High school sports are often cyclical, even for private schools.
But the Christian Brothers Academy baseball team is rejecting the cycle.
In 2018, the Colts went 19-5, earned the top seed in the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A sectional tournament and fell in the quarterfinals to Notre Dame High School, 4-1. CBA lost 14 players to graduation after that successful spring.
Normally when this happens, the coach doesn’t have a lot of players to discuss during preview interviews the following year. But CBA’s coach, Marty Kenney, mentioned a bunch of players who are expected to stand out this spring.
Kenney name dropped position players Braedin Hunt, Tommy DiTullio and Connor Baksh, even though Baksh was not a regular in 2018. The coach also name checked pitchers Joe Escandon, Pat Reilly and Evan Mahns, even though Reilly and Mahns weren’t in the regular rotation last year.
This year’s CBA team will be a combination of established varsity standouts, like Hunt and Escandon, and established area players, like Baksh and Reilly.
The Colts expect to be as good or better than they were a year ago. CBA opened its season on April 2 at home in Lincroft against Howell High School.
“Some people might think we’ll have a down year,” Kenney said. “But I’d be surprised if we didn’t surprise people.”
“We have hopes of running deeper in states,” DiTullio said.
The Colts wouldn’t be this confident if they had no varsity standouts returning, so DiTullio and Hunt are essential to the team’s success.
The upperclassmen, DiTullio is a senior and Hunt a junior, will anchor Kenney’s lineup.
Hunt enjoyed a breakout season last spring, batting .469 with 19 runs batted in.
DiTullio hit .310 last year, but it was kind of a down year after he batted .389 as a sophomore. He was battling a toe injury on his left foot, which required surgery after the season. But the senior is healthy going into this campaign.
“We are hoping he’ll duplicate his sophomore year,” Kenney said.
Beyond those two, new starters will need to step up. Kenney is especially confident in Baksh, who is committed to Delaware State University despite being a first-year high school starter.
Baksh has pop. He just could never hit the curveball before, but he corrected that flaw in the offseason, said Kenney.
“A lot of it was his head pulling out too soon,” Kenney added. “Now he’s disciplined to track pitches better.”
CBA’s pitching staff is similar to its lineup. It has a returning standout in Escandon and exciting newcomers in Reilly and Mahns.
Escandon went 5-0 with a 2.28 earned run average in 2018. The senior “keeps you honest with his fastball,” Kenney said. “But he has a nice curveball and changeup.”
Reilly is a 6-4 right-hander with a hard fastball and sharp breaking ball. He is committed to Northeastern University even without a lot of high school reps.
Mahns, a senior Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recruit, developed a mid 80s fastball and a harder breaking ball in the offseason. The left-hander “has looked very good in scrimmages,” Kenney said.
“These guys are hungry and ready to get things done,” Escandon said of his pitching mates.
He may as well have been talking about the whole team.