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HIGHTSTOWN: Rams' 1985 baseball team enters HOF on 30th Anniversary

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1985 HHS baseball team pic

The 1985 Hightstown High baseball team won the first (and only) Mercer County Tournament baseball title in school history and the second sectional crown as well. The team consisted of (front row, from left) John Mattola, Eric Katz, Mike Simonelli, Chris Schilling. Evan Weisman, Rick Contiliano; (second row) head coach Mike “The Z Man” Zapicchi, Billy “Bump” Albert, Bruce Broadbent, Keith Beam, Jim Contiliano, manager Helen Skolnick; (back row) Chris Sisack, Ed Horowitz, “Rockin” Robin Petryk, Loren Lipker, Billy Wilmer and Joe Contiliano.

The 22nd Annual Hightstown High School Athletic Hall of Fame ceremonies are scheduled to take place on Friday, Oct. 9, complete with the induction luncheon and introduction of the honorees at that night’s football game.

The Hall of Fame Luncheon is scheduled for 12 p.m. at The Holiday Inn of East Windsor, to which the public is invited to attend. That night on Dave McIntire Field, with the Rams meeting West Windsor-Plainsboro North game under the guidance of first-year coach and former Ram standout Ethan Jeros, the inductees will be introduced.

Tickets for the luncheon are $40. For tickets and reservation contact Jim Peto, Athletic Director, Hightstown High School, 25 Leshin Lane, Hightstown, N.J. 08520. Phone 609-443-7741 extension 1157.

This year’s inductees include the following former Hightstown High School standouts:

—Gwen Atwell, Coach

—Tom Weidner,Baseball,Class of ‘65

—Kerry Radigan Allmers, Field Hockey, Class of ‘84

—David Rosenblatt,Track,Class of’85

—Kenny Amponsa,Wrestling,Class of ‘07

—Jessica Haughton,Field Hockey,Class of ‘07

—1985 Group IV State Semi-Finalist Baseball Team

Here is the last of The Herald’s profiles on each inductee.


Has it been 30 years since that magical ride?

It sure has.

The 1985 varsity baseball team is the first baseball team to be inducted to the Hightstown High School Athletic Hall of Fame, but by mid-season of that year it didn’t look like the Rams would be much more than another .500 team.

But suddenly, coach Mike “The Z Man” Zapicchi’s team caught fire and went on a magical ride in which everything went right and the Rams won the Mercer County Tournament and Central Jersey Group IV Tournament championships with a band of memorable characters from twin brothers to guys named Bump and Rockin’ Robin.

After Hightstown won the MCT title on a memorable Wednesday night in May at Mercer County Park, the June 5, 1985 Windsor-Hights Herald captured the essence of the Rams rags-to-riches season by leading off the account of the game with this passage:

WEST WINDSOR – In what proved to be a final touch of irony, the Hightstown High School baseball team’s bus had to be led out of Mercer County Park by another car last Wednesday night due to burned out headlights.

Why ironic?

Because if ever a team went from stumbling in the dark to finding its way to daylight, it’s the 1985 Rams. And here they were being guided through the darkness in what was their brightest moment of the year.

Things got even brighter with the CJ IV title, and the roots to such success were planted the prior year with a young team that consisted just one senior – outfielder Ross Contiliano. They played like a young team, despite Ross’s efforts, finishing with a 6-16 record and losing seven one-run games.

The 1985 season dawned and hopes were high, as they returned almost the entire team. The season began with an exciting 6-2 win over perennial rival Notre Dame.

However, the team came out of the gate in an uneven fashion, qualifying for the NJSIAA tournament with a 7-6 record. They were seeded ninth in the Mercer County Tournament and eighth in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 tournament.

Their first tournament game of any kind was in the MCT against powerful Steinert. Nursing a 4-3 lead, the Rams ended it with a dramatic double play in the seventh inning.

Hightstown liked that feeling and tore through the MCT field; winning four one run games to take the title. On their championship way they beat the number 1, 2, and 3 seeded teams. The final was a nail biting 3-2 win against Hamilton West in which Steve Solomon threw a complete game. The semifinal was even more intense as Notre Dame trailed by a run and had runners on first-and-third with one out in the seventh inning before the Rams turned a double play to end it.

For his efforts in winning or saving the first three MCT games, Bill Wilmer was the MVP of the tournament.

Riding a wave of euphoria and momentum, the Rams proved that low seeding once again meant nothing in the CJ IV tournament.

The memorable run began with a 10-6 win over top-seeded Middletown North and ended with a 9-2 win over defending CJ 4 champion, JP Stevens. That marked the Rams 11th win in 12 games.

Their season ended at Allentown High School in the state semifinal game with a 5-3 loss to undefeated and eventual state champion Cherokee.

But the mark these Rams made on the 1985 baseball campaign was large. Ed Horowitz, Rick Contiliano (whose twin brother Jim was also a team member), Joe Contiliano, Loren Lipker, “Rockin” Robin Petryk, Keith Beam and Solomon earned some sort of All-CVC or All State mention. They set a school record with 18 wins that still stands, won the only MCT championship in HHS baseball history and were only the second Rams’ baseball team to win a sectional title (the first to win a CJ Group 4 title).

Members of the team include captains Billy “Bump” Albert (entering posthumously) and Joe Contiliano, Beam, Bruce Broadbent, Jim and Rick Contiliano, Horowitz (who went on to star for Rider), Eric Katz, Lipker, Shannon Lugannani, John Mottola, Petryk, Chris Schilling, Chris Sisack, Mike Simonelli, Solomon, Evan Weissman, Wilmer and manager Helen Skolnick. Zapicchi’s coaches were Dominic Mastroianni and the late Al Punk.

All-Class Reunion

An All-Class Reunion, featuring the 40th Anniversary reunion of the Class of ’75, and the 1975 football team, the 2015 HHS Hall of Fame inductees and coach Gwen Atwell’s teams honoring her hall of fame induction will be held after this year’s HOF induction. The reunion will take place at City Streets Café’ in Royal Plaza Center on Route 130 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

In order for City Streets to have an idea of the crowd, attendees should RSVP by Sep. 20 by emailing Donna Lacy DiBongrazio (Class of ’75) at or 609-510-3947, Karen Damrau Hall (Class of ’76) at, Barbara “Cissy” Muse (Class of ’77) at or 678-852-7986.


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