Matera, Behan inspire young Brookdale squad

Baseball team is ranked No. 6 in the country

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Matera, Behan inspire young Brookdale squad
Baseball team is ranked No. 6 in the country
Staff Writer

Brookdale Community College’s young baseball team couldn’t have asked for two better leaders than sophomores Paddy Matera and Joe Behan.

They are the embodiment of college baseball and have been the heart and soul of the 26-10 Blues, who are headed toward another Garden State Athletic Conference crown. They are currently 11-1 in GSAC play, and as manager Johnny Johnson pointed out, control their destiny.

Matera (Toms River) and Behan (Old Bridge) have led in different ways – Matera by his determination and Behan by his perseverance.

Batting third in the order, Matera has been the team’s clutch RBI man throughout the season.

“He’s been the key to the whole season,” said Johnson. “He’s all guts and heart.”

Matera is batting .432 and leads the team with 32 RBIs. He has 13 doubles, two triples and a home run. But as gaudy as his stats are, it was in a game last week that he showed his true toughness. Attempting a bunt, the ball hit off the bat and went straight up, breaking his nose. It took all of Johnson’s persuasion to get the infielder to go to the hospital. He wanted to stay in the game.

“He was back the next day, wearing a face guard,” said Johnson, “He’s tough. He’s always been like that.”

While Matera has led with his play on the field, Behan has been an inspiration in another way. The right-hander has survived two Tommy John surgeries on his elbow. He refused to give up his baseball dream and has been one of the team’s best pitchers this spring, going 4-2 with a 1.67 earned run average. He hasn’t lost his power: the 6-3 Behan has 20 strikeouts in 27 innings of work.

“He’s been a surprise,” said Johnson. “We’ve been very impressed with him and named him team captain.”

With Matera and Behan as the leaders, Brookdale, which is ranked No. 6 in the country in Division III junior college baseball, has positioned itself to repeat as the GSAC champions. The Blues play Burlington this afternoon in Lincroft in what could decide the regular season title. Burlington owns the only win over BCC (3-2) and the winner today will be in the driver’s seat.

At this time of the season, Johnson is always worried about a young team hitting the wall as the number of games it has played surpasses a high school season. To prepare for that, Johnson has given the non-starters more playing time than in previous years. Everyone has had at least 30 to 40 at-bats.

“The kids are going good,” he said. “They’re staying focused and we’re getting better.”

Pitching has been a constant for Brookdale throughout the season. Lex Wolfe (Lakewood) has gotten the start in all of the team’s big games. He’s 4-1 with a 1.21 ERA The right-hander has a team-high 32 K’s in 37 innings of work and has given up just 20 hits.

Jed Rehfuss (Lakewood), is 5-2 and leads the team with 44 innings of work. The lefty has a 4.70 ERA with 29 K’s and has both started and pitched in relief for the Blues.

Anthony Angarano (Old Bridge) is 3-1 with a 2.07 ERA and Ramon Guzman (Bronx, N.Y.) and Ryan O’Grady (Union) are 2-1. Lefty Cory Hawes (Monmouth Regional) has been lights out in the closer role and has three saves and a 1.50 ERA. Jim Timmons (Morris Knolls) has a pair of saves.

Jimmy Principie (Toms River) is having a big season at the plate. He’s batting .430 and leads the team in home runs with four.

He has 27 RBIs and five doubles and four triples.

Jordan Marsch (Brick Township) is leading the team with a .456 average. He has 15 RBIs and seven doubles. Rehfuss has been productive with the bat too. He’s hitting .421 with 13 RBIs.

As a team, the Blues are batting a healthy .344.

Brookdale will begin defense of its Region XIX championship May 5-6 with first-round games at the home of the higher seed (the Blues are assured of a home series).

The semifinal and finals of the tournament are May 11-13 at Gloucester.

The winner advances to the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament in Tyler, Texas, May 19-25.