North Arlington baseball looks to build upon last year’s finish

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Paul Marcantuono saw significant progress from his North Arlington baseball team as it overcame an 0-7 start to finish the 2023 season at 12-13.

While time on the field has been limited so far this preseason, the Vikings’ head coach sees a group that resembles the version he saw late in the year when they closed the season with 12 wins in the final 18 games.

“They proved to themselves that they can compete with some of these teams and win some big games,” Marcantuono said. “And they also proved to themselves that they weren’t the 0-7 team that started. They’re more like the 12-6 team they were to end the season. That’s the team that I’m seeing early in the season. That’s how they’re working.”

Several of the key figures from last year’s turnaround are back this spring, including one of the area’s best catchers in senior Robert Kairys. The three-year starter caught every inning for the Vikings last year as he hit .312 with three home runs and 18 RBI, while bringing a rare level of maturity baseball IQ behind the plate.

“I trust him with most of the pitch calls and just the daily operations are calling out where the ball is supposed to be going and stuff like that,” said Marcantuono. “His knowledge of baseball is very high and he’s just like having a second coach out there. it’s important for your catcher to have that quality and Robert possesses that quality.”

Another cornerstone of the North Arlington lineup is at first base where senior Kevin Zidiak is back after a monster junior season. The 6-foot-3 Zidiak, a three-year starter, hit .402 with 16 walks, 29 runs scored and 10 stolen bases out of the leadoff spot and should continue in that role this spring.

“His biggest quality is that he sees a ton of pitches, fouls a ton of baseballs off, and he ends up on base,” Marcantuono said. “I think last year he had a hit in 21 out of the 25 games or something like that. So he gets the inning started, he gets the game started, sees a lot of pitches. He’s not going to be impatient. He waits for his pitch.”

Zidiak could also see time in the outfield this spring thanks to the return of junior Rohan Patel, who missed all of last year due to injury.

Sophomore Luis Ramos, who started at second base late last season is back at the position this year with junior Julian Moya vying for time.

Another senior entering his third year as a starter is shortstop Robert Carselda, who hit .276 with 18 runs and 16 RBI. Ramos will also see time at shortstop with Carselda serving as one of North Arlington’s top starting pitchers.

Sophomore Chris Troyano is poised for a big season at third base after getting 22 hits as a freshman. Junior Joshua Sheffler will also see time at the hot corner.

Sophomores Matt Higgins and Richard Vargas will also be vying for time in the infield.

The starters in the outfield are likely to vary by the game, but one constant out there will be senior Nate Smith, a three-year starter.

Besides for Zidiak and Sheffler, sophomore Sam Rosamelia, senior Matt Green and junior Kevin Barrone are also in the mix for playing time in the outfield.

On the mound, Carselda (3.68 ERA) and Troyano will be the top two starters. Patel has been impressive in the preseason and will also be in the rotation along with Zidiak, who looks to regain the form of his sophomore season after an injury plagued junior year on the mound.

Smith, Ramos, Sheffler and Rosamilla are also sure to see innings for a pitching staff, which hopes to be bolstered by the return of senior Luca Ziakos later in the season.

Seeking to avoid a repeat of last year’s slow start, North Arlington opens the season on Monday, April 1 at Butler before its home opener against Park Ridge two days later. Division play within the always competitive NJIC National Division begins on April 8 when the Vikings travel to Rutherford before home contests against St. Mary’s of Rutherford and Secaucus.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)