Carlstrom Resigns at Holmdel/Brick Job Still Up in the Air

April 30, 2009

I’ll get to some baseball extras on Thursday, but two things that many had speculated would happen came to fruition on the football coaching front on Wednesday night.

Holmdel’s Andy Carlstrom resigned as head coach of the Hornets after three seasons, as he is a non-tenured teacher who was one of 15 teachers (along with girls basketball coach Kelly Burns) who got laid off because the Holmdel budget was defeated on April 21 and because certain job positions were eliminated. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Andy on Wednesday night, but it’s pretty obvious that he got sandwiched by the economy and other factors. Carlstrom went 16-15 in three years and led the Hornets to a school-record 10 wins in a 10-1 season in 2007 that also included a National Division title and their first state playoff win since 1991. He is the one who stepped into the storm after former head coach and current Middletown South assistant Joe O’Connor resigned in the middle of the season in 2005 in a dispute with the administration that ultimately resulted in a new principal and a new athletic director at Holmdel.

The Hornets had a sophomore-laden team that went 1-9 this past fall after a large and talented senior class graduated. Carlstrom’s departure now leaves vacancies at Holmdel, Point Beach, Colts Neck, and, of course, Brick.

Once the Brick school budget was defeated recently, the feeling was that the football coaching situation would be up in the air. The prevalent rumor is that Pat Dowling, the head coach at Allentown and former head coach at Monroe, was going to be recommended by the administration over in-house candidate Len Zdanowicz and former Brick player Tim Osborn, the head coach at Jackson Liberty, to replace the legendary Warren Wolf, the only coach in school history. That ruffled a lot of feathers because it would signal a clean break with the Wolf contingent, which seemingly is about 90 percent of Brick.

However, it won’t happen on Thursday night at the Board meeting because no one is up for recommendation according to the meeting agenda,which you can check out here. That’s no shock because the big monkey wrench hanging out there was whether or not the budget would pass, and it failed. This Board meeting, which is at 7:30 at Lake Riviera Middle School, was set up to be a wild one from everything I heard and from talking directly to someone close to the situation. There were rumors of petitions, a large-scale protest and a million other wild things set for Thursday night’s meeting, and there still may be a vocal contingent there to voice their displeasure with a candidate who is not from Brick. The ones taking the hit in all of this are the players, who need to know what direction they are headed in under a new coach. We’ll see.


Monmouth County Baseball Tournament Update

April 21, 2009

Obviously, the weather is wreaking havoc with schedules as rain has postponed almost all of Tuesday’s action as well, and with the Monmouth County Tournament set to kick off on Saturday, a few changes have already been made.

The tournament was supposed to have a doubleheader on Saturday to whittle down the field with one day of action but because so many games have been moved from the rain, any team that has a first-round bye will not play and there will only be one MCT game rather than a doubleheader for participating teams on Saturday, according to MCT director Ted Jarmusz, who is the coach at Monmouth Regional. That will leave room for teams to play a divisional game and an MCT game on Saturday rather than worrying about playing a double-header in the MCT. The goal of the handful of Saturday’s MCT games will be to narrow the field to 16 teams, and then those teams need to have their next round completed and the field whittled to eight teams by the following Sunday (May 3rd).

Since MCT games don’t  have scheduling priority over divisional games, the MCT changed to the double-header format on Saturday this year to get the games out of the way quicker and not have them drag late into the season like they had been doing for years. There were games scheduled for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, but now teams will most likely play a divisional game at 10 a.m. and then an MCT game at 2 p.m.

Also, Shore Regional has chosen not to participate in the MCT this year, according to Blue Devils coach Jeff Karpell. The MCT will be seeded on Wednesday, and the defending champion is St. Rose, which beat Manalapan in last year’s MCT final.

Taking a Quick Break/Thoughts from Around the Shore

April 9, 2009

Just like teams like Manalapan and Brick Memorial are heading south to Florida in search of warm weather, I am headed to the West to California and the Los Angeles/San Diego area for a vacation in the sun and will be back late on Tuesday night of next week. We will still have the scores posted every day, but obviously I won’t be getting to any games over the next few (possibly rainy) days as I re-charge the batteries before the final push of the spring season and beyond, but I will be back soon. I’ll make sure to stuff Jake Peavy into my suitcase and bring him back for any teams that might need a pitching boost early in the season. I’m sure he would rather be on your team than the Padres.

