Brookdale baseball ranked No. 4 in the nation

Brookdale Community College’s baseball team has a tough act to follow.

The sophomores who dominated

the 2007 have graduated, and with them, an era, in a way. They led the Blues to two straight Junior College World Series appearances that include a fourth place last year. The Blues were 82-20 over the those two seasons, winning the Garden State Athletic Conference and Region XIX crowns back-to-back.

Even though the 2008 Jersey Blues are a young teamwith only three starters, Brookdale

started the season ranked No. 4 in the country. That’s because coach Johnny Johnson

is always bringing top talent to the Brookdale campus. That’s why he is looking for a fourth straight trip to theWorld Series. Among the key recruits this year is Keith Weinkofsky, the Ocean Township High School grad who set a Shore Conference record last spring for career home runs.He’s slated to start at first base.

Transfers Andy Vega (New York City Player of the Year) and Gabe Torres are expected to make big contributions.

The returning starters are Ryan Smith, Julian Media (Long Island, N.Y.) and Nick Alberino (Monroe). Smith, a co-captain, was a pre-season All-American. He batted .365 with five home runs and 26 RBI last year. He is a product of Don Bosco Prep.

Johnson likes his team’s offensive balance. Smith, Eddie Galante (Wall) and Weinkofsky provide the middle of the lineup with power while Vega, Gabe Torres, Media, Ivan Rodriquez and Alberino can shake things up at the top of the lineupwith their speed. They can create runs with their baserunning or be table-setters for the power hitters.

Cacciola, Matt Padgett (Toms River), Ryan Casey and ChrisGiblin began the season as the starting rotation. Padgett is the lone returner.

Brookdale certainly lived up to its national ranking down in Florida. The Blues went 10-3 in the Sunshine State.

The Blues started play in the Garden State Conference with an impressive 12-5 win over Union.Weinkofsky’s two-RBI double andAlberino’s two-run home run staked the Blues to a 4-0 lead in the first, and there was no looking back.