MONTVILLE, NJ - After eight years of Joe Cardinale leading the Montville baseball team, there is a new leader in the Montville dugout this season.
Ian Schwindel- who was an assistant under Cardinale in 2018- was named the team's new head coach after Cardinale left to become the head coach at Cedar Grove last summer. The Livingston High School alum has been an assistant coach for the past 10 seasons with stops at Madison and Livingston prior to moving on to Montville in 2018, and will get to be a head coach for the first time this season.
His first season leading the Mustangs got underway on Monday, when the Mustangs traveled to Randolph and walked away with their first win of the season, 6-3 over the Rams.
Schwindel takes over a Montville program which finished 14-13 in 2018, and saw its season end with a 4-0 loss at home to Roxbury in the North 1, Group 3 sectional semifinals. Some important players are gone from that roster, and this year's team will likely be one of the younger squads in the difficult NJAC-United Division, which includes state powers such as Delbarton, Chatham, Morristown, Pope John and Roxbury.
But the team's continuous improvement through the month of March through practices and preseason scrimmages is a good reason for optimism, Schwindel says.
"We’ve been fortunate enough to get most of our scrimmages in, despite some cold weather where we have seemed to improve each time out," Schwindel said. "The bulk of our roster has proved they are capable of contributing in a varsity baseball game, which has been a testament to their strong work ethic. This is a very fun group who have been working towards becoming better teammates and leaders. Though we compete in one of the top baseball conferences in the state, we’re confident that we will give any team a game and have the potential to grow into a championship-caliber squad."
The Mustangs will lean on a strong pitching staff this year, which will be anchored by senior ace Matt Bettio. Bettio is coming off a strong junior campaign, which saw him finish with a 6-2 record and a 2.35 earned run average. He'll also be counted on at the plate, as the Morehead State commit who also plays the outfield batted .364 last season.
The pitching rotation also includes senior lefty and UMass commit Greg Nieskens (also a first baseman), who gave up two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings of work in the team's 5-4 win over Pascack Valley in the first round of the state tournament last season. Senior Kyle Kane also possesses some experience on the mound, while junior Michael Sesko also figures to play a role both on the mound and in the infield this year.
At the plate, Bettio, Nieskens and Kane will all be fixtures in the team's lineup. Junior infielder Zach Sylvester is heading into his third season at the varsity level, and is a versatile player that can play just about any position, Schwindel says. Senior catcher Ben Torres will be counted on both at the plate and behind the plate, as his ability to handle the pitching staff will be very important for such a talented pitching rotation.
"This is a younger team in terms of experience, that possesses the ability and mindset to make a run at championships," Schwindel said. "The county and state sectional titles will always be a goal, and I believe that this group of players can make a run at both if they continue to lean on each other by setting a great example and holding one another accountable."
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