Anyway, I took in Toms River North’s 6-2 win over Toms River South on Wednesday that put the Indians into an 0-3 hole. Mark Leiter was solid and pitched a complete game on 89 pitches without his best stuff. Leiter is the definition of a pitcher, not a thrower, as he uses his brain as much as his stuff. He doesn’t overpower people, but he understands the value of movement as much as velocity, and his two-seam fastball gives him that.

As for the Mariners’ lineup, it’s relentless. They are batting Rutgers-bound star Steve Nyisztor at leadoff because he is a great on-base percentage guy and it also gets him more at-bats and forces teams to pitch to him. My philosophy against him would be to smile and then point to first base for an intentional walk because he is a line drive machine with a compact swing and great hands. Senior first baseman Billy Hoermann had a two-run double and Anthony LaCava and Brian Gilbert each slugged consecutive homers, and while Hoermann and LaCava we know about, Gilbert is one to keep an eye on. The junior third baseman, who has replaced the graduated Scott Shan, did a nice job in the field and showed a strong arm, which reportedly makes him a flamethrower on the mound as well. There’s just a bottomless well of talent at that program. North also did a good job of making adjustments to TR South starter Andrew McGee the second time through the lineup to generate some offense. The Mariners will take on TR East today on the road with senior Matt Mancini on the mound.

As for South, the pitching is there, but the offense has not been thus far. The Indians have not scored more than three runs in a game yet. I don’t think it’s time to panic yet because when you have pitching and defense, you always have a shot, but they need to get something going offensively. Veteran coach Ken Frank is remaining positive and I’m sure will get this team on a run. Don’t forget that they didn’t win Class A South last year (TR North did), but still hit their stride and won the Ocean County Tournament and the Shore Conference Tournament.

However, it looks they will be without starting first baseman Dan Davis for their next two games as he was ejected from Wednesday’s game for arguing and I’m pretty sure by rule has to sit out two games. Sophomore Kyle Perry continues to produce as the leadoff man, and I’ll tell you one thing, don’t think you are just going to start him off with an easy strike because he pounds fastballs early in the count or on the first pitch. He hammered a double off Leiter on the first pitch of the game on Wednesday. Pitchers think they are going to ease into the game off him in the first inning and against Jackson Memorial and TR North, he has crunched doubles to start the game. Third baseman Mitch Dressing also had a nice game with two hits, including an RBI double, so maybe that gets him rolling.

As for the rest of the Shore, some pivotal divisional games might have given us an early indication of some of the races. Manasquan edged Shore, 3-1, for a big Class A Central win between two teams expected to challenge for the title. Right now, I see the upper echelon of that division as being Manasquan, Shore, St. John Vianney and Red Bank Catholic. Manasquan senior Karl Fiske really only had his fastball as he struggled with his secondary pitches, but he battled his way to six innings without an earned run against the Blue Devils to outduel Shore ace Rob Corsi, a senior lefty headed to Duquesne. It looks like the race to lead the Shore in strikeouts this season is between Corsi and Manalapan senior Ryan Harvey thus far, as Corsi has 26 in 11 innings this season and Harvey has 24 in two games.

I think Shore has the pitching to compete in this division, but I am wondering if they have the offense. They have scored three unearned runs in their two games this season, and the book on them is that if you get senior star Todd Juliano out at the top of the lineup, you can beat them.

Rumson coach Kevin James was telling me to watch out for St. John Vianney because the Lancers swing the bats and have a deep array of arms on the mound. They slammed four home runs on Rumson’s field in a 10-2 win on Wednesday and look like they have the offense to be right in the mix all season, plus they have a bona fide ace in Villanova-bound senior Kevin MacLachlan and plenty of pitching behind him. SJV coach Mike Morgan was not at the game on Wednesday because his wife went into labor, so hopefully all is well with the newest addition to the Morgan family.

Jackson Memorial coach Frank Malta changed the lineup around a little and the Jaguars’ bats finally woke up as they rolled past Southern, 12-0, in five innings. Senior outfielder Jon Koslowski has now been moved into the No. 5 spot, which, for my money, is one of the best places in any lineup that a player could be put. You could make All-Shore from that spot because batting ahead of him are senior Kevin Needham and junior Bryan Soloman, two of the Shore’s top hitters. Koslowski is going to be up with runners on base a lot this season, so he will get his chances, and on Wednesday he smacked a grand slam.

Toms River East picked up a good Class A South win by edging Brick Memorial 4-2 heading into the Raiders meeting with No. 1 Toms River North today.

