Buccaneers try to recover from offseason losses

The Belleville High School baseball team dropped two games on Saturday to Verona and Montclair Kimberley Academy, putting their early season record at 0-3, but the biggest losses probably happened to the Buccaneers in the offseason.

The program lost two talented players to transfers. Josh Rodriguez, the super-talented infielder/pitcher, took his talents to St. Joseph of Montvale. Evan Torres, the promising catcher, moved to Kearny.

Both would have been juniors this season and both would have played key roles for veteran coach Joe Sorce’s team.

“We hated to see them leave,” Sorce said. “Josh led the team in home runs and RBI last year. Evan caught the bulk of the games.”

But Sorce didn’t want to dwell on the losses of those two players, nor the other Buccaneers currently on the sidelines, nursing injuries. Sorce can only control what he can control. He can’t focus on the players that aren’t there, just the ones who remain.

“We’re going to be alright,” Sorce said. “We have six kids back from last year and we’re looking for those kids to improve. I wouldn’t say we need them to carry the load, but we are going to rely on those kids and need others to fill in and step up. We need everyone to play more than one position to give us some versatility.”

Sorce said that his team gained “valuable experience” in six preseason scrimmages, four of which were played on artificial turf. Considering the late winter weather conditions, it was nothing short of a miracle that the Bucs were able to play six scrimmages.

“We have a young team,” Sorce said. “We’re still a work in progress.”

One thing that Sorce has to be happy with is a plethora of possible pitchers. As many as nine different Buccaneers can take the mound this season. That kind of pitching depth is not easily found.

Senior Danny Pinedo, the soccer standout, is one of the team’s top hurlers.

“He throws a lot of strikes,” Sorce said of Pinedo. “He has two or three different pitches and changes speeds well.”

Senior Justin Klus is another right-handed hurler and starter.

“He has added some velocity,” Sorce said.

Junior Sebastian Alverio is another righty.

“He’s much improved,” Sorce said of Alverio. “He pitched a lot for us last year, but he’s made positive strides in the offseason.”

Juniors Derek Lombardi and Owen Cuevas, sophomores Albert Carrero and Anthony Liggins and freshman Kevin Arroyo are all capable hurlers for Sorce’s staff. Liggins is the team’s lone lefty hurler.

“We have a lot of guys who can throw,” Sorce said.

Lombardi and Carrero are both seeing time at catcher.

“Lombardi got the bulk of the time in the scrimmages,” Sorce said. “Carrero has a good arm and is good defensively. Both bring something to the table for us.”
Junior Joe Monroig, who also plays football and basketball for the Buccaneers, is the first baseman.

“He’s doing a nice job there,” Sorce said.

Sophomore Jiustino Cecere is the second baseman. Sorce likes Cecere’s potential.

“He’s opening some eyes for us,” Sorce said.

Junior Bryan DeFrietes is the shortstop. DeFrietes played a lot of second base last year and moves to short this season.

Junior Christopher Amparo is the third baseman.

“He played a lot of third base for us last year,” Sorce said.

Carrero is also seeing time at third base as well.

The outfield is filled with versatile performers. Sophomore Aedrick Perez is a permanent fixture in the outfield and is also a capable relief pitcher.

Pinedo is an outfielder when he’s not on the mound. He’s a player to watch.

Alverio is another player who will get time in the outfield when he’s not on the bump.

Seniors Angel Rivera and Dariel Collado are also outfielders in the mix for playing time.

Sophomore Anthony Wnek is a third baseman who also serves as a relief pitcher. Freshman Joe Abramson is a designated hitter/pitcher who also sees time at third base.

“We’re going to find ways for him to help us,” Sorce said of Abramson.

The Buccaneers remain in the Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division with teams like Cedar Grove, West Essex, Bloomfield, West Orange, Glen Ridge, Science Park, as well as Verona and Montclair Kimberley, which were Saturday’s opponents.

The Bucs dropped a 5-3 decision to Verona and an 8-0 setback to MKA as part of Saturday’s day/night road doubleheader. They dropped a 9-4 decision to West Orange in their season opener last Wednesday.

“It’s a good league,” Sorce said. “West Orange has a nice team. West Essex will definitely be good. It should be a good, solid schedule for us.”

Sorce knows that his team will have to get better as the season moves on.

“That’s definitely the goal,” Sorce said. “Especially with a younger team. We just want to get better every day. Overall, I think we played a solid first game. We have to learn from our mistakes. The experience is valuable. In the long run, we’ll be okay. We have a great bunch of kids. They’re all hard working. The kids all have good relationships amongst themselves. There’s nice chemistry on the team.”

It’s just hard to overcome the losses that a coach can never anticipate, like the ones that come with unexpected transfers.

But the Buccaneers will survive. They always do.


The Belleville baseball team will count heavily on the development of their junior class. From left are Derek Lombardi, Bryan DeFrietes, Sebastian Alverio, head coach Joe Sorce, Christopher Amparo, Joe Monroig and Owen Cuevas. Photo by Jim Hague.

Seniors Daniel Pinedo and Dariel Collado are key players in the Belleville outfield this season. Photo by Jim Hague

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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.”