BY AVERY PERSON
The baseball team has gotten off to a tremendous 11-5, start earning the 11 spot in NJ.com’s top-twenty state ranking. They achieved this recognition by defeating three teams ranked in the top twenty at the time: North Brunswick, St Augustine, and Red Bank Catholic.
On April 22, the team beat St. Augustine, ranked fifth in the NJ.com top 20 at the time, 10-5 behind a dominant 4 for 5, 4 RBI performance from senior second baseman Michael Villani. “My mindset was to go out and play hard and stay inside the ball when I’m hitting,” said Villani, who leads the team with 22 hits and six stolen bases.
The team stayed hot the next day when they faced the number one ranked Red Bank Catholic team and defeated them by a score of 2-1 in a game that featured an outstanding 2 hit, 2 walk, I run, 7 strikeout pitching performance by junior Justin Meyer. “We went into that game hungry to beat them,” said junior pitcher Frank Papeo, who has struck out 38 batters over 30 innings. “Once that game ended, we felt like we could beat anyone.”
The run of wins over ranked teams started the previous weekend when the Knights beat number 11 North Brunswick in back-to-back games, largely by holding a strong offensive team to just three runs over two games. “I ended up going 6 1/3, 4 hits, 1 run and 10[strikeouts],” said sophomore starting pitcher of the first game, Justin Hasscup.
Thomas Papeo broke the 1-1 tie in the seventh inning before his brother Frank broke it open with a three-run homerun. “[My] teammates had a monster top of the 7th to give us the win,” explained Hasscup.
Two days later, the team overcame extra innings and a lightning delay to take the win. “We were hitting the ball hard; our defense was great, but there were just some things that at some points of the game didn’t go our way,” said Thomas Papeo. “We eventually won but it was a hard-fought game by both teams.”
The team has found much of their success by holding opposing offences to an average of just over three runs a game. “It’s great to attack hitters early in the count to set them up with another pitch to finish with a strikeout,” said Frank Papeo, who carries a 1.40 ERA into May and dominated North Brunswick in the second game, going for six innings while striking out nine and giving up just one run.
With everything they have already accomplished, the players remain focused on playing together to reach their ultimate goals. “We are a very solid team. Everyone has a role and helps out in some way,” said senior Joshua Martinez. “If we continue to do this, I think we have a very solid chance of making a deep playoff run.”
The team takes on Monroe on the road at 4pm today and plays its next home game at 4pm on Friday.
Posted on 5/2/23
Photos by Katelyn Buchalter and Natalie Goldberg