Ask Ryan Spillane to name his key players, and he will do a role call of his entire varsity roster.
But for Middletown High School South’s 11th-year baseball coach, this is not just a psychological tactic for implying that no individual is bigger than the team.
It’s an honest answer.
Middletown South is off to a 5-1 start to the 2019 baseball season. It has even beaten a couple Shore Conference powers in Red Bank Catholic High School and Christian Brothers Academy.
The Eagles do not have core players or a specific strength. But instead, the club offers depth and versatility.
“We’ve had a lot of guys step up and we’re playing with a lot of energy,” Spillane said.
Just look at Middletown South’s first four victories, an indication of the various standouts.
April 2: Middletown South 13, Marlboro High School 3
This victory that opened the season featured an offensive explosion by the host Eagles.
Danny Minze, Chris Lotito and Anthony Esposito combined for seven hits and seven runs batted in, with each player collecting at least two hits and two RBIs.
On the mound, Jack Shea earned his first career varsity victory.
April 4: Middletown South 9, Marlboro 6
For the second time in two games, a Middletown South pitcher notched his first career varsity victory. This time it was Mike Keenan gutting it out on the road at Marlboro. Lotito, who also pitches, closed the game and got the save.
Robby Zega launched a grand slam to lift Middletown South on offense.
April 6: Middletown South 5, Red Bank Catholic 3
The Eagles went on the road and upended a Shore Conference contender. They scored four runs in the sixth inning to take the lead and put the game away.
Jack Kinsella broke up RBC pitcher Vincent Bianchi’s no-hitter with an RBI single in the fifth. That gave the Eagles the confidence they needed for the ensuing rally, in which Esposito delivered the go-ahead base hit.
Yet another pitcher, Jack Lisowski, stepped up to slam the door for Middletown South, striking out the last two batters of the game to record the save.
April 8: Middletown South 7, CBA 5
A host of Middletown South hitters sparked another victory, this one at home over a perennial power in both the Shore Conference and New Jersey.
Chris O’Connor, Kinsella and Jack Sheridan all posted at least one RBI. Joe Stanzione and Michael Barbara each scored a run.
Shea earned his second victory in relief.
All this depth is unquestionably a good thing, but it does present a challenge that will define the rest of Middletown South’s season.
Spillane has to find ways to get everyone enough playing time, and to clearly define roles.
“It makes it challenging for sure,” he said. “But these guys are selfless.”
The coach is counting on the team’s chemistry to overcome any individual concerns about playing time. These Eagles “got back into working out together in the winter and spending more time together as a program,” Spillane said.
“That was important for building chemistry,” he said.