St. Joe’s youngsters a hit in new Legion league

By richard jerome
Staff Writer

By richard jerome
Staff Writer

This summer was an auspicious debut for the St. Joseph’s of Metuchen Black American Legion team, as manager Rick Steinbach’s squad won a championship in the Junior-Junior Division, a brand new league for 13-14-year-olds.

St. Joe’s, which went 16-3, captured the crown with a resounding 12-0 triumph over the Old Bridge Yard Dogs.

What’s interesting is that the St. Joe’s club consists entirely of players who will be incoming freshmen at the high school in September.

"We held no tryouts and did no recruiting," said Steinbach. "It was an open sign-up, and it created a great venue for the kids to continue playing baseball after the wet spring season we just had."

St. Joe’s had two local players, Alex and Chris Egiziano, a pair of twins from Old Bridge who played the outfield.

"Alex had a hand injury that held him back," Steinbach said. "Chris was a great defensive outfielder for us."

As for the rest of the team, South Plainfield’s Justin Basilone was a versatile third-baseman-outfielder, while Eddie Brown of Edison, at shortstop, was the team’s most consistent infielder.

Another Edison product, catcher Nicky Ciardiello, swung a strong bat, performed well behind the plate and also did some pitching.

Another multifaceted performer, Sean Dempsey of Colonia, caught and played both infield and outfield. Edison’s Tom DiLello was strong at second base, while over at first, Tim Furey of Colonia played first base and batted cleanup, combining with Ciardiello to do most of the power hitting.

Steinbach got some good speed from Pat Galella, an outfielder from Edison.

A hand injury also sidelined Somerset catcher Carl Luxhoj, but, his coach says, he did a "great job" after coming back.

"Leftfielder Nick Petrillo of Bound Brook did a wonderful job on defense, and Kevin Poll of Somerset turned out to be one of our top pitchers," said Steinbach. "One of our other Somerset kids, Danny Post, also pitched and played very well in center field."

Second sacker Corey Preston contributed key hits throughout the season, and third baseman Doug Steinbach of Edison, the manager’s son, excelled both with the glove and at the plate. Rounding out the roster, Nico Vargas, who hails from Middlesex, made his presence as a pitcher-center fieder.

With a trip to the state tournament lying ahead, Steinbach feels his team has nothing left to prove in terms of meeting its preseason goals.

"I wasn’t expecting a lot, except to hope the kids had a good time and learned something," said Steinbach, who was assisted by Chris Ciardiello. "But this was the best bunch of young gentlemen I’ve ever coached. They came together both as teammates and as classmates. This created an opportunity for new friendships to form, and I think the league did a great job."