HHS baseball expects to contend
HAMMONTON—An eight-game losing streak late last season destroyed what was a promising year for Hammonton High School’s baseball team, and this spring the Blue Devils are confident that they can challenge for Cape Atlantic League and South Jersey Group 3 titles.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism at Hammonton, as the Blue Devils bring back nearly their entire roster, one filled with veteran varsity players eager to prove they’re better than last year’s 11-17 record.
“We were in a lot of those games last year but had one inning where maybe we lost it a little bit. A lot of tough luck and I think we showed what we could do by reaching the Group 3 semifinals,” head coach Gregg Silvesti said.
Hammonton brings back 10 starters from last season, and that experience and the bad taste left after a tough postseason loss to Delsea that ended the year have the Blue Devils motivated to succeed.
“We’re ready to go and win,” senior Gavin West said.
West is one of Hammonton’s top returning players. The senior will start at third base this year and hit .352 last season.
Joining West in the infield will be shortstop Drew Haines a sure-handed defender who sported a .323 average in 2022.
At second base is sophomore Kole Bagnell who batted .260 as a freshman and scored 24 runs. Drew Fields starts at first base after a season where he batted .267.
Defense is key for Hammonton and the infield is strong, as is catcher Eric Barts, who has a strong arm and guides the pitching staff.
Hammonton’s outfield features veterans Paul Kalani and Matt McAleer.
Kalani has a quick bat and provides speed on the bases. McAleer broke out last season with a .406 average and 15 RBIs. He sets the table as Hammonton’s leadoff hitter.
Sophomore Landon Haines batted .304 last year and will add a strong bat to the lineup.
Pitching will be a key factor in Hammonton’s success this year, and several arms are back this season.
Brayden Markart emerged as an ace last year when he was 4-2 with a 1.07 ERA. Markart isn’t one of the hardest throwers around, but is able to keep hitters off balance with a variety of pitches.
Junior Lucas Guerrier features a strong fastball and struck out 45 batters in 54 innings last year.
Walks hurt Jamison McNally at times last season, but he has been sharp in preseason this year and adds another strong arm.
Also expected to pitch this year are Frank Sacco, Sean Konopka, Kalani, West and Ryan Beebe.
“We’re very excited. I think we can be one of the best teams in South Jersey. I we pitch well and don’t make mistakes defensively, and I think we’re really good defensively, we’ll score runs. It’s a confident group with something to prove,” Silvesti said.
Hammonton opened the season with two games against Millville earlier this week that ended too late for this edition. The Blue Devils play again on April 6 at Lower Cape May at 4 p.m.