GLEN RIDGE, NJ-- For Liam Penberthy and his Glen Ridge High baseball team, the 2020 season was indeed surreal.
We all know the season really never got off the ground. After about five days of practice, in a mild weather for early March, the season was first delayed, then eventually canceled.
Penberthy, in his fifth season as the team's head coach after a year as an assistant, felt the 2020 season would be one of growth for a relatively young squad.
"Our numbers are getting better, and we had a lot of young kids who were going to play key roles this season," said Penberthy, who guided the 2017 Ridgers to a state sectional title. "We're up to 24 kids on the roster, which is good for a school of our size. We were looking forward to what could have been accomplished this season."
Glen Ridge's baseball reputation is stellar. The program has appeared in seven Greater Newark Tournament (GNT) championship games and has won multiple GNT crowns. It last appeared in a championship game in 1994.
The Ridgers have also been a tough out in the state tournament. It won four state sectional crowns, from 1959-1969, back when the state tourney only advanced to the sectional round. When an eventual Group 1 champion was crowned, beginning in 1971, the Ridgers were 5-0 in state finals, winning those five titles between 1975-1993. As mentioned, the team added a sectional crown to the hardware in 2017. That season, it lost to the eventual Group 1 champion, Emerson Borough, in the Group 1 semifinal.
Glen Ridge finished 8-14 in 2019, and advanced to the sectional quarterfinal round.
In 2020, the team captains were Aidan Brennan, a senior utility player and junior Will Greenberg, an outfielder. Brennan will be attending Villanova University this fall. The team's other senior, Hayden Sweet, an outfielder, is headed to Indiana University. He later earned a captain's role for 2020.
"Aidan played all over the field during his time at GR," said Penberthy of Brennan. "He pitched and also played centerfield, shortstop and second base. I had the ability to plug him in wherever the team needed him on any given day. He was also an assistant captain on the Verona/Glen Ridge hockey team. The kid is a leader by example, and carried momentum from a successful hockey season into the spring, I certainly believe he was ready for a breakout season on the diamond. He will be attending Villanova University with the hopes of making their club team."
Penberthy praised Sweet's tenacity and named him a captain.
"In a small program like ours, underclassmen tend to find themselves on the varsity field sooner than he, or even myself, would like to," the coach said. "Hayden was the exception to the rule. He did 'his time' on the JV level, and as a senior, was ready to contribute all season. Hayden never had a problem with helping the team in whatever way he could. He was a pinch runner for us last season, and I’m sure would have liked to have had a larger role.
"He is a leader by example, like Aidan. Players gravitated toward him. His hands are lightning quick with the bat, and Hayden possesses a strong arm from the outfield. It’s heartbreaking not to have seen him thrive this season on the varsity field. This team had high expectations and it started with the leadership of our two seniors. While he was not voted captain by his peers, I named him a captain for this season. He will be attending Indiana University."
The junior class included Zach Chempanos (P, 3B), Gavin DiCicco (P, 1B), Jake Morvillo (P, OF), Jesse Samuelson (OF) and Sawyer Smith (P, OF).
The sophomres are Nolan Campbell (P, 1B, OF), Mike Cifelli (C), Justin Fields (SS), Zach Gold (IF. OF), Tyler Johnson (P, 3B), Chris Mitzak (C, 1B) and Carter Robik (P, SS).
A strong freshman class featured Tyler Benjamin (1B), Phil DelloRusso (C, OF), Jake Felty (P, OF), Eli Gottleib (P, OF), Emmet Kilkelly (2B), Griffin Seibel (P, 1B) and Ryder Smith (OF).
"While our numbers are improving each year, we are very interchangeable, and have to be due to the size of the program," said Penberthy.
The coaching staff also included Rich Adams (JV) and varsity assistant John McAndrew.