In a rematch of last season’s Central Jersey Group III final, Wall beat Monmouth, 3-2, in extra innings in what was essentially a replay of last year’s CJ III title game. That’s a great win and big confidence boost for the Crimson Knights in their season opener as the defending Class B North champs showed that they should be right in the hunt despite graduating almost their entire lineup. When you pitch well and play good defense, you can replace talent and keep winning.

Neptune, another B North contender, fended off Freehold, 10-8, in 9 innings. Senior catcher Blake Young-Park is drawing raves from opposing coaches early in the season and is one of the top 2-3 catchers in the Shore right now. He is the key to Neptune’s season. Freehold also looks like they could surprise some people despite being very young, particularly on the pitching side, after graduating a talented senior class.

Mater Dei finally started its season and a great sign for the Seraphs is that the offense that had been lacking for much of last season broke out with a 13-1 win over Point Beach in their opener. If they can score runs consistently, they have a great chance to finish second behind St. Rose in B Central.

Finally, there were some important Class B South games as Central edged Monsignor Donovan, 3-2, to stamp themselves as an early leader for a second straight division title. The names Joe Rusk and Shawn Kessler seem to pop up in any winning scenario for Central, so this team will go as far as those two seniors take it. Mon Don looks like it has the pitching to contend but just needs to muster a little more offense.

Also, Lakewood turned in a surprising 12-11 win over a Manchester team expected to be in the hunt. No one is hotter than Ryshon Rodriguez right now as he hit two homers in a loss to Jackson Liberty on the weekend and had another two hits and an RBI in the win over the Hawks.

Baseball – Blood Drive For Former Matawan Player on April 22

April 6, 2009

Former Matawan player Jawann Brown has been diagnosed with leukemia, and the Huskies are holding a blood drive to help him out. Matawan head coach John Kaye provided the information below, so make sure to go take a couple minutes and give blood to help out one of our own from the Shore Conference:

A blood drive to support Jawann Brown, Matawan Class of 2005, will take place on Wednesday, April 22nd at the Matawan gym from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.  Jawann has been diagnosed with leukemia and can use the support of the community through blood donations.

To sign up or receive more information, please contact the Maroon and Steel Parents Association of Matawan, either Rebecca at 732-566-2538, or athletic director Joe Martucci at 732-705-5309.  All donors must be 17 years of age or older and weigh at least 120 pounds.  Donors must present signature ID.

Baseball Notes/Thoughts from Around the Shore/Quick Football Note

April 3, 2009

Real quick before I get to all the baseball stuff from the first few days on a rainy Friday, the football recruiting is heating up for Barnegat junior tight end Jarrett Darmstatter and Raritan junior wide receiver Bennett Jackson. Darmstatter has been offered scholarships by East Carolina and Iowa and just a few days ago was given an offer from Rutgers. Once Jackson’s tape got out there, the interest continued to grow as he has now been offered by Syracuse, Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa, Pittsburgh and now Charlie Weis and Notre Dame. Although Jackson still needs size, I can see why he would get a lot of interest because he is the type of player who is all the rage in college football now – the all-around athlete who can play multiple positions and make explosive plays in space.

Kevin NeedhamNow, on to baseball. I’ll start with Thursday’s 2-1 thriller in 12 innings in which Jackson Memorial upended Toms River South to get an early leg up in Class A South. A couple quick observations from this one:

