BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – There’s a longstanding tradition amongst the Gov. Livingston baseball program where each player receives a “Highlanders Baseball” T-shirt inscribed with a motivational message.
Most of the time the words have something to do with getting to the state championship, but none have been more direct than the 2014 edition: #TOMSRIVER2014.
The edict of not only getting to the state championship games at one of the three Toms River high schools is not only apparent on the Highlander-blue shirt, but also in the words and actions of the squad.
“Its always the ultimate goal to get to Toms River,” senior captain Ryan Jennings said. “Usually every year on those T-shirts we have something that ties in with getting to the state championship, getting to Toms River. Its always the ultimate goal.”
The quartet of seniors chosen to lead the veteran group of Highlanders each have varying levels of excitement with the same goal in mind: a championship.
Seniors Nick DiSarno and Pat Mahoney agreed that last year was a retooling and learning year for Gov. Livingston, with most of the 2013 roster playing their inaugural years at the top level. To the team’s starting right fielder, that means no excuses for this year’s team.
“That was a really good experience for the kids who were not on varsity previously,” DiSarno said. “There’s no more excuse with that. There’s no more learning. There’s no more rebuilding. This is it. Its now or never with this team.”
The 2014 edition of the Highlanders is every high school head coach’s dream. They return a bulk of their pitching staff and all but one of their starting nine position players.
Led by Jennings, DiSarno, Mahoney and senior catcher Barron Natelli, the GL offense is expected to hit and score runs with abandon.
All four captains see the lineup as a force to be reckoned with, with power and confidence from top to bottom.
“One through nine can hit the ball solid,” Natelli said. “So we can all protect each other. They can’t pitch around one of us and face another one. Everyone can hit the ball for power in our lineup.”
Natelli, along with junior catcher Rob Dilly, will once again split time behind the plate catching an even more experienced pitching staff led by 2013 junior standout Ethan Frohman.
Frohman burst onto the Union County seen last year as a sophomore who head coach Chris Roof said essentially got “thrown into the fire” because of a lack of depth in the rotation.
Roof said the amount of work his pitching staff did during the off-season will pay dividends once their season starts on Wednesday.
“They worked very, very hard in the off-season, weight training too,” he said. “I know that they didn’t just sit down and not do anything. Even the guys who played another sport, they were very committed in becoming a better pitcher.”
While all the regulars are back for this year’s campaign, there has been a lot of talk around the Gov. Livingston facilities about new faces that will be major contributors.
Junior infielder John Tedesco played sparingly during his sophomore season as a third baseman. In 2014 as the team’s starting second baseman, there is a lot more expected out of a player who “played a little nervous” in 2013.
“John Tedesco’s definitely going to be a name people are going to be hearing,” Jennings said. “He can really swing the bat. Defensively, he’s progressed a lot. He’s had a year to work on that. Offensively he’s going to be a huge piece of the puzzle for us. I think people will know his name.”
The 18 players and five coaches all sense something special brewing at Gov. Livingston High School.
Roof hopes the Baseball Gods have been looking down on his team these last four weeks, where hard work and immense focus have been widely apparent, leading to a very hungry baseball team.
“The kids are hungry,” Roof said. “I always tell them: Are you hungry because it’s the beginning of the season or are you going to be the same way on April 15 and May 15? I think they are going to be hungry because they think they can do something.”