Milltown Post 25 team ready for run at state title

Talented team features several top local players of last few seasons

By doug mckenzie
Staff Writer

By doug mckenzie
Staff Writer

CHRIS KELLY Milltown’s Andy Anderson shows good hitting form during his squad’s win on Monday at East Brunswick Vo-Tech High School.CHRIS KELLY Milltown’s Andy Anderson shows good hitting form during his squad’s win on Monday at East Brunswick Vo-Tech High School.

Last year’s Milltown Post 25 American Legion baseball team finished one game shy of the state final.

This time around, head coach Joe Niglio’s squad is looking to not only get to the final, but to win it as well.

"I think this team should do well," the coach said. "It certainly has the talent to excel."

Thus far, Niglio’s squad has not disappointed, getting off to a solid 8-2 start entering last night’s game with Old Bridge. Milltown topped New Brunswick, 17-4, on Tuesday in six innings.

CHRIS KELLY Milltown’s Greg Slavicek fires a a pitch during Monday’s game in East Brunswick.CHRIS KELLY Milltown’s Greg Slavicek fires a a pitch during Monday’s game in East Brunswick.

This year’s squad returns a number of players from last year, as well as a fresh crop of talented newcomers, all of whom will be looking to break into a lineup that resembles a local all-star team.

The squad, which features players from East Brunswick, South River and Spotswood, features several of the top scholastic players of the last two years.

"We’ve got some guys who really excelled at the high school level, and some that are continuing that at the next level," Niglio said.

Among the returners are Mike Feaster, a South River High School alum, who just completed his first year at The College of New Jersey, Ewing. Feaster had an outstanding freshman campaign, batting .355 (22-for-62) with 14 RBIs and a .402 slugging percentage.

He is joined by another collegiate star, Chad Hockenjos, a 2002 graduate of East Brunswick High School, now playing at York College of Pennsylvania. In limited action at York this year, Hockenjos batted .222 on 4-for-18 hitting.

The third collegiate player is Pete Forte, a Spotswood High School grad who went on to play at Brookdale Community College in Middletown.

Other returners include Danny Lanzano, who was the top pitcher in Middlesex County this past spring as a member of the EBHS team. Lanzano finished the year 7-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 84 strikeouts. The Wagner (Staten Island, N.Y.) College-bound Lanzano will likely be the Milltown squad’s top gun come the postseason.

He is joined by former Bear teammates Andy Anderson and Chris Affinito, and newcomer Matt Metsch. Affinito hit an even .400 this past spring for the Bears, with eight home runs and 22 RBIs, while Metsch hit .324.

Spotswood’s Colin Feneis is also back for Milltown and is joined by former Charger teammates Chris Shanahan and Greg Slavicek. Feneis is coming off a brilliant spring in which he hit .458 with five home runs and 30 RBIs, while also 8-2 on the mound, with 41 strikeouts in nearly 50 innings and a 2.17 ERA.

Slavicek was also a standout this past spring, batting .500 with two home runs and 13 RBIs for the Chargers, while also going 4-0 on the mound, striking out 73 in 49 innings and posting a 1.71 ERA.

Among the newcomers to this year’s squad are East Brunswick’s Matt Niglio, Metsch, Matt Merrigan and Dan Storms, and Spotswood’s Rick Pace and Eric Hines.

In addition, Niglio said he is likely to call up East Brunswick native Bill Krapf and Spotswood’s Bobby Drako at some point this summer from the Junior Legion squad.

Niglio is confident that despite having an abundance of talent, he will be able to coordinate his team to make sure everyone gets enough playing time to be effective.

"I’ve coached most of these kids through Little League, so I’m familiar with what they’re capable of," he said. "And some of the other guys I coached in fall ball."

The strength of this year’s squad is the pitching staff, where any number of players are capable of shutting down the opposition.

"I’ve got 13 pitchers out of 16 players," Niglio said. "That’s a nice luxury to have, particularly when you come down to the playoffs. Once you get to that point, you play nine-inning games three or four times a week, so you need that depth."

Though Niglio is sure to mix his lineup throughout the season, he does have a set lineup in mind as the season reaches the midway point.

Forte will lead off in center field, with Feaster in the two spot while playing left field.

Hockenjos bats third at first base, with Affinito in the clean-up spot while handling the catching duties. Slavicek follows in right field, with either Metsch or Feneis up next at shortstop. Third baseman Shanahan bats eighth, with Anderson in the ninth spot and playing second base.

Thus far, Milltown has had a number of rainouts, and has yet to play consistent in all phases. But Niglio is happy with what he has seen, for the most part.

"We’ve really been hitting the ball well," he said. "Everything is starting to click for us."

In Tuesday’s win over New Brunswick, Lanzano and Feneis led the offensive attack with home runs, while Metsch threw five solid innings before giving way to Feaster, who closed the game out.