Every summer, Matt Mosko and Eric Eden switch roles.
Each spring, Eden is the head coach of the baseball program at Hillsborough High School. Mosko is his freshmen coach. But then once the summer hits, Mosko coaches the Hillsborough Senior American Legion team, while Eden serves as his assistant.
The programs are mutually beneficial, symbiotic, an ecosystem of community baseball in Hillsborough Township. They are essentially the same program. They are both called the Raiders and they even both play their home games at Hillsborough High School.
The legion team is just more informal and has fewer players.
Hillsborough’s 2019 summer team has 18 players. Nine played on Hillsborough’s varsity high school team this past spring, helping the Raiders go 16-6 and win the Skyland Conference’s Delaware Division.
That experience with success should bode well for the legion club, too, this summer. Though Hillsborough is only off to a 1-2 start through three games. Mosko, though, is confident that his team will get it going.
“We expect these guys to take a jump to the next level,” Mosko said. “We hope to finish in the top three in the Pyramid League and qualify for the district tournament.”
Victories and tangible success are nice. But it’s not about that for the Hillsborough legion team. Mosko and Eden focus more on developing players over the summer.
When they do that successfully, it leads to more success for the varsity team the following year.
“It’s been working,” Mosko said.
Most of the nine spring varsity players found some measure of success in 2019. Sophomore Jayden Bloch emerged into a solid starting catcher. Junior Luke Monsorno became a First Team All-Skyland Conference Delaware Division player. Tyler Boose, Nick Fox, Joey O’Donnell and Andrew Rygiel all saw time on the mound.
If they keep developing over the summer, they could make Hillsborough’s varsity team even better in 2020.
“We’re excited about their development,” Mosko said.
The coach is especially excited about the development of his top two hurlers, the right-hander O’Donnell and the right-hander Rygiel. Both are strike throwers with their fastballs. They just need to improve their off-speed pitches.
“That will make them more consistent and dominant on the mound,” Mosko said.
Hillsborough’s varsity team did lose a lot of seniors after the 2019 campaign, so the legion team will need to help cultivate new talent, too. About half of the Raiders’ legion roster was in the high school program this past spring, but not on the varsity squad.
Mosko thinks three freshmen, or rising sophomores, are showing a lot of promise already. First baseman Andrew Drinkwater, outfielder Ryan Hvozdovic and infielder/outfielder Rocco Viscel all leapfrogged the freshmen team in 2019, making the junior varsity club instead. Mosko expects them to be key contributors to the legion team this summer, and possibly to the varsity squad next spring.
“They are versatile, athletic kind of players,” he said.
Hillsborough finished third in the Pyramid League a year ago, and then lost in the district playoffs before the state tournament. It should be in line for similar success this summer. But the real measure of success will be how much the program develops its players.
With Mosko leading the way and Eden attending as many games as he can, that shouldn’t be an issue.
“It’s about preparing guys for the next level of play,” Mosko said.