All one needs do is take a gander at the game-by-game results, and it’s quickly apparent the Lawrence Post 414 baseball team was the epitome of a young but talented squad this year.
Jason Zegarski’s team played the role of world beater on some nights but looked like a roster full of freshmen on others.
Lawrence had one win apiece over Allentown, Hightstown, Broad Street Park and Hopewell, which combined for an overall regular-season record of 61-27. Teams don’t do that if they’re not talented. But Post 414 also dropped games to Princeton, North Hamilton and Ewing, which had a combined record of 11-55. Teams don’t do that if they are experienced.
The result was a 10-12 record entering the July 15 District Tournament, where Lawrence was scheduled to play the Ridgewood Rebels.
“It’s been up and down,” said Ryan Sullivan, a rising junior at Lawrence High. “But we just kept battling.”
“We had a great defense,” added Trevor Delcampe, an LHS rising senior. “We played hard and we didn’t shut down when things weren’t going well. And we had a good pitching staff.”
Sullivan and Delcampe are two of the numerous players who will return next year for Lawrence, which was one of the rawest teams in the Mercer County American Legion League.
“We’re a young squad. We have three 18-year-olds, the rest are all sophomores and juniors,” Zegarski said. “The question was, are we going to get a full seven innings from these guys each game? When we got the full seven we were successful. When we didn’t, we weren’t.”
Those full seven innings seemed to come against the league’s top tier teams, whereas Post 414 would, on occasion, play down to the level of second-division outfits.
“It seemed to be when we played the better competition we brought our A game,” Zegarski said. “We just needed to bring that every game. As a young team hopefully we can build on that for years to come. For the most part, everybody stepped up, the older guys and the younger guys. I’ll take it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a senior, sophomore, whatever. You want to step up and lead the team, feel free.”
Despite the inconsistencies, the fifth-year coach was enthused by his squad, saying this team is one of the best he’s coached.
One of the reasons for Zegarski’s optimism is that Lawrence went an impressive 6-2 in one-run games during the regular season, showing that it had the heart to grind out victories.
“We were in a lot of one-run games and we were lucky to win the majority of them,” the skipper said. “That’s the sign of a good team; winning one-run ball games.”
The next step is to win low-scoring games when the offense short circuits.
“I said coming in ‘If we hit, we’re going to be fine,’” Zegarski said. “The games where we came and we hit, we were fine. We have to find a way to win those other games when we don’t hit.”
What Lawrence did have was a strong one-two punch in starting pitching behind Tanner Adamczyk and Dan Brauer, the team’s 18-year-olds along with Owen Cuteano. Adamczyk, who missed time due the Sunshine Football Classic, was 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA, two complete games and a save during the regular season. Brauer was 3-2 with a 3.33 ERA and two complete games.
“They’ve been our horses,” Zegarski said. “They kept us in the game. Every time they were on the mound we knew we’re going to be in the game.”
Sullivan agreed, saying that, “Our strength was definitely our pitching. We had two guys who can really pitch well.”
Also helping out was Delcampe, who went 1-1 with a complete-game shutout.
“Trevor’s been a jack of all trades, whether he’s playing third, on the mound, at catcher,” Zegarski said. “Wherever we need him, he goes.”
Delcampe had no problem with his unsettled positions.
“I loved it,” he said. “This is the only team I play for in the summer with and I’ve been moving everywhere. It’s been interesting.”
Offensively, Jacob Kmiec led the way with a .327 average during the regular season, while Ryan Castoral hit .300 and Brauer was at .275 with 10 RBI.
“We had a couple injuries so we had to have a couple of the sophomores really step up,” Zegarski said. “Ryan Mains, Ryan Castoral, Ryan Sullivan, Jake Kmiec, they all stepped up and did their job for the most part.
“We just had a nice little mix of kids, where we plug and play multiple positions. That’s what we look for. The problem was, it just seemed the bats went hot and cold and that just seemed how our season went.”
Post 414 was able to make the post-season thanks to a fast start. Much of that had to do with the immediate chemistry that formed between players from LHS and Notre Dame.
“In the beginning of the season I saw how we came together as a team,” Delcampe said. “The Lawrence kids and Notre Dame kids did not really know each other. We just bonded, though, and came together as a team and that made a huge difference.”
Zegarski felt that was extremely important, as it had been a slight issue in the past.
“This team gelled more quickly,” he said. “That’s always been the problem. It seems to take half a year for the two teams to gel together, but it seemed like we were really together from the start. We got off to a hot start early and it paid off and put us in the districts.”