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Hillsborough baseball team enjoys best season in years

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The Hillsborough High School baseball team can boast of a season filled with accomplishments.

For starters, Hillsborough finished with a 16-6 record, its best mark since 2009. But the Raiders also won the Skyland Conference’s Delaware Division, earned the No. 1 seed in the Somerset County Tournament and landed the No. 2 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament.

A group of seniors, such as right-handed pitcher Ishaan Parikh, left-handed pitcher Nick Scerbo and first baseman Vince Gambardella, came together and transformed the Raiders into one of the best teams in central New Jersey.

Unfortunately though, Hillsborough’s sterling campaign ended in postseason disappointment.

In the Somerset County semifinals on May 8, the Raiders were upset at home to fifth-seeded Ridge High School, 8-1. Then in the state sectional tournament’s first round on May 20, Hillsborough fell at home to 15th-seeded Marlboro High School, 5-2.

The losses were unexpected, and the Raiders would have preferred to cap their season with a playoff championship. But the defeats still did not tarnish a successful campaign for the program.

“A big part of the team’s success this year was chemistry,” said Hillsborough coach Eric Eden. “They are all very, very close.”

To a large degree, Hillsborough’s success this year was the result of a dominant pitching staff. Starters Parikh, Scerbo and junior right-hander Liam Smith combined for an 11-3 record with an earned run average under 2.00. Junior right-hander and top reliever Angelo Monaco went 5-1 with an 0.85 ERA.

Eden had a host of arms to choose from throughout the spring, and he knew that each guy would keep the Raiders in games.

“The guys go out there expecting to win,” Eden said. “We’re going to score a couple runs early and we won’t let them back in.”

That was Hillsborough’s formula for most of the spring. The Raiders only scored about four runs per game, but it was usually enough.

Gambardella sparked the offense with a .362 batting average, six home runs, 22 runs batted in and 10 runs scored. Senior shortstop Andrew Lagerman contributed a .323 average and 17 runs.

Junior outfielder Luke Monsorno hit .375. Sophomore catcher Jayden Bloch drove in 13 runs. Monsorno and Bloch will be the foundation of Hillsborough’s lineup in 2020.

“We were really successful this year,” Bloch said. “It’s been a really great experience. There’s nothing more I could ask for.”

Except maybe there is one more thing the sophomore can ask for, or strive for: a Central Jersey, Group 4 title. Hillsborough last won a state sectional championship in 2006.

Bloch hopes to help change that before he graduates in 2021. It won’t be easy, since Hillsborough will have a lot of talent to replace next spring.

But five Hillsborough hurlers threw double digit innings in 2019, and three, Smith, Monaco and junior right-hander Joey O’Donnell, will be back. O’Donnell was also good this spring, with a 1-0 record and a 2.63 ERA.

With three key hurlers and their catcher, Bloch, back in 2020, the Raiders may able to maintain their pitching strength into next spring. Eden, though, will worry about next year when the time comes.

For now, the Raiders can be satisfied with their successful 2019 season.

“It’s great to know that everyone can do their part for us to win,” Eden said back in April.





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