Bloomfield’s baseball team poised to take next step

Bengals have veteran roster returning from 16-win team last year

Photo by Jim Hague/ Sophomore right-hander James Torres has already proved to be a fi nd for the Bloomfield baseball team, firing a superb game in his varsity debut against Morris Knolls last week.

By Jim Hague

Ask any high school baseball coach and they will all tell you the same thing. There is no substitute for experience.

That’s why Bloomfield High School coach Mike Policastro likes his team’s chances in 2012. Policastro has a host of players on his roster that have played at least one year with the Bengals’ varsity squad. Some have two years experience, with others having been part of his program for three years.

It’s an experienced bunch that not many teams have the luxury of having.

“We lost only three starters from last year,” said Policastro, who guided the Bengals to a 16-12 record last year and has led the Bengals to a 2-1 record in the early going thus far. “We have a bunch of guys who have played together for quite some time.”

If there’s one aspect to the game that Policastro has been stressing to his team, it’s being more defensive minded.

Policastro did some research about last year’s team and found out that the Bengals could have changed the results in eight of their 12 losses if they made fewer errors.

“It was definitely our weakness and it cost us in a lot of situations, especially in the counties (the Greater Newark Tournament) and the states (the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV),” Policastro said. “Our pitching wasn’t bad. We just could have played better defense behind the pitchers.”

One of the main reasons why Policastro likes his team this season is the pitching depth, led by senior lefty Zeb Smith, who won five games as a sophomore, but only two last year as a junior. Again, having the ace of your pitching staff with three years varsity experience is a blessing.

“We didn’t play well behind him last year,” Policastro said. “We should have won more games when Zeb pitched. He’s our top pitcher and has been throwing well.”

Senior Andrew Coco, who was the Bengals’ No. 3 pitcher last year, has been elevated to the No. 2 position in the rotation. Coco struck out 11 in his first outing against Columbia.

Another solid pitcher is sophomore righty James Torres, who pitched a gem in his first varsity start last Thursday against defending state sectional champion Morris Knolls, scattering six hits and striking out seven.

“James has been pretty impressive,” Policastro said. “We knew coming into the season that he was a proven pitcher, from what we saw in American Legion over the summer and in the fall. We just had to get his confidence up. Once he had the confidence, we knew he was going to be a good one.”

Junior left-hander Christian Ferri is the team’s No. 4 pitcher.

“I’m ecstatic about our pitching,” Policastro said. “I think we have a nice staff.”

Junior Michael Carter, the son of Bloomfield head football coach Mike Carter, is the team’s leadoff hitter.

“When Michael was in seventh grade, we had him play Junior American Legion,” Policastro said. “When he was in eighth grade, he played Senior Legion. He started for us right away as a freshman and we knew right away that he was going to be a good one. He’s been very consistent.”

Need proof? Well, as a freshman, Carter had 35 hits on the season and batted .388. Last year, as a sophomore, Carter batted .382 with 36 hits. That’s uncanny consistency.

Second baseman Devin Radziewicz is another key returnee. Radziewicz earned All-Super Essex Conference honors last year, batting .370.

“He’s a four-year starter and a two-year captain,” Policastro said of Radziewicz. “He’s batted third for us since he was a freshman. He’s a good leader and he’s going to have a good senior season, because he’s gotten bigger and stronger.”

Radziewicz is slated to play at William Paterson University in the fall.

Shortstop Jared Guglielmino is another key returnee. Guglielmino has been on the Bengals’ varsity roster for three years. He belted a solo homer against Morris Knolls Thursday.

Senior Josh Caruso is the first baseman. He’s off to a solid start, having a two-run double against Columbia and a two-run single against Morris Knolls.

Senior Matt Chiaravolotti is the team’s starting third baseman who also serves as the team’s closer. He’s another who has three years of varsity experience.

“There are not many teams around who can put a team on the field that has played together like this one,” Policastro said. “They know the game and know how to play the game.”

Senior Anthony Giamo is the team’s catcher who has been improving with every game. Giamo never caught before high school, but has developed into a fine backstop.

“Each year, he’s gotten better and better behind the dish,” Policastro said.

Policastro knows that he has the makings of a special team.

“We’re trying to instill the importance of pitching and defense with this team,” Policastro said. “I think they’re starting to believe in the things we preach. We had 11 scrimmages in the preseason and we didn’t hit well. We’ve played good defense so far and I love the way we’ve been pitching.”

The Bengals have a highly competitive independent schedule, facing perennial state powers like Bayonne, Old Tappan, Roxbury, Wayne Valley and Pequannock. They will also square off against local rivals Belleville and Nutley in the weeks to come and will face Montclair and West Essex in Super Essex Conference divisional games.

“So far, so good,” Policastro said. “It’s just a matter of staying together and making sure that they believe in themselves and believe in each other. I think if that happens, then good things will happen.”

Count on good things happening with the Bengals all season long.





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