NA baseball team looks for solid improvement

Paul Marcantuono pulls no punches about his North Arlington High School baseball team.

Plain and simple, Marcantuono knows that the Vikings have to be improved on last year’s 9-16 ledger.

“We lost only one starter,” said Marcantuono, who begins his ninth season as the head coach of the Vikings. “We have all of the rest of our starting players back. We have a senior-led team. So that only leads to the expectations. We’re expecting a lot from these kids this year. The expectations are high. As well they should be. Most of these kids have been together for three years.”

Marcantuono believes that the Vikings just have to worry about a small laundry list, a brief to-do ledger.

“If we stay hungry and humble and do the little things right, then big things will happen,” Marcantuono said. “They’ve been waiting for three years for this year to make it happen. This is their year. I said this is a teen year, meaning that if we don’t win 14 or 15 games, then it would be a disappointment. If we don’t win that many games, then we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and find out what we did wrong. These kids should want to win.”

Considering it has been a while since the Vikings have fielded a winning team in the spring, then they should want it. No one aspires to be a loser.

Well, the Vikings are not going to be losers often with their pitching staff, spearheaded by three seniors in right-handers Joel DaSilva and Charles Kearney and left-hander Brian Costello.

DaSilva has added the “Da” to his last name. As simply Joel Silva, the righty pitched a no-hitter two seasons ago and won four games last year. Apparently, he was always DaSilva and never bothered to tell anyone that was his correct surname.

Costello is a master craftsman on the mound, mixing up his variety of pitches. He also won four games a season ago. Right there, that’s eight of the nine Viking wins.

Marcantuono likes the camaraderie between friends DaSilva and Costello.

“Brian and Joel work together all year long,” Marcantuono said. “They worked together in the summer and in the fall. They push each other really hard. They are also very good in helping the other kids out. Brian is more of a pitcher, where Joel is the thrower. I have confidence in all three of our guys. We have an ace in there every time they take the mound. I believe in all three and I think they’re good enough to pitch a good game every time out.”

Kearney developed last year into being a solid hurler.

“Charles came on last year and emerged late as a good pitcher for us,” Marcantuono said. “Charles is more cerebral. He’s a great student. He’s on the honor roll.”
Marcantuono said that he can use as many as seven pitchers this season. Senior Tim Ford, juniors Mark Cunningham and Danny Elliott and sophomore Isaac Aguiar, the basketball standout, will all get their chances to pitch this spring.

“Isaac is just raw talent,” Marcantuono said. “He is learning to spot his fastball in and out. He’s getting better.”

The catcher is junior Angel Santos, who can also play other positions like second base and the outfield. Santos’ versatility has opened the door for other seniors to see playing time, guys like Stephen Carey and Chris Giaquinto.

First base duties will be shared on a rotating basis, depending upon who’s pitching. DaSilva, Kearney and Costello will all see time at first.

John Policano, a junior, will try to take over at second base, replacing three-year varsity performer Anthony Rotondo, who has since graduated.

Emmanuel Mora, the returning starter at shortstop, has some great flashes of brilliance last year. Mora can only get better with a full year under his belt. Christian Castro is another player who will see time at shortstop. Both Mora and Castro will be major offensive players for the Vikings this spring.

Castro will see time at third, along with Kearney.

Elias Aguiar, a senior and the older brother of Isaac, returns to his starting outfield slot. Aguiar can play left and right, depending upon the situation.

“He’s a good defensive outfielder and a good athlete,” Marcantuono said. “He judges the ball real well.”

Ford, who batted .360 last year, returns to his centerfield slot and will serve as a team leader.

The right field starting spot is wide open, with a handful of candidates vying for playing time.

Count on the Vikings to be more of a force this season.

“I love this team,” Marcantuono said. “We’re trying to make it fun. I think I realized that baseball needs to be fun. It’s a game that you’ll love forever. That’s the most important thing.”

The Vikings will have a ton more enjoyable times this spring than in years past.

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”