CHATHAM, NJ - Todd Leathers, entering his fourth season as the Cougar baseball coach, recently noticed something that told him that Chatham baseball is gaining traction in town.
"It was a day that the kids got out early from school and when I arrived at Lum for practice, there were about 10 to 15 kids practicing their fielding with a parent hitting to them," Leathers said. "That showed me we have something here that people want to be a part of."
Another encouraging sign for Leathers is the current 2019 Cougar team, which has more depth than any Chatham team he has coached to date.
"We have a lot of depth, which we never had before," Leathers said. "We have competition at every position."
The pitching staff goes five to six deep in starters, with the front of the rotation featuring seniors Tyler Tornberg and Ben Gorski. Those two are complemented by sophomores John Kowalczyk, Anthony Gonzalez and Tommy Lamar. Also in the mix are senior Kyle DePace, juniors Liam Holland and Sam Alterman, and sophomore Dennis Moynihan.
Last year, Tornberg's family moved to Chatham from California and the right-hander was an impact pitcher out of the bullpen for the Cougars. This year, another Golden State import, 14-year-old freshman Owen Walewander, is showing signs that he will a big addition as well.
So far, Walewander has impressed with his bat and is competing for playing time at catcher, third base and the outfield.
"He hits the ball really well," Leathers said. "He has a chance to be a very special player down the road."
Also key to the offense are veterans, junior first baseman Andrew Bergman and senior outfielder Sean Lee. The 6-3, lefty-hitting Bergman is the top power threat for the Cougars. Lee, a switch-hitter, gives Chatham speed at the top of the batting order.
Junior identical twins, Ben and Ryan Krill, give Leathers more versatility. Ben Krill, a right-hander, can play the infield, outfield and pitcher, while Ryan Krill, who bats left, can play the outfield and pitch.
Battling for playing time in the outfield are junior Ryan McArthur, senior Matt Chase, senior Jake Browning and junior Ryan Drum.
Competition for catching duties include sophomore Logan Rooney, Walewander, Drum and senior Luke McCorry, who also plays third base.
The infield candidates include multi-positional players such as second baseman Lamar and shortstop Gorski.
Chatham opens with a conference game at Roxbury on April 1. Leathers notes that the Cougars will be playing in one of the toughest conferences in the state which includes Roxbury, Montville, and Pope John.