  • Jackson coach Frank Malta has harped on defense and pitching, knowing it was the difference between the Jaguars being a very good team instead of a team that brought home championships the past few seasons, and it showed in the opener. The Jaguars were pretty much airtight defensively, and they have been on the wrong end of some of those tense, extra-inning games the past few years, many times because of a defensive breakdown, but they were great on Thursday.
  • The Jaguars look like they have some good pitching depth because Pete Kelich and Kevin Mathews really showed something in relief of ace Kevin Needham (pictured). The Jaguars were able to go 12 innings against a very good team and didn’t need Needham to throw 8 or 9 of those innings and they didn’t need to go to their other top pitcher, hard-throwing junior Bryan Soloman. That bodes well for the future and speaks to the job that pitching coach JM Gold has done in the offseason. Needham is the definition of a bulldog, by the way, and gives that team a hard-nosed attitude that they will back down from no one.
  • I really liked Soloman’s approach at the plate in the decisive rally in the 12th inning. He had two runners on base against Toms River South ace Tyler Gebler and could’ve tried to be the hero. He has prodigious power and nearly ended the game in his previous at-bat when he belted a ball about 30 feet to the right of the foul pole in right field that would’ve been a game-winning home run. However, against Gebler in the 12th, he didn’t try to be a hero and hit the ball out the park. He knew that Gebler was going to sit on the outside part of the plate, so he just worked with what he was given and punched the ball to right field for a single to load the bases and set the stage for Alex Herceg‘s game-winning RBI groundout. Soloman is getting recruited by a host of Division I schools  and could be one of the Shore’s biggest recruits since current LSU pitcher Anthony Ranaudo (St. Rose) before he’s done. He also throws in the low 90s on the mound as well.
  • Toms River South may have lost this one, but I think the Indians are going to be fine. They are going to have a good pitching staff once again, and junior lefty Andrew McGee looked good on Thursday. McGee is always around the plate and attacks hitters, and the thing I liked is that he made in-game adjustments after Jackson adjusted to him. He blew through the lineup the first time around, striking out five of the first seven batters he faced, but Jackson got to him for a couple hits and a run the second time through the lineup. However, McGee adjusted and held the Jaguars to one run in seven innings of work.
  • I know it’s only one game, but TR South is looking a lot like last year in the sense that it struggles to muster any offense against top opposing pitchers. I talked to Gebler about it in the preseason and he said it was one of their biggest questions marks, and it looks like it still is one.
  • An offensive bright spot for the Indians was sophomore Kyle Perry, who may go a long way toward alleviating the loss of one of the best hitters in school history, current Seton Hall freshman Chase Gray. Perry had three hits out of the leadoff spot on Thursday, including a booming double off the St. John’s-bound Needham, and he hit the ball hard even on his outs. He just sprays line drives everywhere. Perhaps most impressively, I talked to Malta after the game and he said that the pitches that Perry smacked for base hits were where the Jaguars wanted them. That means he was hitting pitcher’s pitches, not mistakes, so definitely keep an eye on Perry.
  • I know Gebler lost the game, but I’ll take him on my team any day. He is battling some tendinitis, but rather than make any excuses, he took the ball without his best stuff and went out and attacked. His velocity picked up after the first few innings of his 5-inning relief stint, but he didn’t have much of a breaking ball, yet he still did a solid job against a good lineup. He stepped up to the challenge. It didn’t work out, but he didn’t shrink from the moment.

All right, now on to some notes from around the rest of the Shore:

