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Aug 05, 2022

Middletown South Baseball Season Ends with a Championship Title

By Tim Morris

Any season that ends with a championship is a successful one. That’s how Middletown High School South baseball Coach Chris LeMore described the 2022 Eagles’ 21-10 campaign, which culminated with a win at the Monmouth County Tournament.

“It puts a stamp on what the kids did,” LeMore said. “Anytime you win a championship, it’s special. [Winning that tournament] was something we hadn’t done in a while. To actually raise a banner is exciting for the kids. I’m proud of them.”

The victory helped make up for the team’s early exit from the state playoffs as the defending NJSIAA Group IV champions.  Being a champion took the sting out of the Eagles’ 1-0 loss to East Brunswick in the Central Jersey Group III quarterfinals.

“Not scoring a run was a little upsetting. We got away from what we do best. We gave away outs,” LeMore said of the East Brunswick loss. “Overall, we were tremendously competitive in every game. I was happy with the overall work the kids put in.”

The hitting of senior Joe Stanzione and a remarkably deep pitching staff were the keys to the Eagles 21-win season. Stanzione had a record-setting season with the bat, hammering a Shore Conference record 15 home runs. The Gardener-Webb College-bound slugger added .478 batting average, 41 hits and with 41 RBI to one of the great offensive seasons in Shore history.

“Joe’s an amazing hitter,” said LeMore. “He has such focus.

“Having him sit in the middle of the lineup was big. He’s a really good role model. He’s an exceptional leader by example.”

While Stanzione, who reached the 100-career hits mark, provided a spark to a solid lineup, the Eagles had others who stepped up. Ben Schild, Evan Wood, Louis D’Alessio, Will Christopher, Steve Boguszewski and Rob Cangelosi all played a part in the Eagles averaging close to six runs a game.

Along with consistent production from the offense, the Eagles could count on getting quality pitching every game as well.

Schild, Wood, Brendan Roche, Christopher and Brevin Bezick topped a pitching corps that posted a team ERA of just 2.53.

Schild, a junior, was as dominant on the mound as Stanzione was with the bat. The righty was one of the state’s premier hurlers in ’22, pitching to a 0.85 ERA. He fanned 95 batters in just 49.1 innings of work, averaging two strikeouts an inning. Wood, a senior, was the dependable late inning closer. His ERA was 0.36.

“It’s nice to have someone you can depend on,” LeMore said of his closer. “Pitching and defense wins,” LeMore remarked, adding that he will have most of his pitching staff returning in ’23.

South defeated Wall 11-1 in the MCT final with Stanzione blasting two solo home runs and going 3-4 with two RBI and three runs scored. Schild helped his own cause with two doubles and an RBI. On the mound, he fanned 11 in 5.1 innings and didn’t allow an earned run.

The county tournament championship was South’s first since 2011 and eighth overall.

South defeated Manalapan, 6-2, Manasquan, 5-3, and Red Bank Catholic, 2-0, to reach the final. In the semifinal win over RBC, Schild went 8 and two-third innings and Wood completed one third to share the nine-inning, two-hit shutout.

Looking forward to 2023, LeMore has a warning for South’s opponents: “We may have had a hiccup in the state tournament, but look out. Middletown South will be coming back motivated next year. I’m excited about next year.”