SBHS baseball team looks to be well armed

By: James McKeever
   Pitching is so vital to any high school baseball team’s success and the South Brunswick like how their staff has performed this season.
   With right-handers Dan Rodriguez and Bryan Sock anchoring the rotation, Vikings pitchers have kept their team in just about every game this season.
   The club took a 4-4 record (3-3 in the Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division) into Wednesday’s game at Edison. Prior to that key Red Division game, South Brunswick’s team ERA was a stingy 1.37.
   In 51 innings as a team, the Vikings had surrendered 42 hits, walked 23 and struck out 44.
   "We’ve got two pretty good starters and I’m confident with anybody we put out there,” said South Brunswick coach Leo Danik.
   Rodriguez earned his first win last Thursday night in the Vikings’ first home game with a 6-0 decision over J.P. Stevens at Sondek Park. Rodriguez hurled a three-hitter, didn’t issue a walk, fanned six and helped himself with two hits and one RBI. Evan Mahoney (four RBI) and Kyle Cleffi also had two hits each.
   "Danny was in complete command,” Danik said of the senior. "Before the game we didn’t think he really had his good stuff, but being the competitor he is, he just came out and battled. In the first inning he worked out of a second-and-third, one-out jam and after that it was his game."
   Rodriguez may be only 1-2 on the season, but he suffered a 2-1 loss on opening day and dropped a 4-3 decision in his second start. In 19 innings of work Rodriguez owns an 0.37 ERA (one earned run). He has walked five, surrendered 16 hits and recorded 13 strikeouts.
   Sock, a junior, is 2-1 with a 1.75 ERA. He’s allowed 14 and 11 walks in 20 innings, while posting 21 strikeouts.
   Sock lost to Piscataway 6-3 on Monday, but didn’t pitch badly, according to Danik. In fact, the Vikings out-hit Piscataway 10-4, but Piscataway made the most of two triples, a double and a single.
   Jeffrey Young, another righty, has been the Vikings’ third starter. The senior is 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA in eight innings (five walks, six strikeouts). Justin Makowski, Patrick Keenan, Corey Griffin and Anthony Clemente have each worked innings in relief. Griffin was expected to start Wednesday against Edison.
   Young started last Saturday in a 6-0 loss to Bridgewater-Raritan. Only one run against him was earned. Bridgewater starter Justin Lorentzen headed to Montclair State University next year with Rodriguez fired a two-hitter with nine strikeouts.
   "Our staff ERA is 1.37 and if we had maybe four or five more key hits, we could be 7-1,” said Danik.
   Offensively, center fielder Joe Clemente (.379 before Wednesday) and shortstop/pitcher Rodriguez (.385, five RBI) set the table at the top of the order. DH Mahoney(.375, team-high 10 RBI), corner outfielder Cleffi(.348), second baseman Nick Clemente (team-high .450, seven RBI) and first baseman Makowski (.308, eight RBI) form a solid middle of the lineup.
   Catcher Fred Brown has done a solid job working with the pitchers. Although Brown was hitting just .250, he had drawn seven walks to boost his on-base percentage to .500.
   On Friday the Vikings will host St. Joseph at 4 p.m. then take on East Brunswick (home, Tuesday) and Old Bridge (home, Thursday) next week.