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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Stellar players led spring teams


Photo courtesy Betsey Karl. Dom DeRose was one of the top athletes for Hammonton’s track and field team in 2023.

HAMMONTON—Spring sports teams at Hammonton High School and St. Joseph Academy enjoyed strong 2023 seasons, as one won a state championship, many made deep postseason runs and others spent the spring rebuilding their programs with mixed success.


Regardless of how each team finished its season, all saw significant contributions from many players, including those who were selected as The Hammonton Gazette’s “Players of the Year” for their respective squads.


Softball


St. Joseph Academy’s softball team was perhaps the most successful of any local spring team, bringing home its first-ever state championship.


The Wildcats saw many athletes play key roles in that title, but perhaps none was better than junior pitcher Ava Fisher.


Fisher tossed a three-hitter in the state championship game, capping a season that saw her record 267 strikeouts and post an ERA of 2.39. Fisher was just as dangerous at the plate, where she batted .410 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs.


At Hammonton, no player enjoyed a better season than senior third baseman Alexa Panagopoylos.


The Blue Devils fell short of their goal of a South Jersey Group 3 championship, but throughout the season, Panagopoylos led the offense, batting .448 with eight doubles, 12 homers and 31 RBIs.


Baseball


On a team that featured outstanding seasons from several seniors, Hammonton High School’s Player of the Year is George West. West was a finalist for the Old Grad Award as one of Atlantic County’s best athletes and despite playing with an injury late in the season, batted .321 with 26 hits, splitting time between third and first base for the Blue Devils. West was a leader on a veteran team and helped Hammonton post a 15-12 record and reach the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals for the second-straight season.


At St. Joseph, the Wildcats spent the 2023 season rebuilding with first-year coach Chris Caprio. Playing on a team mixed with veterans and newcomers, senior Jimmy Mantuano capped a stellar high school career with a .433 average in 2023. He also had 26 hits, hit two home runs, scored 18 times, drove in 18 runs and stole 10 bases.


Track and Field


Hammonton’s boys and girls track teams each had strong 2023 seasons and each featured seniors who were leaders and set school records.


For the boys, Dom DeRose was one of the top 400 meter runners in southern New Jersey and helped lead the Blue Devils 4x800 relay team to the state finals. DeRose competed in several events and left Hammonton as one of its best all-time sprinters. A team captain, DeRose displayed leadership all season and was a role model for younger athletes on the team.


Emma Peretti wrapped up her high school career as a winner of the Old Grad Award and earned her third trip to the Meet of Champions as a state gold medalist in shot put where she broke her own school record this spring. Peretti’s name is etched on the school record board in discus, too, and she leaves Hammonton as one of the program’s most decorated athletes.


St. Joseph’s track and field teams rebuilt in 2023, and senior Richard Chandler was one of the Wildcats’ top sprinters, providing leadership to a young team that competed well at many events, including the Penn Relays.


Senior Alyssa Vogt set a school record in the 200-meter dash this season and leaves St. Joseph as one of the top sprinters in school history.


Volleyball


On a team that struggled at times and finished with a 6-15 record, Hammonton’s boys volleyball team was led by several players competing at the varsity level for the first time.

Among those who played well was junior Brandon Chainey, who led the team in kills with 91 and was among the team’s leaders in assists, service points and blocks.


Lacrosse


St. Joseph debuted girls and boys lacrosse teams in 2023, and each had success in its inaugural campaign.


For the Wildcats’ girls team, sophomore Emmah Devlin ranked among the team’s scoring leaders and was a top offensive player throughout the season.


St. Joe’s boys played a junior varsity schedule and sophomore Jake Apel was one of the team’s top scoring threats while providing leadership and skill to a young team that spent much of the season learning the game.


Tennis


Hammonton finished 2023 with its best record in several seasons and the young Blue Devils were led by their first singles player, sophomore Michael Brown who posted several key victories during the year and played well in each match.


Golf


Hammonton remained one of the top teams in the Cape Atlantic League in 2023, and junior Connor Eberly was one of the Blue Devils leaders, turning in a consistent season where he ranked among the best players on the squad.

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