Summertime is the right time for ABCCL action

BY DOUG McKENZIE Correspondent

With the summer heat upon us, action in the Atlantic Baseball Confederation Collegiate League (ABCCL) wood-bat baseball league is beginning to sizzle once again.

Some the nation’s top collegiate ballplayers have descended upon the Shore area to play in the 11th ABCCL season, while many of the top local players have returned to their hometowns to play for one of the league’s eight teams.

The season runs from Memorial Day weekend to Aug. 1, and games are usually played on Tuesdays and Thursdays with doubleheaders on Sunday. The league uses wooden bats and, as President Monique Koehler, a Middletown resident likes to point out, “plays on real grass.”

“It’s baseball the way people remember it,” she said. In fact, even the league’s mission statement on its Web site ( refers to itself as New Jersey “baseball as it was meant to be.”

The league has grown in popularity and in skill level every year to the point where there’s now a waiting list for players wanting to get in. Even college coaches have contacted the league wanting some of their players to get on a roster, any roster, to get more experience.

“A lot of our players will go back to school and their batting average will double,” Koehler said. “Our players win so many awards when they got back to college, and almost a dozen were drafted.”

This summer, there seems to be a healthy level of parity in the league, with no clear-cut favorites emerging through the first weeks of the season.

The Manchester Yankees, managed and coached by John Ryan, entered the week with the league’s top mark at 9-3-2. Among the top performers for the Yankees has been Oceanport’s Dennis Chachko (1- 0, 1.86 ERA), a 6-6 hard-throwing righthander who is entering his senior season at Niagara University. Matawan’s Tyler Renner, a junior at Salem Community College is also part of the Yankees’ pitching staff, along fellow Matawan alum Dan Morris, a junior at Dutchess Community College in New York.

The Monmouth Monarchs, managed by Larry Ennis and coached by Jim Duffy, entered the week just percentage points behind the Yankees at 9-3-3, thanks in large part to the efforts of Colts Neck’s Sean Driscoll. Driscoll, a senior at Bucknell, is off to a 2-0 start with a 0.86 ERA, allowing just one earned run on 11 hits in 11 innings of work.

The Freehold Clippers, who feature a number of Shore Conference products, were 8-6 entering the week, led by general manager Tom Porricelli and head coach Jay Blackwell. Among the Clippers top players are Freehold’s Ryan Cuneo (a junior first baseman at the University of Delaware), Dominick Hayes (a sophomore outfielder at NJIT), Marc Hubbert (a junior catcher at FDU-Madison), Rich Pultar (a junior pitcher at Rowan), Rodger Wilmot (a sophomore outfielder at the University of Hartford) and Chase Majewski (a sophomore outfielder at FDUMadison; Red Bank’s Jason D’Amico (a senior pitcher at Susquehanna University); Tinton Falls Mike Sevilla (a sophomore infielder at Iona University) and Joe Connors (a freshman pitcher at Brookdale); Howell’s Tom Poricelli (a junior infielder at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke); Colts Neck’s Ed Daniele (a junior infielder at Stevens Institute of Technology); Fair Haven’s Jim Laufer (a sophomore infielder/catcher at Boston College) and Ben Miller (a sophomore pitcher at Rowan University); Eatontown’s Glen Seitz (a junior infielder at Lehigh); Shrewsbury’s Chris Griffin (a sophomore utility player at Iona); Manalapan’s Jordan Noval (a senior catcher at Felician College), Kevin Ernst (a junior pitcher at Felician) and Robert Falk (a senior pitcher at Rutgers-Newark); Aberdeen’s Danny Conti (a junior pitcher at Felician) and Rumson’s Chris Miller (a sophomore pitcher at Franklin and Marshall in Pennsylvania).

Cuneo has been the big bat early on for the Clippers (which should come as no surprise to Shore Conference baseball fans), as the slugger has 14 hits in 36 at-bats for a .389 average, with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Majewski has also hit well early on (13-for- 38, .342), while Hubbert and Wilmot are also hitting above .300.

The Ocean Giants, managed by Tom Del Franco and coached by Eric Holck, are just 3-3 thus far, but feature a handful of local players, including Raritan’s Keith Kwiatek (a senior outfielder at Ramap), Keyport’s Brenden Davis (a junior utility player at Oklahoma Baptist University), Brick’s F.J. Lucchetti (a sophomore pitcher at Wagner) and Dan Diaz (a sophomore pitcher at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia), and Jackson’s Dave Ricci (a sophomore pitcher at Bloomfield College).

The ABCCL Thunder, managed by Steve Mayer and coached by Dave Wilson, is 5-7-1 thus far, and also features a handful of local products. Among the players familiar to Shore Conference baseball fans are Wall Township’s Matt Logan (a sophomore infielder at Wagner) and Derek Beckman (a redshirt senior at Princeton), Middletown’s Joe Durso (a senior first baseman/outfielder at Moravian College), Freehold’s Casey Walko (a senior outfielder at Central Connecticut State) and Shrewsbury’s Chris Johnson (a junior catcher/first baseman at James Madison University).

And finally, the Jersey Shore Tides, managed by Peter Kapsales and coached by Jeremy Milonas, entered the week at 5-8-2, led by a number of local products. They include Holmdel’s Mickey Zudonyi (a sophomore infielder at Felician), Joe Brescia (a sophomore pitcher at Felician) and Tim Griswold (a sophomore infielder at St. Anslem College in New Hampshire), Manalapan’s Pete Delleani (a junior shortstop at Rowan), Aberdeen’s Julian Sonnenfeld (a sophomore infielder at Wesleyan University), Brick’s Sam Sciamerelli (a sophomore outfielder at Long Island University), Lincroft’s Dan Anderson (a senior pitcher at the College of New Jersey), and Ocean Township’s Greg Spatz (a junior pitcher at TCNJ). Zudonyi (12-for- 31, .387) and Griswold (4-for-10) have been among the top hitters for the Tides early on, while Spatz has pitched to a 3.31 ERA in 16 innings of work.

The ABCCL schedule continues today and on Sunday, with the annual all-star game rapidly approaching. The game, which highlights the ABCCL season, is scheduled for Wednesday, July 16, at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, home of the Lakewood BlueClaws. It begins with a workout for a number of Major League Baseball scouts at 5:30 p.m., to be followed immediately by the game.

From there, the teams will finish jockeying for position in the playoffs, scheduled to start on Thursday, July 24. The finals are scheduled for Aug. 2 at Monmouth University.