIC SUCAR staff Ashley Higginson graduates as one of the top distance runners in state history. ERIC SUCAR staff Ashley Higginson graduates as one of the top distance runners in state history. Ashley Higginson’s high school career was already off the charts. The Colts Neck senior had already won a record-tying three NJSIAA Indoor Meet of Champions 3,200-meter titles and had anchored the girls 4×1-mile relay team to back-to-back national titles. During the cross country season, she was the undisputed leader of perhaps the finest team in state history. The Cougars won the NJSIAA Meet of Champions title with Higginson finishing second and running the fourth-fastest time in Holmdel Park history (17:50). That helped them get invited to the Nike Team Nationals in Portland, Ore. There, Higginson slogged through a muddy course, winning the race and leading the Cougars to a fourth-place finish, the best-ever placing by a Garden State team.

Yet, when she was circling the 200-meter New York Armory track in March at the National Scholastic Indoor Championships, Higginson was taking her running to another level. Not only was she on her way to her first individual national championship and a state record (10:16.75), she was finding something out about herself that would put her on a level playing field with the nation’s best.

“Before, I was always racing against someone,” she pointed out. “That was the first time that I took the initiative. It readjusted my mind-set about racing.”

With that new, more aggressive approach, Higginson would not lose a race the rest of the year over one mile, as the News Transcript’s 2007 Female Senior Athlete of the Year turned herself into one of the best distance runners in the country, bar none.

She began what would be an incredible outdoor season by smashing the state 5,000-meter record (16:38.31) on what will be her future home track, Princeton University.

At the Penn Relays, Higginson became the first New Jersey girl to win consecutive 3,000-meter races and her 9:37.32 was the third fastest in state history and a Shore Conference record. It was a fitting performance for Higginson, who credited her win there in ’06 as her big breakthrough. That

win convinced her that she could not only compete against national-caliber runners, but beat them as well. She wouldn’t look at herself the same again when she lined up in big races.

The record setting continued when she lowered the state 2,000-meter steeplechase record (6:50.39) at Rowan University.

It was now on to the championship season, where meet records fell as she marched toward her first outdoor MOC title. Along the way, she ran 4:47.71 for 1,600 meters, a Monmouth County record.

She made her final MOC memorable by winning that elusive outdoor title and breaking the SC record in the process (10:23.28).

“I was finally able to stick it out to the end and peak at the right time,” she said after her win.

The best was still ahead for Higginson. At the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., she added the outdoor two-mile national championship to her trophy case, winning and again setting a new state record (10:17.44).

In this race, Higginson dug down deeper than ever before, finding a finishing kick that she hadn’t had before, to beat Neely Spence of Pennsylvania. It was Spence who made a big push with 600 meters to go, opening up a gap on Higginson. It was role reversal for the Cougar, who had been used to putting the competition away with a similar move, but now Spence was putting it on her.

Higginson, not known for her closing speed in the last 200 meters, summoned it this time and with 150 remaining, found an extra gear that brought her the national title. She ran her final 800 meters in 2:22. It just may have been her greatest race.

Before the NON weekend was over, she broke her own steeplechase record, posting a 6:46.67 in finishing third. She garnered the eighth and ninth All-American certificates of her career, concluding the finest career of any Freehold Regional District runner.

Higginson admits she’s come a long way from the freshman who played soccer her first fall on the Colts Neck campus.

“I started running because of its benefits,” she recalled. “After four years, I’ve changed a lot. Running became my passion, what I like to do.”

Cougar coach Jim Schlentz said that Higginson was “one of those people who decided I wanted to be the best I can.” That led to improvements each and every year.

“Ashley was always asking each year what do I have to do to make myself better,” he said. “She made herself a great runner. One of the great ones in state history.”

Starting with the cross country season, Higginson was unstoppable. She left course, meet and state records in her wake as she accomplished everything a runner could do in a career, in one year.

For all the glory that her individual achievements brought her, Higginson’s primary joy was being a part of the Colts Neck cross country and track and field teams. What the Cougars achieved was more satisfying than anything she did individually.

“My team means the world to me,” she said. “It’s why running has been so great.

“My team is my family,” she added. “The girls helped me grow and taught me how to lead. They made me work harder.”

Higginson was always there for the Cougars, whether it was winning the Nike Team Nationals race, anchoring the team to those relay national titles, winning three races at the Monmouth County Championships to ensure a Cougar win, pacing a teammate to a new personal best during a race, or getting up early in the morning to put in a run with a teammate. Higginson always seemed to turn in her best for the team.

