The Allentown Senior American Legion baseball team pulls players from four high schools, Allentown High School, New Egypt High School and both Jackson Township schools, Jackson Memorial and Jackson Liberty.
This gives Allentown Senior Legion coach Justin Ely a solid base of talent to choose from for his club. Last year, Allentown went 13-11 and lost in the district final. But in 2019, Ely’s team is struggling with just a 4-5 record.
Allentown did, however, beat Hightstown Post 148, 11-0, in its most recent game on June 17 at Mercer County Park in West Windsor. That was followed by a week of rainouts. But Ely is confident that his club will keep winning once the rain stops.
“It’s not the start we anticipated but I still feel positive about it because we got the injury bug early,” he said. “Once the lineup comes back together we’ll get on a streak.”
“And it’s almost back together,” he added.
A few of the healthy hitters, though, are really raking.
Catcher and third baseman Chris Reeder is “playing great, which is expected,” Ely said. Reeder, a former Allentown High School standout, posted a strong .382 on-base percentage in his freshman season at The College of New Jersey this past spring.
Another catcher, Austin D’Amico, might be Allentown’s hottest hitter right now.
“Everything off his bat is a missile. He just seems to be dialed in,” Ely said. “He has a good approach. He’s not afraid to be aggressive and it’s paying off.”
Middle infielder Randy Steen is also tearing the cover off the ball.
“He might not have the average you’d want but he’s hitting hard and does the little things right, which lights a fire under our team, which is nice,” Ely said.
Allentown can definitely score. But Ely thinks the lineup will really go to another level when outfielder Mike Zupko returns from a hamstring injury. The injury has nagged Zupko since the second game of Allentown’s summer on June 4.
But he should be back soon.
“Once he gets back to full health it’ll be a huge boost,” Ely said.
Some legion clubs prefer to use the summer to develop their high school talent, and Allentown does that too, to an extent. But a lot of legion clubs just need to fill rosters in this era of showcase tournament teams, so they take players who are back from college for the summer as well.
Ely has a few of those guys, including former Allentown standouts Austin Ferrier and Guiseppe Arcuri.
Altogether, the lineup has a lot of talent. Allentown even has talent on the mound, like Jackson Memorial ace Joe “Zep” Princiotta, who finished 6-1 with a 1.27 earned run average in 2019. He is playing the same role for Allentown this summer.
“He’s giving everything he can and putting us in a good spot to win every time he’s out there,” Ely said.
With talent from four high schools and even the collegiate level, Ely thinks this team can accomplish something that the Allentown Senior Legion program never has before: a district title.
“The farthest we’ve gone is the district final, and we can get there again, but we want to push past that barrier,” he said.