Yes, the memories of the 2013 baseball season are fresh in our minds. It's been only a couple of weeks since Cranford finished atop our power rankings and Rob Kaminsky was recording strikeout after strikeout, but we're certain fans won't forget this campaign for years to come.
Well, that's easy. Read on.
Here’s a look back at the year that was in New Jersey baseball:
One to remember:
Imploring players to view every game, regardless of opponent, with equal importance may sound like a tired cliché but Dennis McCaffery has created a formula to keep it fresh and rewarding.
The Cranford coach preaches the idea repeatedly and you can’t argue with his program’s success. The Cougars rolled to a 25-1 mark stamped by a second straight NJSIAA Group 3 state title and the No. 1 ranking in the final MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15 power rankings.
Behind a pitching staff anchored by senior southpaw Ryan Williamson (10-0, 0.56 ERA), a North Carolina State recruit who was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 28th round of the MLB Draft, and consistent offensive production of Rutgers-bound catcher Chris Folinusz (.434, 30 RBI) and fellow seniors Anthony DiFrancesco and Sean Feeney, Cranford won its first 17 games, including an 8-0 triumph over Westfield for the Union County Tournament crown.
Two reasons why senior designated hitter Brennan Price was able to pile up a state-leading 62 RBI for Group 1 champion Middlesex were the talented tandem that hit in front of him.
Senior shortstop Tyler Heisch (.464, 42 runs, .527 OBP) and classmate Tommy Marcinczyk (.557, 45 runs, .667 OBP) constantly occupied the bases at the top of the Blue Jays’ order, setting the tone for an offense that produced 287 runs. Their uncanny ability to get aboard provided Price was consistent chances to drive in runners in scoring position, which he did fueled by nine home runs.
Rob Kaminsky, St. Joseph Regional
Living up to the hype is no easy task. Doing it under the watchful eyes of potential investors is something completely different.
How Rob Kaminsky handled it all was with complete indifference. The St. Joseph Regional ace left-hander refused to even glance at the notable faces that lined backstops whenever he took the mound. Just the thought of doing so seemed like a complete betrayal of who the grounded senior was.
Instead, armed with a blazing fastball, knee-buckling curve and a changeup as a reliable third option, Kaminsky put together a 10-0 mark that featured some even more unthinkable numbers. He boasted a 0.11 ERA and collected 127 strikeouts in just 64 innings.
His farewell season in Montvale was stamped on June 6 when the St. Louis Cardinals made him the 28th pick of the first round in the Major League Baseball Draft. Kaminsky signed with the Cardinals on June 18th and is currently pitching with the organization’s rookie entry in the Gulf Coast League.
While all the impressive statistics he compiled this spring, including a team-best .455 batting average, were points of pride, nothing trumped the money he raised through his Strikeout Challenge. Kaminsky set up the charity to benefit the pediatric cancer ward at Englewood Hospital with supporters donating whatever amount they chose for each strikeout he recorded. By keeping up his end of the bargain, the Strikeout Challenge raised $30,000.
Juan Reina, Passaic Tech
When you begin to dissect the offensive resume of Juan Reina, the first reaction may be to rub your eyes to make sure your reading them right.
The junior shortstop from Passaic Tech burst onto the statewide scene with the kind of a season players dream about. Reina batted .602 (50 for 83) and slugged at a 1.217 rate for the Bulldogs (13-12). He unloaded 17 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs, drove in 42 RBI, scored 30 runs and stole 17 bases while striking out just four times.
But, Reina wasn’t just interested hitting. His range and slick glove at shortstop allowed him to consume anything in his vicinity while suffering just three errors.
Tommy Marcinczyk, Middlesex
Tommy Marcinczyk was an obliging sort for Middlesex.
The center fielder was among the top defensively, routinely beating shots to the gap by getting to the spot through great reads.
The left-hander also fulfilled the role of staff ace, posting an 11-0 record and 0.89 ERA, capped by 10 strikeouts over six innings in a 9-5 triumph over Pompton Lakes in the Group 1 state final.
But, what Marcinczyk was most often recognized for involved his bat. There’s little debate about his status among the toughest outs in the state considering he batted .557 with a .667 OBP. He collected 49 hits, scored 45 runs and knocked in 35 more.
Marcinczyk played with an infectious competitive grit and will continue his career at Rutgers.
For the record:
There were a number of milestones accomplished throughout the course of the season, beginning on Opening Day.
