The Jackson Memorial High School baseball team is a coach’s dream.
There is no drama, only consistency and chemistry.
Jackson Memorial has a bunch of solid ballplayers who like each other. That’s it, plus some talent.
There has to be talent. In 2018, the Jaguars couldn’t have gone 25-7 and won the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament title without talented players.
Jackson Memorial defeated Shawnee High School, 1-0, in the state sectional championship.
Most of those players are back for 2019, including the No. 3 hitter in the lineup, right fielder Alex Iadisernia, pitching ace Nick Beetel and cleanup hitter/first baseman Carmine Petosa. The Jaguars opened their season with a road game on April 1 at Toms River High School South.
“Win everything,” Iadisernia said. “That’s the expectation.”
The Jaguars’ best hitter was referring to the NJSIAA Group 4 championship, the title that alluded the squad a year ago. Jackson Memorial fell to Hunterdon Central Regional High School, 3-1, in the Group 4 state semifinals. Hunterdon Central went on to win the Group 4 state championship.
But it’s not like Jackson Memorial’s coach, Frank Malta, has to change much for his team to take that next step. His Jaguars just have to do what they did last year, only with a couple more victories at the end.
“The biggest thing is leadership,” Malta said. “A lot of guys are back who had success last year. They know how to do it.”
“They just have to say, ‘Let’s go do it again,'” Malta added.
“Everybody was there on time, so we were able to get everything done,” Iadisernia said. “We wanted to be together and win.”
In high school baseball, pitching and defense are paramount. Most clubs can’t do both well on a consistent basis. Last year, Malta’s club separated itself from the pack by doing both well on a consistent basis.
Even in their climactic loss to Hunterdon Central, the Jaguars were in a low scoring game until the end. It was their inconsistent offense that failed them.
If there’s one area where the Jags can improve this spring, it’s at the plate. Iadisernia and Petosa are a strong, healthy beating heart of the batting order. But Malta needs players to step up around them.
Second baseman Christian Pellone is a solid leadoff hitter with a selective eye. But after the top three or four hitters, Malta is like a fantasy baseball owner: he’s counting on upside guys. The coach thinks he has two breakout candidates in designated hitter Tom Cartnick and centerfielder Ryan Lasko.
“Tom has been pounding the ball throughout March (scrimmages and practices),” Malta said. “Ryan is so athletic and good in center, but we’re looking for him to break out offensively.”
Junior catcher Andrew Sefick has been starting since his freshman season. After two full years of varsity at-bats, he may be ready to rake as well.
Malta is batting Sefick in the middle of the order behind Petosa, and the junior is making his coach look smart so far.
“Andrew is banging the ball around,” Malta said.
Most of these Jaguars are like Sefick in that they’ve been starting for multiple years. Experience should make them confident and better in 2019.
“This year the difference offensively will be we are a year older and stronger,” Malta said.
“I’m pretty excited,” Iadisernia said. “It’s a strong lineup.”