Sunday, March 31, 2019

North Brunswick Raiders Baseball Preview

    After reaching 18 wins for only the fourth time in their history - and the first time since 1984, the North Brunswick Raiders baseball team will have its work cut out for them in 2019.

    Only five players return to the varsity roster after 13 seniors graduated last year for head coach Mark Blevins(26-27), who is now in his third season on the job. As a side note, Coach Blevins needs 11 more wins to move into fifth place on the all-time NBTHS baseball wins list.

    It would appear that all five returning players will hit at the top half of the Raiders batting order. Junior infielder/outfielder Dylan Glassman will start things off. Glassman hit .299 as a sophomore with 22 hits, 11 walks, and five steals. As a left-handed batter, Glassman has a knack for going the other way to left field, which can jumpstart the offense. Junior shortstop/third baseman Caleb Rodriguez had an impressive sophomore year, hitting .316 with 16 walks, 25 hits, and eight runs batted in. Will head coach Mark Blevins look for Rodriguez to take a lot pitches in the #2 spot, or play hit-and-run with Glassman on base?

    The veterans of the North Brunswick order starts with senior center fielder Christian Petrillo(.364, HR, 13 RBI). Petrillo led the Raiders in hits(32) and stolen bases(10) last season, and will once again be a huge cog in the lineup. Chich will also be the ace of the Raiders starting rotation, which means that he will be expected to pitch a lot of innings in blue and gold this season, before heading off to Southern New Hampshire to play college baseball. Petrillo needs 17 hits to become the first Raider in ten years since Elijah Yarborough in 2009 to reach 100 career hits.

    Senior infielder Andrew Tan(.402, 3 HR, 37 RBI last season) will be on his way to Binghamton University after this season is over. Because of the exodus of 2018 graduates, Tan will start the season behind the plate as the Raiders starting catcher, but can also play any position on the infield, including pitcher. Andrew represents the power swing in the North Brunswick lineup, and needs 28 hits to make it to 100 for his career,

    Sean Breheney(.172, 5 RBI) is a three-year varsity player, and will most likely play once again as a right fielder or designated hitter. Breheney will be counted on to provide some protection in the lineup for Tan, as well as be one of the senior leaders for the Raiders.

    The rest of the Raiders lineup could be in flux for the entire season. Dylan Farrell looks to be penciled in as the Raiders first baseman, replaced the departed Danny Reardon(Rutgers-Newark). Stefan Rojas-Ayala looks to be the guy at third base, while Derek Rossman gets a tryout in the outfield, and Anthony Partazana has seen time at second base.

    Should Coach Blevins decide to switch things up, the Raiders do have a couple of other backstops on the roster with senior Alex Bursac and freshman newcomer Omar Carreras, who can swing a power bat. Rossman also has prior experience behind the plate, as well.

    With Petrillo clearly established as the ace of the pitching staff, there are a lot of young arms that will look to get the attention of Coach Blevins and new assistant coach Dean Petrillo. Expect to see some innings on the mound from junior Paul Kuchler, sophomore Sean Anderson, freshman Tyler Sommer, sophomore David Nazatio, sophomore Yash Nevatia, junior Brian Vargas, sophomore Eriel Regalado, and junior Oscar Reyes. Keep an eye on Sommer, who was getting a long look in the preseason.

    Also in reserve on the mound are guys like Tan, Rodriguez, and Farrell. Don't be surprised to see a lot of different combinations on the mound for North Brunswick, as they try to grow their younger players.

   Growth will be the name of the game this season for North Brunswick, as inexperience rears its ugly head. How fast can the pitching staff come together? Can the bottom of the order turn the lineup back over to the top? How much of a work in progress will the defense be? Will this be a defining season for Mark Blevins as Raiders head coach?

    Blevins actually has the most win for any baseball coach in Raiders history over his first two seasons. Guido DiTorrice is the only coach in program history to make the state playoffs in his first three seasons. Coach Blevins has a chance to do that this year, but he will have to find a way to make it work.

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