VERONA, NJ - While the spring baseball season was missed by many this year, perhaps none more than by the seniors of the Verona High School Varsity Squad.
“I will miss the friendships and memories made with my teammates and being able to compete for a championship with them,” said senior Nick Coppola.
This year Coppola was one of six seniors projected to make an impact on the squad. Coppola was a staple in the middle of the lineup due to his hulking nature at the plate.
“Coppola brings experience, a powerful bat in the middle of the line-up and a light-hearted fun attitude that keeps everyone on the team loose and enjoying the game…[he] closed many close key victories on the mound for us and contributed so many big hits for us in his career,” said Head Coach Joe Phelan.
Joining Coppola was Will Giaccone who held down the left side of the infield for the Hillbillies at shortstop and third base. Last year he batted around .350 with 14 runs batted in. Giaccone played a key role over the last several years including the team’s run to a North Two Group Two State Section Final last year.
“I have felt very lucky to play multiple games at Yogi Berra stadium against Cedar Grove. That is a game that I always look forward to. Also the warmups before our Sectional Championship is something I will not forget,” said Giaccone.
On the mound Verona was going to utilize Tommy Mulligan as a key piece to this season. Mulligan doubled in the field in a multitude of positions including third base, first base, and outfield. Last season Mulligan pitched to a 0.53 ERA with a strikeout per-inning along with a .300 batting average at the plate. Mulligan’s talents were on display early in the season with a two inning save against Bloomfield last year.
“We were low on pitching and I still had not got a chance to pitch. We were up 2 and I had a 2 inning save…the way the team pulled together and won against the eventual group 4 runner-up really stuck out to me,” said Mulligan.
Catching Mulligan for a good portion of the season was going to be Vin Anello. Anello doubled as a role player at third base and outfield when not behind the plate.
“[Anello] is another player on our team who carries himself with a great attitude and is a high character athlete. Vin will be remembered most by his hard work and improvement over the years…Vin’s spirited attitude and love for baseball is contagious and spreads to his teammates,” said Phelan.
Locking down the centerfield position for Verona in the outfield would be Nick Kozachuk. Kozachuk was a staple in the team's offense from the leadoff spot garnering a .295 batting average and stealing nearly one base per game. Kozachuk was expected by his coach to be an All-Conference Player this season.
“My favorite baseball memory was making a run in the state tournament last year,” said Kozachuk.
Last, but not least rounding out the group of seniors this year was Robert Sposato. Sposato was a sure-handed defender for the squad and consummate team-player. Sposato’s team-first attitude is evident as his favorite baseball memory is his teammate Jake Milmoe’s walk-off hit in the playoffs from last season.
“[Sposato]is a contact hitter who sprays the ball all over the field and gets on base and causes problems for the opponents defense on the bases. Robert is a coachable athlete with a positive attitude who helped show all the younger players in our program how to carry themselves on and off the field,” said Phelan.
Ultimately, while the disappointment of a lost 2020 season will still be lurking the seniors of this squad can take solace knowing that their final high school game played comes with a prestige that most only dream of.
TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.