Rob Kaminsky provided more than a harbinger of things to come with his no-hitter against Don Bosco in a 10-0 decision on April 2. The senior left-hander also applied the appropriate bow on the 556th win for St. Joseph Regional’s Frank Salvano, who surpassed former Ramsey coach John Ponchak to become Bergen County’s all-time career leader in victories with the triumph.
Hamilton senior catcher Dave Osnato wrapped up his stellar four-year run by going 2 for 4 in a 6-3 loss to Wall in the Central Jersey, Group 3 semifinals. The two hits gave him a total of 145 for his career and established him as the all-time hit leader in the Colonial Valley Conference.
The idea that Group 1 schools aren’t suited to compete with the big boys was laid to rest by strong showings from state champion Middlesex as well as runner-up Pompton Lakes (25-5). The Cardinals, who reached their second straight state final, could exit Toms River South following their 9-5 loss with heads held high, having won the Passaic County Tournament for the first time since 1996 and collected a single-season school record 25 wins.
Five and fly:
Christian Brothers senior first baseman Joe Dudek unloaded three home runs and knocked in 10 RBI in a 17-3 victory over Manalapan on May 7, a feat so nice, the North Carolina recruit had to do it twice. Two weeks later, during a 14-1 triumph over Monroe, Dudek socked a pair of three-run homers as well as a grand slam, and rang up 10 more RBI. He ended the season with a Shore Conference-best 11 home runs and 37 RBI.
A number of coaches registered notable milestone victories
700th win: Marty Kenney, Christian Brothers
500th win: Butch Servideo,Lyndhurst; Bill Frank, Toms River East
400th win: Kurt Hommen, Ridgewood
300th win: Dennis McCaffery, Cranford
Junior right-hander Willie Krajnik of St. Mary’s of Rutherford struck out 20 while spinning a three-hitter in a 2-1 victory over Weehawken on April 8.
Bernards emerged from a loaded field to claim its first Somerset County Tournament title since 1986 with a 6-5 victory over Immaculata. The Mountaineers finished the season 22-7, winning the Skyland Conference, Valley Division title and match the program record for wins.
You’d be hard pressed to witness a better catch than the one made by Madison’s Joey Geyer against Bernards in the quarterfinals of North Jersey, Section 2, Group 2. In the bottom of the first, Jon Iaione launched a deep blast into the left-center gap but the senior center fielder raced back, went airborne parallel to the turf at Diamond Nation and made an incredible diving stab fully extended. Iaione scored a measure of revenge two innings later with a solo blast that helped Bernards to the 4-1 victory.
Catching the eye of MLB
St. Joseph Regional’s Rob Kaminsky, a first-round choice of the St. Louis Cardinals, headed a group of seven New Jersey high-schoolers selected in the MLB Draft.
Ryan Williamson (10-0, 0.56 ERA), the left-handed ace for Cranford, which finished the season atop the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15 power rankings after completing a 25-1 campaign with a second straight NJSIAA Group 3 state title, was chosen by the Texas Rangers in the 28th round.
In the 32nd round, the Boston Red Sox chose Jackson catcher Matt Thaiss, arguably the top defensive backstop in the state who also happened to be one of the more feared hitters (.351, 11 doubles, four homers, 19 RBI, 29 walks), one pick ahead of Gloucester Catholic’s Mike Shawaryn, a right-handed fireballer, who was selected by the Kansas City Royals. Nick Cieri, another catcher from Rancocas Valley went to the San Francisco Giants later in the round.
The Philadelphia Phillies tabbed Immaculata’s slugging third baseman Brandon Wagner in the 39th round and left-hander Sal Mendez of Weehawken rounded out the group, a 40th round choice of the Texas Rangers.
Group 4: Eastern
Group 3: Cranford
Group 2: Cinnaminson
Group 1: Middlesex
Non-Public A: Seton Hall Prep
Non-Public B: Rutgers Prep
County and conference tournament champions
Bergen County Tournament: St. Joseph Regional
Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament: Iselin Kennedy
Greater Newark Tournament: Seton Hall Prep
Ed Ford Memorial Tournament (Hudson County): St. Peter’s Prep
Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament: Hunterdon Central
Mercer County Tournament: Notre Dame
Monmouth County Tournament: Red Bank Catholic
Morris County Tournament: Randolph
Ocean County Tournament: Toms River North
Passaic County Tournament: Pompton Lakes
Shore Conference Tournament: Toms River North
Somerset County Tournament: Bernards
Union County Tournament: Cranford
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner