Jeff Karpell takes over as head coach of the Middletown High School South baseball program this spring, but he pointed out that nothing has changed.
“They have high expectations,” Karpell said of the Eagles. “They embrace the expectations.”
Having won the Group IV state championship in 2021 and the Monmouth County Tournament last year, winning is entrenched in the program.
“From day one, the kids have told me their goal is to get back to winning the states and get back to the Shore Conference Tournament final,” Karpell said. “They got a taste of what that’s like, and they were disappointed in losing in the quarterfinals last year. That has made them a little hungrier.”
The Eagles lost to Red Bank Catholic in the ’21 final. They return a solid nucleus from ’22 and one of the state’s best pitchers in University of Connecticut-bound Ben Schild.
“Pitching depth is our strength,” Karpell noted. “[Schild] is a great leader and a great kid. He has been at the top of his game since was a sophomore. It’s a great way to start, having him pitch every week.”
The senior throws smoke. He struck out 95 hitters in just 49.1 innings in ’22. That was on top of the 86 Ks in 58.2 innings as a sophomore. The power-throwing right-hander allowed only 23 hits all season in ’22 and was 6-0 with a 0.85 ERA. Schild allowed just one run in South’s 11-1 win over Wall in the MCT final. He was South’s ace in its run to the state title, pitching a two-hit shutout in the 5-0 win over Montclair in the championship.
Brevin Bezick is a dominant pitcher himself and complements Schild, giving South a dynamic one-two at the top of the rotation. They are the reason that the Eagles had a team ERA of 2.53 last spring. Bezick, a lefty, pitched superbly in his starts in the Eagles’ big tournament games last year. The junior pitched to a 2.97 ERA and averaged more than a strike out an inning with 45 Ks in 33 innings of work.
Another senior, Will Christopher, had a 3.00 ERA. Mason Christopher (Jr.), Danny Corcoran (Sr.), Jake Czwakiel (Jr.), and Chris Thompson (Sr.) logged innings last year and will provide strength as starters and in relief. Mason Christopher could be the team’s No. 3 starter.
There will be a big hole in the middle of the lineup with the graduation of Joe Stanzione, who broke the conference record for home runs in season when he blasted 15 out of the park. He also has 41 hits good for a .471 batting average and 34 RBI. While Stanzione, now playing for Gardner-Webb University, will be missed, South does bring back some heavy lumber led by Will Christopher who batted .405. Schild (.392), junior Louis D’Alessio (.368) and sophomore Brendan Silva (.367) all had productive seasons and will be the heart of the batting order. Senior Matt Silva, who in 25 plate appearances batted .520 and senior Joe Bartos, who batted .611 on 18 at-bats, showed promise in their limited time.
John Chiusano (Jr.), Roman Concordia (Jr.), Luigi Massagli (Sr.) and Aaron Szitanko (Sr.) will be playing bigger roles this season.
Besides talent, Karpell said that another strength of the Eagles is their baseball smarts. They are students of the game with baseball savvy.
With the top of their rotation and proven hitters returning, it would hardly be a surprise to see the Eagles playing for championships again in 2023.