  • Freehold Township, ranked No. 6 in the preseason All Shore Media Top 10, has come out of the gates on fire. They beat their first two opponents 21-1 in a pair of shortened games, including No. 7 Monmouth on Thursday. Senior outfielder Steve Talbott has no rust after coming from basketball season as he had four hits in the opener and then bashed a two-run homer against the Falcons and their ace, senior righty Brian Schopka. While ace Matt Cadigan, who won the opener against Point Boro, is a known commodity, the even better news is that junior Dan Reed no-hit Monmouth on Thursday. The Patriots have a glut of about four juniors behind Cadigan who are all jockeying for spots in the rotation and are all relative unknowns on the varsity level. They will all get a chance early in the season. Reed obviously made an emphatic statement in his first chance to take the ball.
  • I sat at the frozen tundra of Count Basie Field to watch Red Bank Catholic beat Ocean, 6-4, in the opener on Wednesday. If you haven’t checked out the story on senior Matt Marley, you can read that here, so I won’t really go too more in depth on Marley’s rise to prominence. As for the rest of the Caseys, senior catcher Jake Beim appears healthy after battling nagging injuries last season and could be poised for a huge season for the Caseys as he had three hits on a freezing day. Junior infielder Steve Louie hit a bases-clearing triple and scored on a throwing error on the same play to pretty much decide the game, and afterward coach Buddy Hausmann said that hustle like that is par for the course for Louie. He is undersized, but he will run through a wall to win games, and he was also a favorite of RBC football coach Frank Edgerly in the fall.
  • Ocean is very young, but has talent. I liked what I saw from junior first baseman Kevin Romano, a first-year starter. He boomed about a 370-foot home run off Marley, and also watch out for sophomore third baseman Nick Clary, who also homered and has a solid approach at the plate. This team might lose some tough ones in the early going under new coach Steve Rubin, but could be dangerous as the season goes along.  Oh yeah, and congrats to the Ocean parent who got tossed from Count Basie Field for being a loudmouth by the home plate umpire on Opening Day. Way to set the tone.
  • I think Monsignor Donovan opened some eyes right off the bat in Class B South because Jackson Liberty had generated a good amount of buzz in that division before the Griffins beat the Lions 3-1 in the opener. While it’s a loooong season and the opener doesn’t tell the whole story, that’s a good win for Mon Don, and one of my sleeper players entering this season, senior Mark Poinsett, went 2-for-3 with a homer. I still think Jackson Liberty will be right in the hunt because it has pitching, so it’s more just boosting the offense and things should be OK.
  • Manalapan ace Ryan Harvey, who has committed to Seton Hall, came out of the gates strong with six innings and 10 K’s against a solid Brick Memorial lineup in the opener, which is a great early sign for the Braves. Toms River North ace Mark Leiter was the same way in an 8-1 win over Colts Neck, as he looked sharp from the outset. With senior Matt Mancini as the Mariners’ No. 2 pitcher and hard-throwing junior Rudy Ferrentino at No. 3, the No. 1 Mariners look to have a nasty rotation.
  • Middletown North pulled out an 11-10 win over St. John Vianney and then Brandon McCloskey came back and pitched a strong game to beat Marlboro. I think getting off to a good start was imperative for the Lions because this season has been built up and expectations are high, so had they lost any of those early games it might have had them questioning whether any of the hype was justified. I still am interested to see if Middletown North has enough pitching depth to challenge for the Class A North title and more because you know they are going to hit. Senior Joe Ciccone is killing the ball in the early going, so keep an eye on him.
  • Middletown South had been mashing teams all preseason and it didn’t stop in their opener as senior Mike Farrell set the tone with a first-inning grand slam on the way to a 9-5 win over Manalapan to give new coach Ryan Spillane a win in his debut. Junior Craig Sweeney, who has received interest from Rutgers, UConn and a few other Big East schools, also had two hits for the Eagles, who may turn the Class A North race upside down if they get consistent pitching. Pitching is Spillane’s strength, as he helped develop several top hurlers at CBA before taking the head job at South.
  • Congrats to Asbury Park, which beat East Orange for its first win in a season opener in forever, possibly the 1970s.
  • Mater Dei‘s season may not start until about July at the rate we’re going, as it has yet to play a game. The Seraphs had their games on Friday and Saturday postponed and are iffy for early next week. They also will be playing their first eight games on the road because of the condition of their home field, according to head coach Pat Riddell. Their first scheduled home game is tentatively on April 20 against Henry Hudson.

Boys/Girls Basketball: Young, Nappo Step Down at RBC, RFH

April 2, 2009

Just some quick basketball news for you before we jump back into the baseball stuff. Veteran Red Bank Catholic coach Joe Nappo has stepped down after his second stint with the Caseys after a long career, and has been replaced by one of his former players, 33-year-old Devitt Gillroy, who is also the assistant athletic director to Joe Montano.

I spoke to Gillroy on Wednesday and he said he will look to implement an up-tempo system in which the Caseys will push the ball at every opportunity, so the key right now is just identifying a point guard to run the attack now that senior J.P. Mahon will walk the aisle in June. Gillroy also is looking to get the alumni and former players more involved in helping to support the program. Gillroy is a 1993 RBC graduate who played guard for Nappo and was an assistant with the girls team under Montano before becoming Nappo’s assistant this season, when the Caseys won 16 games and reached the second round of the state tournament.

Another former RBC player, James Young, has stepped down as the boys head coach at Rumson-Fair Haven after two seasons and is now the new head coach of the Red Bank Regional girls team, replacing former coach Frank Mohler. Young is a teacher at Red Bank and leaves Rumson after two winning seasons  in which he went 31-21 with the Bulldogs. He now takes over a Bucs girls team that has struggled to get to the .500 mark in recent seasons and went 24-53 in Mohler’s tenure.

“I did this for professional reasons because I feel a lot better coaching and teaching in the same building,” Young said. “I look at the situation (at Red Bank) and I have three districts to draw kids from (Little Silver, Shrewsbury and Red Bank), and there is a great tradition at this program. I think we can make things work.”

Young and Gillroy played on the same RBC teams back in the early 1990s, and Young is a 1994 graduate and a former assistant under Nappo who left to take the job in Rumson two years ago. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a former teammate of both Gillroy and Young at RBC and wish good luck and give congrats to both of them on their new positions.