BERKELEY HEIGHTS – One of these years it’s going to work out for the Highlanders.
It almost did last year.
You see, the Governor Livingston baseball team has pretty much won every title under the sun – including Highlander Classic, division, section and state – except for one.
One of these years the Highlanders will add their first Union County Tournament championship to an already impressive resume.
Four college-bound seniors who might just very well lead GL to that lofty goal include Ethan Frohman, Ian Lynch, John Tedesco and Ryan Zucker. All four return from a GL squad that boasted a record of 21-6 in 2014, which included reaching the UCT final for the fourth time in program history and then the North 2, Group 3 quarterfinals.
The quartet signed their letters-of-intent in the GL conference room Thursday morning, with lefty pitcher Frohman to continue playing at Lehigh, Lynch and Tedesco at Montclair State and Zucker, who made his varsity debut last year and will vie for more playing time this coming season, will continue at Rutgers-Newark.
Frohman (6-2, 160) went 6-2 last year with an ERA of 1.70. He struck out 53 and walked 17 in 49 and 1/3 innings. He also excelled at the plate, batting .341 and producing an on-base percentage of .463.
One of Frohman’s best wins last year was a 1-0, three-hit shutout over Westfield in early April. In the UCT final at Kean, Frohman and GL were defeated by Westfield 5-3.
“I chose Lehigh because it has great coaches, it’s a great academic school and it’s a good program with a good track record,” said Frohman, who also considered nearby Lafayette.
One of the most dominant pitchers in Union County last season, the crafty, bespectacled southpaw has a penchant for getting ahead of most batters, which leads to a great deal of his success.
“This year I’m looking to get bigger and stronger to try to throw a little harder,” said Frohman, who along with Lynch was a First-Team All-Union County selection by The Star-Ledger last spring.
“Ethan Frohman is by far the closest thing to having an assistant coach on the field,” GL head coach Chris Roof said. “His knowledge of the game is very impressive for such a young person. He will go down as one of the best pitchers in GL history.”
This August, Jared Holowaty, 34, was named the 11th coach in the history of the Montclair State baseball program. He served as the acting head coach of the Red Hawks for the 2014 season after longtime mentor Norm Schoenig underwent hip replacement surgery in February.
Holowaty led MSU to a 22-18 record and was named the New Jersey Athletic Conference Co-Coach of the Year after guiding the Red Hawks to a 13-5 record and third-place finish in the league standings. The Red Hawks were picked to the finish eighth in the 2014 NJAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Holowaty is getting two fine players in Lynch and Tedesco.
Lynch (6-1, 195), was one of the toughest Union County batters to retire in 2014, batting .532, with an on-base percentage of .650. The third baseman blasted three home runs, 13 doubles and one triple and also produced 30 RBI and 27 runs and a slugging percentage of .884.
“I’m going to come back with the same approach as last year and not change a thing,” Lynch said. “I went up there with a clear mind and just kind of swung the bat. I looked for good pitches early in the count that they gave me, hoping that they made a mistake.”
Not winning any tangible title – league, county, section or state – left a void in GL’s overall 2014 success.
“As a highly-ranked team last year, for us to not come away with one thing definitely hurt a lot,” Lynch said. “This year we’re going to have come back and work even harder than last year.”
Lynch, like Frohman, Tedesco and Zucker, wanted to play his college baseball in the relative area.
“Montclair’s close to home, it’s very good program and I love the coach, he seems like a very nice guy,” Lynch said. “There’s a great atmosphere there.”
“I told Ian before last season that for us to be good he had to be an all-county caliber player and he was,” Roof said. “His stats were just amazing. In my opinion he was one of the top three players in the county last season.
“He squares up a lot of balls and uses the entire field. He will have a great college career along with Frohman.”
Tedesco is back as the Highlander second baseman. He hit a shot to deep center in last year’s UCT final that was caught by Westfield center fielder Anthony Perconte. The fine catch, made with runners on first and second, prevented GL from extending an early 2-1 lead.
“In the end (of the season) we kind of lost all the energy we had in the beginning,” Tedesco said. “We have to keep that up. Luck is a really big part of baseball. You never know what’s going to happen.”
As evidenced in last year’s UCT final, Tedesco is a middle infielder who can drive the ball deep.
“John Tedesco is a boy who, when younger, was passed by a lot of other kids because he didn’t start playing baseball until he got older,” Roof said. “He has physical skills that are off the charts.
“He’s a very strong young man who can really hit and he possesses a strong throwing arm from second base.”
“I like the Montclair campus and the coach and they have a good business program and that’s what I want to do,” Tedesco said.
GL alum Craig Conway, a three-time American Baseball Coaches Association All-American at MSU, including his senior season of 2001 when he earned First-Team honors, was just inducted into the Montclair State Department of Athletics Hall of Fame in October. Conway, who played for GL head coach Bill Howard, closed out a brilliant career in Division 3 baseball by finishing as MSU’s all-time career hit leader with 290.
Conway led the Red Hawks to three NCAA Division 3 World Series appearances, including 2000 when MSU captured its third national championship.
Zucker will look to make much more of a contribution this spring for the Highlanders before continuing on the Division 3 level at Rutgers-Newark.
“Education was a big selling point, I’m interested in business and they have a good business school,” Zucker said. “Mark Rizzi (head coach) is a great coach and he’s done a lot of things already for me that I really appreciate. He runs a really good program. Being close to home was also a big selling point.”
“Ryan Zucker is a coach’s pleasure,” Roof said. “If most kids had the character and work ethic that he had, teams with Ryan Zucker would win championships every year.
“Being a team player and a hard-nosed player is in his DNA. Ryan can help you with the bat, in the field and on the bases. I really feel in my heart that he’s going to have a great season for us.”
NOTES: The 2015 season will be Roof’s 12th at the helm of the Highlanders. From 2004 to 2014, his 11-season record at the Berkeley Heights school is 218-95. Including his three seasons as head coach at Millburn from 2001-2003, his record is 272-129.
Roof, a 1992 GL grad who also went on to star at Montclair State, reported that 39 of his GL players have gone on to play in college, including 13 of them on the Division 1 level. The latest D-1 player was 2014 graduate Ryan Jennings, who is now playing at Fordham.