It’s no coincidence that under her guidance, the Cougars have become a state powerhouse in both sports. The highlight of her season was getting the phone call back in November that the Cougars were going to the NTN. That lofty goal had been the team’s lone goal for a year.

“There’s nothing else I wanted this season,” she said. “This is so special. We worked as hard as we could, and it all worked out.”

It all worked out for Higginson as well. Her cross country season was remarkable. Besides leaving her mark at Holmdel Park (her county record 17:50), she turned in the ninth-fastest time ever on the famed 2.5-mile Van Cortlandt Park course in the Bronx. N.Y. Her time was the third fastest for a New Jersey runner.

Higginson would finish second at the Meet of Champions to Danielle Tauro of Southern Regional, and the following week punched a trip to San Diego for the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships. Back at Van Cortlandt Park, Higginson was fourth in the qualifier, running 17:51. At the championship in San Diego, Higginson, who was making her second cross country trip in a week, finished 18th.

The cross country season set up what would be a series of fast times and great wins for the Cougar. She clocked 4:49.1 in anchoring the 4×1-mile team to a second straight national title at the Armory and a new state record (20:36.41). The indestructible Higginson came back the next day to win the two-mile national crown. In NJSIAA competition, she won the State Group IV 3,200 and in the process, broke the meet record held by the legendary Janet Smith of J.P. Stevens. At the MOC, she would win her record-tying third straight title and break her own meet record this time.

The outdoor season began with her smashing the 5,000 record in Princeton and did not stop until the nationals, where she added the outdoor two-mile crown to her indoor jewel.

In breaking her own state record for the steeplechase in Greensboro, she picked up the eighth and ninth All-American certificates of her career.

Higginson did not confine her success to the track. She is just as driven in the classroom, where she was the school’s salutatorian. Running, she said, taught her how to compete everywhere.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to do better,” she explained.

It was a winning approach for the Cougars’ national champion.

Schlentz shared a bond with his two standouts

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

BY TIM MORRIS
Staff Writer

Craig Forys and Ashley Higginson, the News Transcript’s 2007 Male and Female Athletes of the Year, have developed quite a bond with themselves and their coach at Colts Neck, Jim Schlentz.

Together, the trio created an era never witnessed before in running. No other school can boast of having two national champions in the same school year, which is what they did. In a half-hour span back in March, Forys won his two-mile title in Landover, Md., and Higginson captured her two-mile crown at the New York Armory. An incredible symmetry.

Both leave Colts Neck with legendary careers that were nurtured under Schlentz.

Forys came right in as a freshman and announced that he could be something special.

With national and state records, state and national titles by the score, he delivered on his promise.

Higginson didn’t run cross country her freshman year, opting for soccer. But each year she got better, and this year had a season that very few girls in the state have enjoyed, setting state records and winning state and national titles.

Schlentz pointed out that there was one common denominator: they were not willing to settle on their accomplishments; they always wanted more.

That’s why they were on a continual upward curve during their careers, which led to their unsurpassed 2006-07 seasons.

“Ashley was always asking each year, ‘What do I have to do to make myself better?’ ” he said. “She made herself a great runner.

“Craig fell in love with the sport and did a little bit more each year,” he added.

Schlentz has been both a friend and a sage to Forys, imparting all of his running know-how to his prize student.

“It would be hard to find anyone out there with his level of knowledge,” Forys said. “What he laid on me is beyond belief. I feel after four years, I know all there is to know.”

Higginson credits Schlentz with helping her reach higher than she had ever imagined was possible.

“He shaped me as a runner,” she explained. “He taught me to dream, and I dream pretty big. Coach made me believe anything is possible.”

Both Forys and Higginson agree they were a big help to each other. They have shared the same expectations of running on the national level and the pressure that goes with it. They know the euphoria of a big win and how deflating a bad race can be.

“Ashley was a key part,” Forys said.

“We could look at each other as peers. When we were going through a rough time, we knew how to pick each other up.”

Higginson noted that Forys helped her learn to relax and not be so critical of herself.

“Craig could make me laugh at myself when I was frustrated,” she said. “He made me realize you can take it too seriously.”

Schlentz is looking forward to the 2007 cross country season. The Cougar girls have a realistic chance of defending their Meet of Champions title and perhaps returning to Oregon for the Nike Team Nationals. There is promise on the boys’ side as well.

But Schlentz knows when practice begins next month, “his buddies” won’t be there. Forys will be wearing a University of Michigan singlet, while Higginson will be a little closer to home running for Princeton University.

They may no longer be coach and schoolmates, but they share a bond that is unbreakable.

Goldman, Gamburg aces of All-District tennis team

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

BY TIM MORRIS
Staff Writer

Jeremy GoldmanJeremy Goldman Two teams ruled the tennis courts this spring: Freehold Borough and Marlboro.

Both were championship squads in 2007, with coach Jon Block’s Colonials the aces.

Freehold Borough went through the regular season with a perfect record and ran their winning streak in the Shore Conference B North Division over the past two years to 24 consecutive victories. They advanced to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals for the first time in school history and also got to the Final Four in Central Jersey Group III.

The Colonials had it all – a reliable singles trio, any of whom could win, backed by dependable doubles teams. Their 17-2 overall record speaks for the kind of team they had.

Dave Kretzmer’s Mustangs, the dominant team in A North for more than a decade, figured to be a contender this year. What wasn’t expected was for them to go through the division without a loss. Marlboro emerged as one of the Shore’s elite teams this year thanks to some key additions and the improvements made by the returners. The Mustangs were back, and with a 17-3 record for the year.

Freehold Township made a run at the A North title, but two losses to the Mustangs doomed their chances. The Pats were a playoff team and finished the year at 13-6.

Colts Neck finished strong and ended up at 10-10. Nine losses in the tough A North Division kept the Cougars from having a very big season.

Howell High School continued its improvement and was again a state playoff and SCT team.

The News Transcript’s 2007 All-Freehold Regional District Boys Tennis Team is loaded with Colonials and Mustangs. The Colonials’ Jeremy Goodman, Rajat Verma and Kevin Sun, and Marlboro’s Ilan Gamburg and Brian Rau make up the singles players, while the Colonials’ Fred Yick and Ilan Levy and Marlboro’s Bryan Lisser and Derin Goodman are the doubles teams.

Goldman and Verma were the first doubles team for the Colonials in 2006 and made a rather smooth adjustment to singles this year. Goodman settled in at first singles, with Verma at second.

Goldman was outstanding at first singles, playing the quality tennis expected of the top player on a championship team. He was a semifinalist at the Monmouth County Flight Tournament, and at the state tournament he advanced to the third round, winning two matches. Those wins were the first ever by a Borough tennis player.

Verma, like Goodman, was also a semifinalist at the county tournament. The sophomore was close to an automatic point every time out.

Sun, a junior, won his singles flight at the county tournament and was, like Verma, close to automatic. With a 20-2 record, Sun became the first Colonial to win 20 matches in a season.

Together, Goldman, Verma and Sun were the best singles lineup in the District,

With Goldman, Verma and Sun all returning in ’08, B North can expect more of the same from Freehold Borough, and the rest of the SC had better be ready to welcome the Colonials as one of its powerhouses.

When Kretzmer started thinking about his Marlboro tennis team back in March, there were a lot of holes to fill. One area he felt secure at was first singles, where senior Gamburg was ready to slide up from the second slot last year. Gamburg, however, gave Kretzmer even more than he had expected. The senior improved his game through hard work and tournament play and became one of the best players in the Shore. He set the tone at the top for the team.

The Mustangs were unsettled behind Gamburg, and it was Rau, a freshman, who was the pleasant surprise. He came in, took on all challengers and earned his second singles position. The Mustangs are set for the next three years with Rau.

Yick and Levy, the only seniors in the Colonials’ lineup, used their experience to be a dominant team in ’07. They won several key matches during the year, including come-from-behind three-setters. They advanced to the round of 16 in the state doubles tournament for a school record.

A decision by Goodman to change his club of choice from a driver to a tennis racquet was another key to Marlboro’s championship. He stepped in, along with another junior, Bryan Lisser, to give Marlboro a strong first doubles team that could be counted on to get the team a point.

2007 All-Freehold Regional District Boys Tennis Team

Singles

Jeremy GoldmanFreehold Boroughjunior

Ilan GamburgMarlborosenior

Rajat VermaFreehold Boroughsophomore

Brian RauMarlborofreshman

Kevin SunFreehold Boroughjunior

Doubles

Freehold BoroughFred Yicksenior

Ilan Levysenior

MarlboroDerin Goodmanjunior

Bryan Lisserjunior

Marlboro looks to build confidence this summer

BY JEFF APPELBLATT Correspondent

BY JEFF APPELBLATT
Correspondent

Marlboro High School’s varsity baseball team has been anything but perfect the past two seasons, recording only 14 wins in 45 games.

But when it comes to summer baseball, those numbers mean nothing.

