For a while there in the middle of the baseball season, Jackson Memorial High School played like one of the best teams in New Jersey.
These sound like baseball cliches, but the Jaguars were literally launching home runs, mowing hitters down and blowing teams away. And in the end, the statistics supported this perception.
Jackson Memorial finished 20-5 overall, won the Shore Conference’s A South Division title and outscored opponents by the tune of 199-53. But unfortunately, this juggernaut of a team fell victim to the vagaries of a single elimination postseason.
On May 20 at home, Jackson Memorial, as the No. 2 seed, fell to 15th-seeded Cherokee High School, 5-2, in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament.
Then on May 22 at Red Bank Catholic High School, Jackson Memorial lost to the host Caseys, 3-0, in the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament.
The losses prevented the Jaguars from reaching their postseason goal of winning championships. But they did not diminish an otherwise great campaign.
“As good as we are, there are maybe five other clubs in this area that are just as good or better,” said Jackson Memorial coach Frank Malta. “That’s the exciting part of playing down here at the Shore.”
“There’s a lot of talent,” he revealed.
Even though it lost to other talented clubs in the tournaments, Jackson Memorial had a lot of the talent that Malta mentioned.
Right fielder Alex Iadisernia, centerfielder Ryan Lasko, catcher Tom Cartnick, second baseman Christian Pellone and first baseman Carmine Petosa powered an offense that scored almost eight runs per game. In 2019, all five players hit at least four home runs and scored at least 15 runs. Four of them also drove in 15 runs or more.
And the best part for Jackson Memorial? Iadisernia is the only senior in that group. The rest are juniors, so they will be back in 2020 to bash more homers and light up more scoreboards across central New Jersey.
“It’s a strong lineup,” Malta said.
The same can be said of Malta’s pitching staff. Jackson Memorial came up with triple aces this spring. Left-hander Nick Beetel, right-hander Matt Potok and left-hander Joe “Zep” Princiotta all recorded earned run averages under 2.00. Freshman lefty Zach Crotchfelt, a reliever, had a 1.91 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning.
Princiotta was the only senior among the top four hurlers on the staff. Beetel and Potok will be back to reclaim their starting spots in 2020. Crotchfelt should be able to step up and join them in the starting rotation.
Much like Jackson Memorial’s lineup, the staff should be just as good in 2020 as it was in 2019.
“I can’t see us not succeeding,” Crotchfelt said. “As long as we keep grinding, we can beat anybody.”
Jackson Memorial will also be extra motivated next spring. The Jaguars accomplished everything this year, except playoff championships. A year from now, their confidence will be sky high and their goals will be crystal clear.
“Win everything. That’s the expectation,” Iadisernia said before this season started.
Now he will leave that legacy, of expecting success at the highest level, to his younger teammates.