Times of Trenton Baseball Notebook: Superb pitching paces Hamilton to best start in 22 years

Brendan Hail

When Hamilton West beat Hopewell to start the season, it was not only the first opening-day win for Mike “Mo” Moceri as Hornets head coach; it was the program’s first successful opener since a 10-3 victory over Allentown in 2013. And it just keeps getting better. After defeating Manalapan, 1-0, […]

When Hamilton West beat Hopewell to start the season, it was not only the first opening-day win for Mike “Mo” Moceri as Hornets head coach; it was the program’s first successful opener since a 10-3 victory over Allentown in 2013.

And it just keeps getting better.

After defeating Manalapan, 1-0, Saturday the surprising Hornets were 5-0 for the first time since beginning 7-0 in 2000. For those who believe in omens, that happened to be the year Hamilton won the lone state baseball title in school history.

It’s an admirable start considering West graduated six regular position players from last year. Moceri said prior to the season the pitching would have to do a lot of the heavy lifting until the hitting comes around.

That game plan has worked better than even Mo could imagine.

The Hornets have allowed just 22 hits and six walks for a 0.8 WHIP. Dylan Parsons has the staff’s only earned run average, and that’s a miniscule 0.66. No other hurler has surrendered a run, earned or unearned.

In fact, Hamilton pitchers have not allowed a run in 34 out of the 35 innings they have thrown. Since Hopewell scored three in the fourth on opening day, the Hornets have tossed an astounding 31 consecutive scoreless innings.

Parsons has been nicked for the only three runs, but only one was earned. He is 1-0, having yielded 10 hits and two walks while striking out 16 in 10.2 innings.

No. 2 starter Mac Meara is 2-0, allowing four hits and three walks with 10 strikeouts in 8.2 innings.

“They’re incredible,” said third baseman Ryan Marino, who is hitting .467 with six RBI. “They always do their thing. We’re gonna go out there and if we put up runs we’ll be fine when they’re on the mound.”

“Dylan and Mac pitched in a lot of big games for us last year,” Moceri said. “We feel they are ready for the moment.”

The big difference-maker has been No. 3 starter Pat McAuliffe. The senior righty has allowed just seven hits and one walk with 14 strikeouts through 13.1 innings.

“We expected him to throw strikes, and if we continue to catch the ball behind him, he will continue to be very successful,” Moceri said. “P Mac pitches with a whole lot of grit and heart. He pounds the zone, holds runners on with the best of them, and works with pace keeping our defense on their toes.”

HUN UNDONE BY RUBAYO: Hun looked as good as advertised through its first four games, out-scoring opponents 41-7 in going 4-0.

And then came Andrew Rubayo.

The postgraduate right-hander from Montgomery threw a two-hitter with two walks and six strikeouts in a 4-1 win over the Raiders. His gem came after a rough opening-day outing in which Lawrenceville collected six hits and six runs in five innings.

“Andrew was excellent on the mound,” said Falcons coach Erik Treese, whose team is 3-1. “He had great command and got ahead of most hitters. He was able to use all his pitches effectively, especially his slider and changeup, which he kept down in the zone. He stayed off the middle of the plate and his ability to hit the corners kept them off balance. He pitched with great confidence.”

The veteran skipper felt the stats were a bit misleading in Rubayo’s loss to the Big Red.

“I think he pitched fairly well against Lawrenceville but his command was not as good,” Treese said. “He made a few mistakes in the zone and the Lawrenceville hitters put good swings on them.”

The Raiders are considered by many baseball people to be the area’s top team. Because the victory came so early in the season, Treese was not willing to consider it a “statement” win.

“But because Hun is one of the best teams in the state, it was a huge win for our confidence,” he said. “We pitched great, played solid defense and put together a number of quality at bats. I think it showed our guys that if they can do those things they can put themselves in a position to win games.

“That said, it was only one game and we still have a lot of games ahead of us and a lot that we can improve upon. This was clearly a great win for the team and can hopefully be a catalyst for us to continue to get better and play good baseball moving forward.”

‘ZANG HAS ZING: Hopewell Valley pitcher Jared Greenzang was the epitome of frustration during the past two springs.

The tall, wiry right-hander was ready to see time as a sophomore before COVID-19 shut down the nation. Last year, a freak accident left him on the shelf with a broken hip for his entire junior campaign.

“I was actually hitting,” he said. “In our second scrimmage I got a pitch up high, just swung like a normal swing and just kind of burst it. It was very frustrating.”

Greenzang was finally able to toe the rubber in a high school game on Apr. 1 and he looked like he’d been there all along. Although he was the losing pitcher in a 4-3 setback to Hamilton, Jared threw a complete-game three-hitter with 10 strikeouts on 102 pitches. He did hurt himself with four walks, however, three which eventually scored.

The good news for the Bulldogs is that the hurler showed no health issues after working himself back in shape playing at Diamond Nation in Flemington. On opening day he had a good fastball and his pitches were working well except for two to Ryan Marino that proved his undoing.

