The 2008 high school baseball season seemed to be totally perfect for the Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep. Well, almost perfect. They won 15 of 16 games in the regular season of the HCIAA Coviello race with a roster filled with underclassmen. It appeared like a classic example of a team coming together at the right time and overachieving.
But then, it all ended with a resounding crash. The Marauders, the regular season league champions, were upset by No. 8 seed Marist in the opening round of the HCIAA Coviello playoffs.
A week later, the Marauders lost to Bergen Catholic in the opening round of the NJSIAA Non-Public (Parochial) A North playoffs.
What began with uncertainty and evolved into hopes of a championship ended with two straight losses.
“We had a very good year going,” said veteran St. Peter’s Prep head coach Joe Urbanovich. “We had a 17-5 record and won 15 games in the league and it was over just like that. It was a real downer. There’s no hiding that fact. The way it ended was bad. We had good senior leadership, but those kids got hurt at the end of the year and we really lacked that leadership. We’ve talked about that a number of times with the kids.”
But now, it’s the 2009 season and the Marauders want to forget about the demons of the past.
“It’s a totally new year,” said Urbanovich, who has been the head coach at the Prep for the last 34 years. “We don’t want to harp on it, but we don’t want it to happen again.”
The Marauders had a very young team last year. They may be even younger this time around, especially in their pitching staff, which does not feature a single senior. It could very well be the youngest team that Urbanovich has ever coached.
“The pitching has been a little inconsistent, particularly with the starting pitching,” Urbanovich said. “But they are still very young and basically inexperienced.”
The pitching staff is anchored by junior right-hander Angelo Scianni, who won six games last year for the Marauders. Fellow juniors Matt DeSimone, Jeremy Selecky and basketball standout J.J. Hladik are all right-handed, with junior Matt Woods and sophomore Paul Papacino coming from the left side.
“It all comes down to pitching,” Urbanovich said. “We’ve been pretty inconsistent pitching, but they have been good in spots.”
The Marauders have two catchers that have been sharing the duties in sophomore Phil McGovern and junior Jim Gardner.
Juniors E.J. Schaefer and Marc Hanna are splitting the duties at first base. Hanna is also a member of the Marauders’ pitching staff as well.
Junior Mike Yager is the Marauders’ starter at second base. He played there all of last year.
Junior Mike Martucci is the starting shortstop. He has been developing into a fine fielder and solid performer with every passing inning.
Hanna plays some third base, along with senior Gerald Castaldo and junior Brendan Dolaghan.
The left fielder is senior Matt Kaczmar, who earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors last year, batting better than .400. Kaczmar is the Marauders’ leadoff hitter.
“Matt leads by example, but he isn’t a real vocal leader,” Urbanovich said. “But he’s a very good player.”
Junior Sean Cole is the starter in centerfield, where he played last year. Senior Mike Nadolny is the right fielder, with junior Steve Mallardi the utility outfielder.
The Marauders have a 7-3 record in the early going, but have shown signs of the inconsistency. They have already defeated defending HCIAA champion Memorial and knocked Union City from the ranks of the undefeated last Saturday, but they have also suffered setbacks to teams like Dickinson and Bayonne.
“Everyone is beating each other in the league right now,” Urbanovich said. “No one team is walking all the way through. I would like to think we’re in the mix. I think the kids would like to think that as well. But we were 15-1 in the league last year and got nothing. Hopefully, we can remember some of that stuff and hopefully we can play like a team that deserves to be a champion. We definitely can score some runs. We just need to pitch better.”
That is more than likely the predominant theme throughout the topsy-turvy world of the HCIAA Coviello Division. It’s the last year of the highly competitive league and it looks like it will be a complete donnybrook, right to the title game. Chances are that the talented and young Marauders will be right there at the end once again.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.