VERONA, NJ - Coming off a solid year in which they went 16-13 the Verona High School baseball team continues to have its sights set high for 2018.
“We’re looking to contend hopefully for another division championship” said Head Coach Joe Phelan.
The VHS group will go as far as their pitching staff will take them in 2018. Senior Ian Metzger returns as the staff’s ace following a solid 2017 year where he struck out 25 batters in 33 innings pitched.
“[Metzger]’s throwing a little harder this year, all his pitches have improved a bit, but the nice thing about Ian is he pounds the strike zone and he doesn’t throw a lot of pitches he pitches to contact,” said Phelan.
Metzger will be joined by a host of arms who will look to power the Hillbillies to a winning season. Seniors Tino Quagliata and Steve Priscoe will join sophomore Nick Coppola, and juniors Anthony Zamloot, Kyle Jacobson and Matt Monroe to fill out the pitching staff for Verona. The volume of live arms that Phelan has will help the squad achieve their goals in 2018.
“Having that pitching depth and offense we’d love to go a little further in States this year,” said Phelan.
Verona will return its whole outfield intact in 2018. Seniors Quagliata, Priscoe, and Dean Ramsthaler return to the team after combining for 29 runs scored, and 16 runs batted in. Each of the three brings a unique skill set to the squad.
“[Ramsthaler] is an on base kind of guy, Tino’s kind of a contact, spray hitter whose a really good outfielder defensively…and Steven is more of a power bat middle of the lineup right fielder,” said Phelan.
When one of the three needs rest Zamloot will also factor in as a fourth outfielder.
Anthony Zamloot: “He’s also a pretty good outfielder who gives us that fourth outfield who’s really not a fourth outfielder…there’s some things I can do with those four rotating,”
In the infield Verona will boast shortstop Mike Daggett as a returning starter. Daggett was a streaky hitter last year for Verona who finished his season on a high note. Phelan expects him to improve offensively to go along with a steady glove.
“He finished the season five for five in a game against Columbia the last game of the season and that really lifted his confidence moving forward, but he’s very aggressive to the ball, has very good range and a strong arm at shortstop so we’re looking for him as a senior leader,” said Phelan.
Playing alongside Daggett in the double play combination will be second baseman Gabe Quagliata. In limited action last year Quagliata showed flashes of excellence for the Hillbillies scoring a half-dozen runs
“[Quagliata] was able to get about 20 at bats last year and in his short time at second base towards the end of the year last year he hit .357 for us so he proved as a sophomore that he can compete at this level,” said Phelan.
Sophomore Nick Coppola will man up the first base position for Verona this year. While seeing limited time last year Coppola was effective both at the plate and on the mound.
“[Coppola] is a power bat in the middle of the lineup too, as a freshman we were able to get him 10 at-bats last year, but he moves into that role now,” said Phelan.
The biggest competitions will be in the infield positions of catcher and third base respectively. At backstop junior David Motley will split time with freshman Jake Milmoe while junior Matt Monroe will see action at third alongside sophomore Will Gaccione
“Catcher and third are really platoon spots right now and we can’t make a decision until we have a few more scrimmages under our belt,” said Phelan.
As their opening day date draws closer Verona is focusing on the minor details to get prepared for the season.
“We stress the fundamentals, cutting down on strikeouts, we were a team that struck out a lot in the past, we’re really focused on putting the ball in play and making things happen,” said Phelan.
Verona will host Bloomfield High School in their season opening game on April 2. While the team would like to hit the ground running with a win, they know it will take a full roster to do so.
“You don’t know how deep into games these pitchers can go because they haven’t had that game experience thus far, early on it’s kind of like ‘all hands on deck’ and the other teams are going to be in the same boat so if you can get to those second, third, fourth pitchers of these other teams maybe you can win some high scoring games,” said Phelan.
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