Lanza’s young Bulldogs suffering growing pains


nly seven games into the season, the Rumson-Fair Haven baseball team has shown its inexperience.

However, the Bulldogs’ coach Joe Lanza has seen some encouraging signs of things to come as his team has struggled with a slow 2-5 start, after graduating seven seniors from last season’s 6-15 squad.

"We’ve made a lot of inexperienced mistakes, but there’s only one way to learn," he said. "We’re starting seven underclassmen with no varsity experience, so the only thing to do is let them play and see how they do. Thus far, I’m pretty pleased with what we’re doing."

Lanza points out that three of his young team’s losses have come to Freehold Boro, Manasquan and Long Branch, three of the top teams in the Shore. The other losses were to Holmdel and Red Bank Regional.

In their wins, against Point Pleasant Boro and Colts Neck, Lanza said the team played well, with a solid offensive attack complementing a minimal amount of mistakes.

"We’ve hit the ball pretty well in most of our games, but we need to improve our pitching and defense if we want to play with some of the better teams in our conference," Lanza said.

The problem Lanza is facing in trying to teach a young team how to play well enough to win is the fact that the Bulldogs’ schedule pits them against several of the top teams in the Shore.

"It will be tough to beat a lot of the top teams in our division like Red Bank Catholic, Freehold Boro and Shore Regional, but hopefully we can be competitive with some of the other teams like Point Boro, Monmouth Regional and Holmdel," he said.

The Bulldogs were scheduled to play Red Bank Catholic on Wednesday, before hosting Monmouth Regional on Monday.

Lanza is relying on his two seniors co-captains Matt McDonough, a three-year varsity starter, and Ryan Holsey. McDonough is the team’s No. 1 pitcher, getting off to a good start at 2-1. Holsey has struggled as the No. 2 starter thus far, although Lanza said he pitched well in a complete game performance against Manasquan, one of the top offensive teams in the Shore.

"They’ve both pitched pretty well, but they’ve been victimized by a lot of fielding mistakes," he said. "Our pitching certainly needs to get stronger, but our problem really has been our defense."

Offensively, both McDonough (.364 batting average), who plays first or third base when not pitching, and Holsey (.529 average), also a first baseman, have performed very well.

Junior designated hitter Andy Robinson (.435 BA, 5 RBI) also has swung the bat well, while battling tendinitis in his shoulder which has kept him away from his usual shortstop position.

Lanza added that among his younger players, sophomore third baseman and shortstop Chris Keogh (.429 BA, 9 hits) and sophomore outfielder and pitcher Jon Moshenberg (.421. 6 RBI) also have been among the team’s top offensive players.

"I’ve also got a couple of freshman doing a great job creating competition between the remaining position players," he said. "I like to see the competition because it makes everyone work harder."

Lanza, who is coaching his eighth season at Rumson-Fair Haven, hopes that his team continues to learn and improve as the season progresses.

"It hurts not having Andy at shortstop, but Keogh and (sophomore) Greg Katz are doing a great job playing out of position," he said. "All we need is a couple of good wins to pick us up, and to keep us enthusiastic. … I’m real happy with the effort these guys are putting out because it’s only going to help us in the next couple of years. How we finish this year is going to be very important for the next couple of seasons."