BERNARDSVILLE, NJ — Like so many teams ready to start the 2021 high school baseball season this week, a true evaluation based on prior varsity performances is difficult to undertake, because nobody played a 2020 season anywhere in New Jersey.

The Bernards baseball team doesn't have a lot of varsity experience--which certainly doesn't make the Mountaineers unusual--but they are filled with both hope and potential as Monday afternoon's opening game against Voorhees beckons.

"As per returners, it would be difficult to fully assess since we did not play a season last year," Bernards head coach Jeff Falzarano said, who said that much of the team that will take the field Monday "is a new group of kids. We feel really good about our energy and our baseball IQ. This group is invested in learning and getting better. They have really shown a team-first mentality. There is a lot of competition for spots."

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Falzarano said that the team's early showings in scrimmages, before all the rain last week, were promising.

Senior right-handed pitcher Andrew Holmes, who will play first base when he isn't pitching, is by far Bernards' most accomplished varsity player. As a sophomore in 2019, Holmes batted .447 and posted a 2.28 earned-run average in 27 2/3 innings on the mound.

"Holmes is a returning player, as is junior shortstop Austin Tondo. Senior second baseman Max Kaul likely would have played a lot last year, as would seniors Gordon Brienza and Will Booher (both outfielders/pitchers)," Falzarano said.

Pitchers Eduardo Eble-Lacouture, a senior, and Joel Pena,a junior, and senior utility player Griffin Beers are other players that Falzarano retro-projects would have played a bit on last year's varsity had there been a season.

"Other than that, it is a new group of kids," the coach said.

But, this is a group that's already offered hopeful signs of competing on a high level.

"I feel if we continue to grow and mature, and maintain the team-first mentality while handling adversity, we could have a very good year in what is typically a tough conference," Falzarano said.