Spring sports teams begin workouts
HAMMONTON—Blustery weather welcomed the start of preseason workouts for the spring sports teams at Hammonton High School and St. Joseph Academy last week, as those squads begin preparing for the 2023 season.
Baseball, softball, track and field, boys volleyball, boys tennis and golf teams each held workouts last week, some outdoors battling strong winds and less than ideal conditions.
Another challenge this spring is a late start to official practice, as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) moved the start date for most spring sports ahead two weeks from March 3 to March 16 this season.
That means teams will have around two weeks to prepare for the start of the season, a move that some coaches aren’t pleased with this spring.
“It makes it a little tougher, obviously. We’d like to have more time, but everybody is in the same situation and we’ll just deal with it,” Hammonton softball coach Eric Shulman said.
On the field, few teams were as strong last year as Shulman’s Blue Devils, who return almost their entire roster from a season where they finished 17-8 and reached the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals.
“We lost some big players for us, but we feel we can compete with anybody this season,” Shulman said.
Across town at St. Joseph Academy, the Wildcats softball team is looking to bring home its fourth-straight South Jersey Non-Public B title.
St. Joe brings back a talented roster that lost some key players to graduation, but head coach Les Olson has brought in some strong underclassmen who should fill major roles this season.
On the baseball field, Chris Caprio takes over as head coach at St. Joseph and brings more than three decades of experience to a team that finished 14-11 last season.
The Wildcats have lost some players to graduation and transfer, but return a solid lineup that lacks depth but has the talent to win consistently this spring.
At Hammonton, the Blue Devils return a strong group of varsity veterans that stumbled down the stretch last year, finished with a 11-17 mark and reached the South Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals. Coach Gregg Silvesti feels his team caught some bad breaks last year and is confident that the Blue Devils will play much better this season.
On the track, Hammonton’s boys and girls teams are coming off strong indoor seasons and are hoping to build on that success this spring.
Dom DeRose led a strong group of runners during the winter season, and coach Jeff Dey feels Hammonton can chase a South Jersey Group 3 title this spring.
Hammonton’s girls are led by a solid group of distance runners, and while the Blue Devils lack depth in some events, coach Michelle Wolosky’s team has consistently been one of the more competitive squads at county and sectional meets.
Hammonton’s boys volleyball team could take a step back this year after losing many players to graduation.
In just their second season as a varsity program in 2022, the Blue Devils posted a 14-6 record and won a playoff match. Much of the roster is gone from that team, and coach Brian Reed will need to blend several newcomers into a lineup that only features a few veteran varsity players.
On the tennis court, Hammonton hopes to improve after finishing 0-19 last year.
The Blue Devils are rebuilding, and coach Steve Salvatore is confident they can improve on that mark this spring.
Hammonton’s golfers turned in a strong 2022 season with a young roster and coach Matias Spahn’s Blue Devils bring back several key players for a team that should improve and remain one of the best in the Cape Atlantic League.
At St. Joseph, the Wildcats will sport a boys lacrosse team that will play a junior varsity schedule as coach Bryce Young begins to build what the school hopes will quickly become a strong program.