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Aug 03, 2022

Joe Stanzione Looks Back on Record-Setting Baseball Season

By Tim Morris

Middletown South's Joe Stanzione had a historic season, slamming a Shore Conference record 15 home runs, helping the Eagles win the Monmouth County Tournament championship. Photo courtesy of Kevin Prefer Jersey Pics

With this being his final high school baseball season, Middletown High School South’s Joe Stanzione played it with a sense of urgency. He wanted to make every at bat count – no wasted trips to the batter’s box for him. 

Stanzione connected on a Shore Conference record 15 home runs this spring while batting .478 and driving in 41 runs in helping the Eagles win 21 games and the Monmouth County Tournament championship.

“It was pretty surreal,” Stanzione said of his 2022 campaign. “I was really just trying to focus on being the best player I could be for the team. I couldn’t have asked for a better season.”

South Head Coach Chris LeMore was in awe of how consistent his slugger was through the season.

“Every hit was off the center of the barrel of the bat,” LeMore recalled. “He hit hard line-drives that elevated quickly. He’s an amazing hitter. He was so focused.”

Having him in the middle of the lineup, LeMore said, was a luxury.

Stanzione’s season didn’t come out of nowhere. After all, he batted better than .400 last year when the Eagles won the NJSIAA Group IV state title. He even slammed two runs in the state semifinal game.

Stanzione, who reached 100 career hits during the season, credited a different approach at the plate for his success this spring.

“You get a lot or curve balls at the start of the count. My approach was to lay off those early pitches and wait for a fastball,” the Eagle explained. That discipline, laying off the sliders and curve balls low and away, kept him from falling behind in the count. 

By being more selective at the plate, Stanzione was able to work on getting a favorable count where he could go into “attack mode” and look for a pitch he could turn on and drive. Still, Stanzione is more than a power hitter swinging for the fences each time. He was a contact hitter who rarely struck out.

“You take what the pitcher gives you and hit to all fields,” Stanzione said of his batting philosophy. “I tried to do my best and put the ball in play. I was focused on hitting line drives.”

Another approach change made by the Eagle was when he had two strikes. He was in such command all season that he would purposely foul off pitches to stay alive and force the pitcher to throw another pitch. Perhaps the next one would be in his wheelhouse.

“I wanted to make the pitchers work,” he pointed.

He wore the opposing pitchers out as they would try to come up with ways to silent his bat.

As he neared the conference record of 14 round trippers set by Jackson Memorial’s Mark Fink, it became harder for Stanzione to stay focused.

“I pressed a little for a couple of games, but I settled down and didn’t think about it,” he explained.

In the off season, Stanzione worked in the gym, lifting to not only get stronger but increase his bat speed.

Besides Stanzione, the 2022 Eagles had one of the state’s most dominant hurlers in junior Ben Schild who, as it turns out, was Stanzione’s secret formula to success. Facing him in batting practice sessions, Stanzione noted, more than prepared him for what he would see on game day.

“He’s the best,” Stanzione said of his teammate. “I wasn’t going to see anyone better than him.”

The two enjoyed their back-and-forth duels.

This season was used as a bridge year by those who graduated from South in 2021. The New Jersey legislature passed a law that impacted 2021 and 2022 school graduates, who had lost their spring 2020 seasons to the pandemic to have an additional year of eligibility to participate in their spring sport provided they were still enrolled in school. Stanzione took classes at Brookdale during the 2021-22 school year. Close to 200 student-athletes participated in the program this school year.

“It was a hard choice to make,” Stanzione said of taking the bridge season. “I became close with the younger guys last year and wanted to come back. I have no regrets.”

Although the Eagles didn’t repeat as state champions, they did win the Monmouth County Tournament for the first time in 11 years.

With his record-setting season behind him, Stanzione is off to Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina for his next challenge: college baseball.