CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham may not be a “baseball town,” but Coach Todd Leathers believes that is subject to change.
“Coming in to a program that does not fare so well, one of the biggest changes as a staff that we had to make was a change of culture,” Leathers said.
The second-year coach helped guide the Cougars to a 10-15 record in 2016. Leathers believes that this season, that record could improve significantly.
“We have more talent than a .500 team,” Leathers said. “I feel like the goals and expectations in the past have been the issue.”
In order to resolve this issue, the team needs talent – and it has plenty of it. The standout strength of the Chatham squad is pitching. Seniors Jack Nonnenmacher, Sam Blanchard and Justin Costello will all return to the mound in the 2017 season. Juniors Matt Karpowic, Nick Saluzzi and Billy Gyves are also expected to contribute.
“There are eight or nine guys who I feel comfortable giving the ball to,” Leathers said. “We’ll pound the zone and induce contact – we’re not a strikeout team, so we’ll force them to make weak contact.”
There is plenty of talent among the position players as well. Returning seniors include infielders Jack Lamar and Jimmy Cunningham; outfielders Connor Kressler, Sam Browning, Connor Winans, Carter Tobin and Matt Devlin; catcher Chris Delsandro and utility player Ronan Limroth.
A few juniors are also featured on the varsity lineup, including utility player Clay Delsandro, third baseman Bobby Briganti and outfielder Tyler Brock.
One player expected to have a big season is first baseman Peter DeMaria. The junior had a staggering .440 average last season, good enough to make the 2016 third team all-state.
“He’s a different athlete,” Leathers said. “He’s aggressive and has an aggressive nature. He almost has the approach of a linebacker with a baseball player’s body. Leathers also added that a key strength for this Chatham team will be competition.
“We have guys competing for spots all over the place,” the coach said. We have a whole season to show who wants to be in the lineup for that state championship game.”
Second base will be a particular area of contention, as sophomore Sean Lee has a chance at taking the middle infield spot. Lee joins two other sophomores, shortstop Ben Gorski and catcher Luke McCorry, as the youngest players on the varsity squad.
Quite a few players on the Cougars are being scouted to play baseball in college. Cunningham, Browning, Winans, Blanchard and Stamford are being scouted by the likes of Bentley, Skidmore, Gettysburg, Dickinson and Lehigh respectively. Devlin is also speaking with Franklin and Marshall, while DeMaria is speaking to a few Ivy League and Patriot League schools. Leathers believes that getting universities to scout his players will greatly assist in make the baseball program at Chatham High more notable.
“Our guys put a lot of work in for a long time," Leathers said. "We had a good summer season, good practices and the guys are learning our system and how to compete as a team."
The Cougars begin their season on Saturday, April 1, when they play host to Delbarton School at 3:30 p.m.