Blue Tide baseball: Better days ahead

The Harrison High School baseball team had a tough go of it in 2019, losing their first nine games of the season en route to a 7-16 campaign.

It was uncharacteristic of the Blue Tide, especially under the guidance of veteran head coach Jairo Mendez, the former Kearny High School and Montclair State College ace right-handed pitcher.

“I never experienced anything like that,” Mendez said. “In all my years in baseball, playing and coaching, that was the toughest. But I figured that we could have all learned from something last year. We had a strong learning curve. Last year’s team didn’t have any experience, so we had to take what we were dealt with. Now, this year, we have a little bit of experience and that’s going to help.”

Mendez said that a big problem with last year’s team was the defense. The Blue Tide had several games where they made more than five errors – and you simply cannot win that way in baseball on any level, from Little League on to the big leagues.

“Defense was our main problem,” Mendez said. “We were working on that this year, just the basic fundamentals. If we’re booting the ball around, we’re giving the opponent extra outs. We made mistakes in key parts of games. That can get frustrating from a coach’s standpoint.”

If the Blue Tide makes a big improvement this season, it will be because of their pitching. Mendez likes the makeup of his pitching staff, one that features talented sophomore right-hander Jake Mulrenan.

“He’s not over powering, but he’s grown physically since last year,” Mendez said. “He’s gotten stronger and put on a couple extra pounds. He’s gained a little velocity since last year. He’s a very accurate pitcher. He’s working on his off-speed pitches. He needs to step it up a little this year.”

Junior Rian Garcia returns. The right-hander has a lot of off-speed pitches that he works with.

“He idolizes Pedro Martinez,” Mendez said of Garcia. “If he can stay focused, he’s going to be pretty good.”

Senior Eric Feliz also returns. The righty throws hard.

‘He throws strikes,” Mendez said. “He’s very composed out there and does a little bit of everything for this team.”

Senior Jaydon Fiori returns for his fourth season with the Blue Tide. He pitched sparingly last season, but will play a bigger role on the mound this year.

“He has the idea to become a pitcher,” Mendez said. “He’s worked at it.”

Senior Anthony Zamora rounds out the Blue Tide pitching staff. Zamora is also right-handed.

“He’s not overpowering, but he can get us through some innings,” Mendez said. “He might be the reason for the whole importance of stressing defense. He makes pitches to get batters out and sometimes, the plays aren’t made. He’s a contact pitcher that needs strong defense.”

Junior Anthony Mascellino returns as the team’s catcher.

“He’s come back stronger this year,” Mendez said. “He’s highly motivated to do better. He’s still learning the game, but he works to get better.”

Junior Yordanny Nunez is the first baseman. Nunez can also catch if needed.

Zamora is the full-time second baseman.

“He has good hands and great feet,” Mendez said of Zamora. He’s very athletic and makes some spectacular plays. He understands the game well.”

Fiori is the shortstop. He had a monstrous season last year, batting .527 with five homers and 20 RBI.

“He’s one of the better hitters in our league (the NJIC),” Mendez said. “He’s also one of the best hitters I’ve had in this program. He was on fire last year. He is very focused and takes hitting very seriously.”

Sophomore Matt Cabedelo is the third baseman.

“He understands the game and is very coachable,” Mendez said. “He’s also a good hitter who came through for us last year as a freshman.”

Junior Nick Renkart is the left fielder, up from the JV squad. Mulrenan is in centerfield when he’s not pitching. Senior Orlando Rivas mans center with Mulrenan on the mound

Senior Matt Rodriguez is a first baseman and junior Sergio Flores is the team’s utility player.

So if and when the season begins, Mendez and the Blue Tide will be ready to put 2019 way behind them.

“I like the chemistry of this team,” Mendez said. “The maturity level of this team is much better. They’re taking it more seriously. They are listening to me. The kids would love to be out there right now.”

The Blue Tide just need to get the season going.




Junior Rian Garcia will be a key contributor for the Harrison baseball team, both on the mound and at the plate, shown here last year in a game against Kearny. 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.”