And like last year, the team is hoping that American Legion play could be preparation for success next season. So far, the team has split its first seven games (3-3-1), but a sign of perfection has already struck.

Sam Lubin, who will be a junior next spring, silenced the bats of Manasquan, throwing a 17-strikeout, perfect game less than two weeks ago.

Legion head coach Robert Helfgott couldn’t help but rave about Lubin’s performance.

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “He may have had the best curveball I’ve seen a high school player throw. He left the opposing players shaking their heads.

“It was the best high school pitching performance I’ve seen,” he added.

After that game, Helfgott expects Lubin, along with Matt Weckerle, to be important arms on the mound when the regular season rolls around in 2008. But Helfgott couldn’t go without also mentioning Weckerle’s strong bat after the soon-to-be sophomore hit a three-run home run during Lubin’s perfecto.

Lubin hopes his shutout leads to a bright future, but he realizes the game against Manasquan will be hard to top. Ever.

“I need to start getting more consistent and then I’ll be good,” he said. “But it was probably the best game I’ll ever pitch.”

Helfgott knew Lubin’s following start (against Colts Neck on Saturday June 30) would be difficult. But he hoped his young starter was ready.

“It will really be a challenge for him,” he said before the game. “It’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to seeing.”

Either way, the type of game Lubin pitched against Manasquan should definitely have boosted Marlboro’s confidence level, one of the top priorities Helfgott is hoping for during Legion play.

“The goal for the Legion season is to build some confidence, get more experience, and get [the players] ready for next spring,” he said. “The kids’ varsity season was not what they expected, but the expectations for the summer are to be better.

“We’ve broken through with a couple of wins early on, and I feel optimistic about the season,” he added.

Marlboro was unable to turn the confidence from the shutout into a victory four days later, though, but did beat Rumson-Fair Haven Thursday night. Helfgott isn’t too worried about the 3-3-1 start. One advantage he has going for him is the help of his son, Adam, who graduated from Marlboro High School this year. Of course Helfgott wishes he could have Adam, who was listed on the All-Freehold Regional District team, on the field as he boasted a .479 batting average in the spring, despite being the main focus of pitchers facing the Marlboro squad. But the coach called it “an unwritten rule” that graduates don’t play in the summer following graduation.

After his assistant coaching stint ends this summer, Adam will be attending Rutgers, where he knows it will be difficult to continue his baseball career.

“He will see if he can get a walk-on tryout,” his father said. “He would love to, at the very least, get to try out. But he chose the school for the academics.”

When Adam leaves, it won’t be the end of Helfgotts on the field. His younger brother, Craig, is going to be a sophomore in the fall. Marlboro can only wish Adam’s game rubs off on Craig.

For the rest of the summer, Coach Helfgott just hopes his team can piece together as many wins as possible and finish prepared for the spring season.

“It’s basically the same [opponents now] as we are [playing against] during the spring,” he said. “It’s just a different league.

“We have a good nucleus of players coming off a disappointing season,” he added. “But now I’m hoping for a good share of wins.”

Sports Shorts

Kristy Kwiatkowski, Jamie Shapiro and coach Ron Fazio are the newest additions to the Manalapan High School Hall of Fame.

Kwiatkowski, class of 2001, was the News Transcript’s Senior Athlete of the Year when she led the Braves to the Shore Conference A North Division title and the Shore Conference Tournament championships (the only SCT crown in school history). She was a power-hitter first baseman who continued her career at Yale University.

Shapiro, class of 1999, led the Braves to an A North Division title and won the NJSIAA State Championship on the balance beam. She also won Shore Conference and Central Jersey titles during her career. Shapiro continued her gymnastics career at Brown University.

Fazio coached Manalapan’s golf program from 1976 to 1996. Under his guidance, the Braves became a conference power, winning several A North titles and Freehold District titles. His golfers also excelled individually.

A local 9U baseball team is looking for new players to round out the team and will be holding tryouts. The team is located in the Manalapan area but residency is not required. Any player born after May 1, 1997, is eligible. Interested players who desire to play competitive baseball should call Burke Zinco at (732) 792-2642 for additional information.

The Can-Am League of professional baseball will hold open tryouts at the home field of the Atlantic City Surf, Bernie Robbins Stadium, July 26. The tryouts will be for multiple teams in the league. Interested players should arrive at the ballpark at 8:30 a.m. to register; there is a $50 administration fee. Participants must be high school graduates and at least 18 years old. Players are required to provide their own equipment. The tentative rain date is Aug. 27 at 9 a.m.

For more information on the tryout, call the Surf at (609) 344-8873 or log on to www.acsurf.com.