BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Tracking weather forecasts is nothing new for coaches of outdoor sports, but this year’s precipitation has wreaked havoc not only on games but outdoor practices during the entire Gov. Livingston baseball preseason.
With a roster of 21 athletes and 14 returning seniors, Head Coach Chris Roof is still finalizing the slate, with many positions "up for grabs." It is really a competition, said Roof, "It hurts not having these scrimmages,"-- knowing the need to see his kids perform before announcing the starting line-up.
The combination of snow, ice, rain and freezing temperatures has dominated baseball's preseason ability to take the field -- not certain of field conditions for their anticipated home opener on Wednesday against Union.
With many of the local schools scheduled to open their seasons this week -- they have yet to see their respective fields let alone practice on them. Preseason drills have been and, still are, being conducted in the gymnasium where hitting in batting cages, playing soft toss and fielding ground balls off hardwood floors does little to prepare the athlete for outside diamond duties.
Potentially, we should be good, said Roof. The Highlanders play in the top division of the Union County Conference - playing against the best arms out there from Cranford, Elizabeth, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Union and Westfield.
"There may be days that it will be difficult to score runs," said Roof. "We are facing the hardest schedule we have had since I have been here." Roof is in his 15th year as a head coach.
"We will have to see when game time comes around -- it's different hitting in a gym for three weeks," said Roof.
Roof and his Highlander baseball team won't break from their championship expectations and have their sights set on the County and State finals. "Every year, anything less than a championship -- we want to win," said Roof.
The Highlanders graduated a tight group of seniors led by Ryan Jennings, Pat Mahoney, Barron Natelli, Nick DiSarno and Steven Duda. "All of those boys - we definitely miss them and we keep in touch," said Roof.
The Highlanders' infield will include several familiar faces from 2014 led by seniors Ian Lynch at third base, John Tedesco at second and Michael Falk at first. Ryan Zucker will move into short stop.
Leading the pitching is senior south-paw Ethan Frohman who was 6-2 last season with one save. Roof anticipates senior catcher Rob Dilly to continue throwing for Frohman, with senior catchers Tim Hardina and Mike Policastro bidding for their spot in the rotation.
The Highlanders are without senior pitcher John Wills, who has been out his entire senior year due to injury. Senior Dan Belfer is expected to factor in the rotation.
"There are guys that are capable of doing it -- but it has to be proven," said Roof, of his young players in the pitching rotation. "A lot of kids are young, there are a lot of sophomores -- that is asking for a lot. They are talented, but they have to be mentally tough. That is what we have to see. -- If they can handle it, we can work it out."
Freshmen Will Jennings and Danny Serretti will join the varsity mix -- competing for the open jobs as well as significant innings in the rotation.
Leading the group are four senior captains: Ian Lynch, John Tedesco, Rob Dilly and Ethan Frohman.
We have high expectations for this year, said Lynch. "Pitchers [Belfer and sophomores Nick Cocchia and Vin Doren] are throwing to some of our hitters, they look good."
The team leaders provide positive support on and off the field and offer the following advise to their younger teammates:
"Keep working hard everyday and do the best you can -- relax -- don't let the pressure get to you, it can easily get to you. For the underclassmen -- you deserve to be here."
Gov. Livingston 2015 Baseball Schedule (Games at 4 p.m. unless noted):
April 1 Home against Union 4:15 p.m.
April 2 Home against Scotch Plains - Fanwood
April 4 Home Highlander Classic 11 a.m. start
April 6 Home against Plainfield
April 9 Home against Westfield
April 11 Home Highlander Classic 11 a.m. start
April 13 Away against Union
April 14 Home against Dayton
April 16 Home against Union Catholic
April 17 Away against Parsippany
April 18 Home against Hanover Park
April 21 Away against Scotch Plains - Fanwood
April 23 Away against Elizabeth
April 24 Away against Cranford
April 30 Away against New Providence
May 1 Away against Johnson
May 5 Home against Elizabeth
May 7 Away against Westfield
May 8 Away against Watchung Regional
May 9 Home against Newark Academy 11 a.m.
May 12 Home against Cranford
May 11 Home against Rahway 11 a.m. at Snyder Avenue Park
May 14 Away against Linden
May 15 Home against Pascack Valley at William Paterson College
May 16 Home against Mountain Lakes 12:30 p.m.
May 19 Home against Pequannock
(Home games are played at Gov. Livingston Varsity Baseball Field unless noted.)
For schedule updates visit http://www.unioncountyconferencenj.org.