The Belleville High School baseball team has a very deep roster in 2021. And it’s a bunch of Buccaneers that veteran head coach Joe Sorce plans on using every single game.
“We’re a mixed bag,” Sorce said. “It’s a bit of a challenge. We have only two seniors who had significant playing time two years ago. Not having last season (wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and with only four scrimmages before we started, we felt we had to find the strength and weaknesses of this team.”
So Sorce decided to use the Internet to his benefit, conducting Zoom meetings with his players.
“We had about 11 virtual meetings,” Sorce said. “We spent that time talking to the kids, implementing concepts, going over signs. It made the learning curve easier. We put a lot in during those meetings. I think the kids all benefitted from them. I think we were able to hit the ground running a little when we got on the practice field because of the virtual meetings.”
Mother Nature also helped the Buccaneers.
“We had some great weather,” Sorce said. “We were able to have some good practices and good scrimmages. We felt that the weather was beneficial to us.”
Sorce’s deep roster has also helped tremendously.
“We might not have that one pitcher who can go seven innings,” Sorce said. “But we have a good group of guys who can go strong for four, five innings. We just have to put all the pieces in place.”
Almost like a chess master wondering what piece to move next, whether it’s the pawn, rook or bishop.
The Buccaneers started off the season strong, collecting emotional come-from-behind wins against Cedar Grove and Newark Academy, while falling to a very strong Verona squad.
“I like what I’ve seen so far,” Sorce said. “We’ve scored 19 runs in three games. We won two very close games (defeating Cedar Grove, 8-7, after trailing, 7-0 and defeating Newark Academy 9-7). We have a lot of pieces to play with. In order to be successful, I need to be able to manage the kids.”
So on any given game day, Sorce will bring as many as 16 players to the varsity game and sending the rest to the junior varsity level.
“The kids understand,” Sorce said. “They have to be ready for anything. We have been playing anywhere from 11 to 13 kids in a game. It’s juggling those kids, mix and match, depending on the situation. The kids know what their roles are and they understand how they are being used.”
Senior Anthony Cecere is one of the top pitchers and has earned a win in each of the Buccaneers’ two victories, despite not having started either game.
“He’s our hardest thrower,” Sorce said. “He has a very good fastball. We’re still trying to figure out the best way to use him. He’s pitched in all three games and won two of them.”
Cecere is also the Buccaneers’ centerfielder when he’s not on the mound.
Senior Joe Abramson has been another dependable hurler.
“He’s a good strike thrower,” Sorce said of Abramson.
Senior Brandon Ramirez is another hard thrower.
“He has a solid fastball,” Sorce said of Ramirez, who is also the Bucs’ main first baseman.
The rest of the pitching staff consists of a solid junior class. Mike Napolitano has been the starter in two of the three Buccaneer games.
“I like the way he’s throwing the ball,” Sorce said.
Colin Cook is another junior righty.
“He has a lot of upside,” Sorce said of Cook.
Andre Barroso is another junior with talent.
“He’s a solid strike thrower,” Sorce said. “I think we’re going to use him out of the bullpen.”
Victor Dian is another junior who has a lot of potential. Dian is a very impressive looking hurler.
“I do think he has a lot of potential,” Sorce said of Dian.
Alberto Torres is the team’s resident jack-of-all-trades.
“He’s going to play all over,” Sorce said of Torres, who has already seen time at second base, third base, right field, catcher and pitcher in the first week of the season. That constitutes all over.
“Those are the main guys who will see game action,” Sorce said. “We know that we’re going to use two, three, maybe even four pitchers every game. We don’t have that one guy to run out there and get us seven innings. We have to piece it all together.”
The Buccaneers’ main catcher is junior Emmanuel “E.J.” Molina.
“He’s a solid defensive catcher with a good arm,” Sorce said. “He’s a smart player. He’s also versatile.”
Ramirez, who is one of the Bucs’ main power sources in the No. 3 hole, will see the majority of time at first base. Ramirez had two key hits in the win over Newark Academy and delivered a two-run single in the seventh inning rally.
Joseph Abramson is the team’s main second baseman, but Torres has seen time there as well.
The shortstop is junior Matt McCann, who sits toward the top of the Buccaneers’ batting order.
The third baseman should be senior Adiel DeLeon, who has missed the first three games of the season due to injury.
“We’re hoping to get him cleared soon,” Sorce said. “He has a good bat. He would have been our Opening Day No. 4 hitter.”
Napolitano is another third baseman.
“He’s off to a good start at the plate,” Sorce said.
Torres also gets time at the hot corner.
“We move him all over the field,” Sorce said of Torres. “He can swing the bat. He had four RBI hits in our first three games. I’m pleased where he’s at.”
Sophomore Jacob Mauricio is the team’s main left fielder.
“He has a lot of speed,” Sorce said. “He’s going to see a lot of time.”
Cecere is the main centerfielder and senior Jason Miranda is in right field.
“Jason is primarily a catcher, but we moved him out there to help us,” Sorce said. “He can swing the bat well.”
Miranda had two hits in the season opener.
Freshman Santiago Nunez is another outfielder who might see time at designated hitter.
“He’s a bat we want in the lineup,” Sorce said. “He’s an athletic kid who runs the bases well.”
Senior Gabriel Mercado is the team’s resident courtesy runner, but can also see time in the outfield. Junior Jimmy Cicchetti is another outfielder in the mix. Senior Christian Dominguez is a reserve first baseman.
The Buccaneers have home games against Caldwell and neighboring rival Nutley (Thursday night in Belleville at 7 p.m.) and another night game in West Orange on Saturday.
“We have a lot of pieces to play with,” Sorce said. “We have a great bunch of kids who were excited to start the season.”
The Belleville baseball team has a lot of interesting pieces for head coach Joe Sorce (back row, far left) to work with. Front row, from left, Joseph Abramson, Gabriel Mercado and Jason Miranda. Back row, from left, are Sorce, Brandon Ramirez, Adiel DeLeon, Anthony Cecere, Christian Dominguez and assistant coach John Kondel. 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.”