Lyndhurst High School head baseball coach Pat Auteri begins his eighth season as the head man with the Golden Bears and even after missing last year to the COVID-19 pandemic, Auteri finds himself in a place that has become almost commonplace with Lyndhurst baseball.
The Golden Bears look to be a solid group yet again.
“I was disappointed last year for the seniors who missed out on the season,” Auteri said. “They were the ones who put in the work. My heart goes out to them. There’s always going to be a ‘What if?’ component to last year. That’s what they’re going to remember and that’s very disappointing.”
But 2021 represents a new year, a new season.
“I think everyone is going through it right now,” Auteri said. “There are a lot of question marks all around. These kids missed out on a lot last year. Now you have to find a way to get through all that missed time.”
One positive that the Golden Bears have is senior right-hander Adam Venezia, who has been playing varsity baseball since he was a freshman.
“He has progressed nicely,” Auteri said of Venezia, who has given a verbal commitment to Eastern University, an NCAA Division III school in Pennsylvania. “He has developed into the kind of pitcher that we need. I feel really good about that. I think the school is a good fit for him. I think it’s definitely a load off his shoulders, knowing where he’s going to school. Now he can concentrate on playing for us. We’re going to lean on him, no doubt.”
While the Golden Bears have Venezia from the right side, they have a quality left-hander as well in senior Yianni Lazaris.
“He’s a big lefty who keeps everybody loose,” Auteri said. “I think he would have shined for us last year, but we’re depending on him for big innings this year. He throws strikes and that’s important.”
The Golden Bears suffered a big loss when Anthony DeMarco suffered a torn ACL during football season, forcing DeMarco to miss both the wrestling and baseball campaigns. DeMarco has signed a national letter to wrestle in the fall at NCAA Division I Stony Brook. DeMarco also would have been the Golden Bears’ starter at shortstop.
“It’s a big loss for us,” Auteri said.
Senior Nick Morelli and junior Ethan Rodriguez are two righties that will eat innings for Auteri this season, as will sophomore righty Brian Kantor.
The starting catcher will also pitch a little when she gets the chance to climb from behind the plate. Yes, Alexia Jorge will be the Golden Bears’ main cog at catcher, fresh off making the commitment to become the first woman to play NCAA baseball at St. Elizabeth University in Morris County in the fall.
Jorge, who plays for the USA National women’s baseball team, has earned her spot with the Golden Bears. Morelli and Kantor are vying for time at catcher along with Jorge.
The first basemen are Venezia and a pair of sophomores in Xavier Mieles and Billy Mareski. Both will get a chance to play varsity.
The second baseman is junior Vincent Auteri, the nephew of the head coach.
“He’s a very good defensive second baseman,” the head coach said of his nephew. “He’s worked his tail off for this shot. He’s hitting the ball pretty well. It’s been fun to watch, not only as his coach, but as his uncle.”
Junior Johnny Lembo, nicknamed “Johnny Football,” for his football prowess at quarterback, will be the team’s shortstop in the absence of DeMarco.
“He has all the tools,” Auteri said of Lembo. “We have to have him and Vinnie playing together up the middle. They’ve been playing together their whole lives. Johnny is a gamer.”
The third base duties are currently being shared by a pair of juniors, namely Rodriguez and Ben Nowinski.
“Ben is a little ahead defensively, while Ethan is a better hitter,” Auteri said.
When he’s not on the mound, Lazaris is in left field. Sophomore Isaiah Alvarado is the other left fielder.
Senior Sean Mayer covers a lot of ground in centerfield. He’s also the team’s leadoff hitter.
“He has great speed and we’re going to take advantage of it,” Auteri said. “He’s going to set the tone for us offensively.”
Right field duties are being shared by Morelli, junior Cayce Losinger and senior lefty Anthony Paolazzi, who never played baseball before this year. Paolazzi might get to see some time on the mound as well. After all, Auteri can’t teach someone to be left handed.
The Golden Bears begin their first week with independent games against Waldwick, Wood-Ridge and Emerson Borough. No slouches among them.
“No one is going to feel sorry for us,” Auteri said.
Especially when the rest of the North Jersey Interscholastic League is chasing the Golden Bears all over the league’s standings. It’s going to be a good year once again for Lyndhurst baseball.
The Lyndhurst baseball team will count heavily on their senior contingency this season. Front to back are Alexia Jorge, Nick Morelli, Sean Mayer, Yianni Lazaris, Adam Venezia and Anthony Paolazzi. Head coach Pat Auteri is to the left. 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.”