PISCATAWAY, NJ -- One might look at the Piscataway High School varsity baseball team’s 2017 record of 13-13 and think they were average. But unless they are around and understand the ins and out of the team, they won’t know that the 13 wins are the most victories the program has had since at the very least 2010.
Since head coach Scott Gleichenhaus took over just a few months before the 2015 season began, the Chiefs have gone 34-47. This past season, they ranked as high as No. 8 in the Greater Middlesex Conference by media outlets and earned the No. 14 seed in the county tournament beating 19th-seeded Edison in the preliminary round. The Chiefs fell in the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 Tournament to a very good Westfield squad.
Throughout the season, the Chiefs won eight of their games in come-from-behind fashion, displaying a never give up attitude. They topped South Plainfield (13-10), Elizabeth (10-7), and NJSIAA Group 1 champions Middlesex (6-5) after falling behind.
“These guys have been resilient all year,” Gleichenhaus said earlier in the year. “They always fight until the last out…”
And to say the least, Piscataway defied outside expectations. They ended the year winning two of their last three and won five straight during the month of April.
"(It’s) the first time the baseball program has been .500 in a long time," the coach said at the PHS 2017 Spring Sports Awards. “I couldn't be any prouder of these guys.
The younger baseball squads at the high school -- the freshman and junior varsity teams -- also fared well.
"For the first time our Freshman and JV programs both had pretty solid seasons," said Gleichenhaus, stating how the JV team finished with 11 wins and the Freshman team with 12 wins. "Both teams were over .500 which are excellent accomplishments."
Piscataway had six players with varsity experience heading into the recently completed season, with only three of them being seniors. Their lineup consisted of a mix of sophomores, juniors, and seniors. With a relatively young roster, the many first-year varsity members gained valuable experience which will pay dividends going forward.
“We only had a handful of guys with any varsity experience return from last year, so for this team to be as resilient as they were is reflective of the hard work these guys put in on a daily basis and their determination to want to get better,” Gleichenhaus said.
With that being said, Gleichenhaus will be the first to tell you they lost some contests they should have won, but nonetheless, the future seems to be bright in Piscataway as the Chiefs continue to rise.
“(I think that) we should be very competitive for the next few years because of the youth and experience they gained through the grind of the 2017 season,” he said.
Inside the scorebook
During the spring, Piscataway was led at the plate by senior first baseman Justin McKeown, junior outfielder Parris Washington, sophomore Roldan Morris, and junior catcher James Ingram. A couple others including sophomore Chris Lowry and junior Joe Maisano were productive as well.
Ingram led the team with a .372 batting average, .513 slugging percentage and 29 hits with a home run and a triple, while scoring 20 runs and was second with six doubles and 17 RBIs. McKeown batted .308 and was first with 19 RBI and eight doubles and was third in hits with 24. Washington finished with a .347 average with 25 hits, 11 RBIs and 15 runs scored with four doubles while Morris hit .308 totaling 14 RBI, 18 runs scored, and 24 hits.
Furthermore, Lowry and Maisano hit .283 and .292 respectively. Lowry amassed 15 hits, eight RBIs, and 11 runs scored while Maisano ended the season with 14 hits, 10 RBIs, and seven runs scored. Maisano led the team with 14 walks as well.
On the mound, sophomore starters Jayson Mahmood and Evan Okamoto, and junior relief man Chris Corvil all earned three wins on the year. Mahmood racked up 49.1 innings striking out a team-best 33 while only allowing nine walks while Okamoto fanned 27. Spot starter Jordan Martell, who did most of his damage out of the bullpen, struck out 22 to round out the three.
To further enhance the brightness of the next few years, the only senior to log significant innings on the bump was John Swier, who tossed 22.2 innings, winning one and striking out 15 along the way.
Fielding wise, McKeown proved to be effective from his first base spot recording a team-high 144 putouts on 159 chances (.994 fielding percentage) with 14 assists. From behind the plate, Ingram showed off a strong arm and tallied 127 putouts on the year in 153 chances (.942) with 18 assists.
Ingram threw out 14 base runners who tried to steal while Jordan Brown, a junior, was first with 47 assists, while seniors Drew Patel and Swier followed with 34 and 30 respectively.
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