Maroon Raiders earning solid wins in young season

Photo by Jim Hague/ Junior right-hander Joe Feraco has been a solid pitcher on a Nutley pitching staff that does not allow a lot of runs. Feraco held Bloomfield scoreless for six innings last Friday


By Jim Hague

The Nutley High School baseball team suffered through an uncharacteristic losing season a year ago, winning only 10 games. It was a year filled with injury, illness and disappointment.

But veteran head coach Bob Harbison knew that his team would bounce back and be vastly improved in 2012.

“We had a good group coming back and a good group of young kids coming up,” Harbison said. “I definitely felt that we were going to be better than last year.”

So far, the Maroon Raiders are living up to Harbison’s expectations, because Nutley has a fine 4-3 record thus far, including some solid wins over Bloomfield, West Essex and Bridgewater-Raritan.

The Maroon Raiders defeated Bloomfield, 2-1, last Friday in an excellent pitching duel and came back on Sunday to knock off Bridgewater-Raritan, as part of the Dad’s Baseball Tournament in Roselle Park.

If there’s one constant about the Maroon Raiders thus far, it’s been their stellar pitching. Even in the games Nutley has lost, they’ve been excellent on the mound. They dropped well pitched games against Montclair and a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in extra innings to Livingston.

“We’re definitely not tearing it up offensively,” Harbison said. “Thank God for our arms. Our defense has also been stellar as well. I think the kids are just putting too much pressure on themselves at the plate. But our pitching has been very solid.”

Leading the way has been senior right-hander Kevin Garcia, who could not pitch all of last season with a shoulder injury. But Garcia has recovered and has done well, posting a 2-0 record thus far, allowing just one earned run.

“He is throwing really well right now and has good command of all his pitches,” Harbison said. “He’s doing about as good as you can.”

Photo by Jim Hague/ Senior first baseman John Llano is a consistent hitter who has a lot of experience for the Maroon Raiders.


Junior Joe Feraco has also done an outstanding job on the hill. Feraco matched Bloomfield’s ace Zeb Smith pitch-for-pitch Friday and left with the game scoreless.

“He’s done a spectacular job on the mound for us,” Harbison said. “He’s done very well.”

Senior righty Skylar Petretta is another hard thrower who consistently finds the strike zone. Senior Rocco Puzzo is another right-hander who earned the win against Bloomfield in relief. Sophomore Kyle Cresci is a promising righty who has all the tools to be a good one. Senior John Ratta is a lefty who gets to see situational action and sophomore Mike Meecham is another left-hander with a lot of promise.

“I think Mike is going to be a good one,” Harbison said. “We definitely have the pitching depth you need.”

Handling the pitchers is talented sophomore Austin Kunz, who started every game last year as a freshman.

“Austin has a lot of potential and he’s done well defensively,” Harbison said. “We need a little more from him at the plate.”

First base duties are being shared by seniors John Llano and Al Petracco. Llano saw a lot of action last year and had a big bunt single to key the two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh against Bloomfield.

Junior Luke Kelly is a clutch performer who can play any of the infield positions. If the Maroon Raiders need a big hit, chances are that Kelly will be the one to produce. Kelly had two hits and an RBI double in the 8-3 win over Bridgewater-Raritan on Sunday.

Sophomore Anthony Rossi mans second base. Harbison likes what Rossi brings to the team.

“He’s a good fielder and a good stick,” Harbison said. “He’s only going to get better.”

Senior Nick Gariano, another holdover from last year, is the shortstop. Gariano delivered the game-winning hit against Bloomfield.

Senior Phil Condito, who started at third base last year, has returned to that position.

Left field is being handled by sophomore Nico Mercandante, who is another promising player.

Nick Liaci is in centerfield. Liaci is another sophomore with a ton of potential.

Senior Jack Kraft, who has already signed a national letter of intent to play at Coppin State in the fall, is the right fielder. Kraft has yet to show the pop in his bat that he had at the end of last season.

“He’s struggling a little,” Harbison said. “He should be able to get it going soon.”

The Maroon Raiders look to junior John Milici as a backup catcher and outfielder and junior Angelo Sceptaguerrcio to back up the infield positions.

So there’s a lot of promise this season in Nutley, like there always is.

“We have a lot of good baseball players,” Harbison said. “We just need to relax, play and the hitting will come around. We have to hope the pitching remains solid. I’m certainly not disappointed with what’s going on. We lost games we could have won. If we can start to score a few runs, we’ll be in good shape.”






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