SPARTA, NJ - The 2016 NJAC American champions return for the 2017 season with a lot of hope and promise. Led by the right arm Cole Patten and a good mix of experience and youth, the team is anxious to start the season.

“We are eager to get started, we have a nice mix of key experienced players back and influx of new talented players. Our biggest challenge is to see how fast our new pitchers can make the transition to the varsity level.” said Coach Sam Slobodzian, who enters his 21st season.

Patten, a junior and already committed to Seton Hall, will be leaned on by Slobodzian more this season due to the youth of the pitching staff. The Spartans lost three pitchers, including two All-NJAC players. There are only three returning pitchers and only one is a senior.

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The returning position players are young but also experienced. Junior left fielder Jake Zerillo had a .368 batting average in 2016. Two returning seniors are catcher Dan Johnston and center fielder Jack Kulik, who had a .258 batting average last year.

The seniors making the jump to varsity this year are infielders Eric Lesch and Mike Traina and pitcher Matt Sharpe.

Despite the youth, the team can rely on the experience of their coach. Slobodzian has eight players that are playing college baseball right now.

The team returns to their home diamond on Saturday April 1 at noon.