But Greenzang was happy to be back.

“It was very frustrating last year not being able to pitch,” he said. “I think the summer was a little bit rough and in the fall I really started to take off and do a lot better.”

Rider coach Barry “Mosley” Davis feels he will do even better yet as he matures in college.

“Greenzang is coming on,” Davis said. “He has made big strides since last year. We like his upside. He is physical with a chance to be a good player for us. His best days are ahead of him. He, like many others we have had in our program, get overlooked for one reason or another, and it looks like our gain at the moment. He will get a chance early on in his college career as we will lose a lot this year on the mound.”

OPENING WEEK: Not surprisingly, April weather reared its ugly head in the season’s first week, as numerous games were wiped out between Wednesday and Friday.

But there were enough played to produce some noteworthy items.

Northern Burlington has looked every bit the powerhouse it was expected to be, having outscored opponents 46-9 in a 4-0 start. Drew Wyers bat has been blazing, while Ryan Boyd has a double, triple, homer and nine RBI among his four hits.

Steinert lost a few big bats from last year but has started 4-1 thanks to an age-old Spartan recipe – good pitching. Matt Dziubek is 2-0 with a 1.36 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 10.1 innings, and Noah Rivera is 2-0 with 0.00 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 11 innings. “Our pitchers are program guys,” coach Brian “The Chef” Giallella said. “They’ve been with the program, and they know how things are done.” Joey Gmitter leads Steinert with a .467 average and six RBI.

After its opening-day loss to Hamilton, Hopewell’s bats have been hot in winning three straight by a combined 29-5. Lucas Henderson, Cole Beck and Michael Boyer have swung well for the Bulldogs (3-1) while Chris Tobia has a 0.64 ERA in 11 innings.

Allentown (4-2) won its first three, lost two straight and beat Middletown South on Saturday. One of the losses was to surprising West Windsor-Plainsboro North, which has started 2-1. The other was to Hamilton, which is not as surprising considering the Hornets start. Jack Sweeney and Alex Bischoff have led the Redbirds offense while sophomore JD Alster has not allowed an earned run in 9.1 innings. Mike Timberlake is also throwing well.

Two Colonial Valley Conference teams expected to do big things have been hindered by the weather, as Notre Dame (2-0) and Robbinsville (1-1) have each only played two games through the first nine days. In the preps, Pennington (1-1), Lawrenceville (1-1) and Princeton Day School (0-2) have also been limited to two. The only teams to have played less are Florence and West Windsor-Plainsboro South, who have both lost their only games to date.

New Egypt has also gotten in just two contests, and both have been high-scoring wins as Connor Stillwell went 7-for-8 and Zach Jenkins 6-for-10 with five RBI.

WHAT’S AHEAD: The big one this week comes Wednesday when Hamilton (5-0) visits Steinert (4-1). The rivalry has arguably been the most consistently intense in Mercer County over the years; and it’s even better when both teams are winning.

There are some other interesting match-ups as well. On Monday, two hot-starting teams go at it when Allentown (4-2) visits Hopewell (3-1) in a big Valley Division tilt. Hightstown (1-2) will try to turn things around at Steinert and WW-P North (2-1) will hope to continue its promising start by shocking Notre Dame.

Thursday’s Hightstown-at-Hamilton and Steinert-at-Robbinsville match-ups should be interesting, and the Ravens will get a big test Saturday when Gloucester Catholic, ranked No. 15 in nj.com’s Top 20, comes to visit.

In the preps, Hun faces two local rivals when it visits Pennington Monday and hosts Lawrenceville Thursday. Peddie visits age-old rival Blair Wednesday and hosts PDS Thursday.

In Burlington, Bordentown faces a busy four days as it meets Pemberton, Rancocas Valley and Moorestown Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Starting Tuesday, NBC plays three straight days against Seneca, Cinnaminson and Burlington Township.

HITTER OF THE WEEK: Northern Burlington’s Drew Wyers’ start has been ridiculous. The Stetson-bound senior hit .615 with two homers, three doubles, nine RBI and nine runs scored. His slugging percentage was 1.308 and on-base percentage was .706 for an OPS of 2.014.

Just ridiculous.

PITCHER OF THE WEEK: Hamilton West’s Pat McAuliffe has emerged as one of the CVC’s most pleasant surprises. After throwing just 41 pitches in 2.2 innings last year (allowing three hits and one earned run), the senior right-hander has emerged as a dangerous third starter this season.

In two starts, McAuliffe has allowed seven hits and one walk while striking out 14 in 13.1 innings. On Saturday, he had to be at his absolute best against Manalapan’s Tyler Kane, as the George Mason-bound stud struck out 16 Hornets. McAuliffe responded with a complete-game four-hitter on just 85 pitches, allowing one walk and fanning four.


Northern Burlington






Notre Dame


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