March 2nd, 2018



By Bob Behre

As we wait patiently for the start of the high school softball season in New Jersey, our eyes turn to the college ranks where a quartet of extremely talented former Finch’s Aces are beginning their season.

Samantha Smith, an Immaculata grad, begins her senior season at Babson (Mass.) College off three straight outstanding seasons with the Beavers. Babson opens today (Friday, March 2) with a doubleheader opposite Christopher Newport and Trine University in Tucson, Arizona.

Julia Blake, who played scholastically at the Hun School in Princeton, opens her junior campaign at Haverford (Pa.) fresh off a First Team All-Centennial Conference season in which she led her team with a .413 batting average. The Fords open tomorrow (Sat., March 3) at home against Rowan University. 

Megan Zinn surely is chomping at the bit in anticipating her sophomore season at Scranton after a freshman season that saw the Bridgewater High grad start every game and lead the Royals with a .389 batting average. Scranton opens next Saturday, March 10, with a doubleheader against Delaware Valley (Pa.) and New England College in Clermont, Florida.

Watchung Hills grad Alyssa Murray had a productive freshman season, too, at Roger Williams (R.I.) as she and the Hawks prepare for the team’s opener against Elizabethtown (Pa.) next Friday in Minneola, Florida. As a pitcher and utility player, Murray saw action in 40 games last year. 

Smith, an infielder, batted .304 for Babson in 2017 with nine doubles and 26 RBI. She also scored 28 runs and stole nine bases before capping her season with an outstanding performance in the NCAA Regional Tournament held at Babson. Smith batted .444 (4-for-9) in the three-game regional with a double and an RBI and was named to the All-Tournament team.

Blake, who, as a freshman, helped lead Haverford to a stunning regional championship, followed that remarkable season with a big sophomore campaign. She led the Fords with that gaudy .413 average on 31 hits, including five doubles, a triple and two home runs to go with 13 RBI. Her consistency at the plate is perhaps best exhibited by her .488 on-base percentage and .613 slugging percentage. She was named a First Team All-Centennial Conference selection. 

“We have a great core group of returners that have experience and knowledge of the conference,” says Blake, named a team captain. “But also we have five freshman who bring amazing skill and energy to our team.

“My goal this year is to be the best leader and role model I can be for the younger players and win a second Centennial Conference championship.” Blake returns at second base.

Zinn’s hefty freshman batting average was boosted by her 42 hits that included 10 doubles and a triple. She also boasted 26 runs scored and 18 RBI. The Royals team leader in runs and doubles backed up her offensive production by committing just a single error in the outfield. The 2015 Third Team All-State selection at Bridgewater-Raritan High, earned to that a First Team All-Landmark Conference honor last spring.

“We are a little over a week away from leaving for Florida,” said a jacked up Zinn. “We have a very young team with 10 freshman, but we are working well together so far. We have five starters back and a bunch of sophomore and juniors that will have very active roles.

“This season is very special to us because we will be he first to play on our new all-turf softball field. We need to focus on winning each game and working well together. If we can stay focused and motivated, I have a good feeling about this season.”

Murray brought positional with her to diversity Roger Williams University, producing a .291 batting average last spring with 16 runs scored and 16 RBI at the plate while delivering in the circle, too. Murray pitched in 18 of the Hawks games, starting 10 of them. She struck out 26 batters in 65.1 innings as she picked up three wins and sported a 3.86 ERA. The Green Brook (NJ) resident pitched a complete game shutout against Endicott.



By Bob Behre

Former Diamond Jacks, NJ Super 17 players and so many other Garden Staters are sprinkled over college rosters around the nation and particularly along the east coast. Keeping track of this horde of talented players can be daunting because of the sheer numbers but we endeavor to do so in the interest of our fanatical baseball readers. 

This impressive list is no way complete but rather meant to give you a flavor for the large number of talented college ball players representing New Jersey. We will continue to keep you updated on the successes of the top players from the state and the many who’ve sprung form the turf fields at Diamond Nation.

David Yanni, a redshirt sophomore shortstop, is batting .250 through seven games for Pittsburgh but is making his hits count. He has two doubles, a triple, one home run and nine RBI. The former Diamond Jack played just six games last season due to a season-ending injury. The lefty swinging Yanni bats third in the Pitt order. He is a Central Bucks East (Pa.) grad.

Batting right behind Yanni in the Pittsburgh batting order is cleanup hitter Frank Maldonado, a redshirt senior and a Seton Hall Prep grad. Maldonado went 3-for-5 with four RBI in a 17-3 win over Toledo last week. Maldonado’s younger brothers, Nick and Chris, are Diamond Jacks. Vanderbilt-bound Nick Maldonado plays for the NJ Super 17 squad and Chris, an eighth-grader, is a member of the Diamond Jacks Super 14U team.

Christian Hlinka, a former Diamond Jack who played scholastically at Delaware Valley, registered his first collegiate RBI in a Virginia victory over Eastern Kentucky last weekend. Hlinka is a freshman outfielder and has seen action in three games for the 5-3 Cavaliers. What is remarkable about those otherwise humble early stats, Hlinka left high school a year early to begin his college career at UVA.

Two other New Jersey natives join Hlinka on the Virginia roster. They are freshman infielder Andrew Papantonis of Lebanon and freshman pitcher/infielder Devin Ortiz of Nutley. Papantonis, a former Diamond Jack, played for Delbarton in high school and Ortiz played for St. Joseph (Mont.).

Seton Hall University first baseman Matt Toke is a former Diamond Jack slotted into the cleanup spot in the Pirates’ batting order. Toke, a sophomore, is batting .238 through six games but has produced a pair of doubles, a home run and five RBI to go with unblemished play at first base. Toke led Seton Hall in hitting last season.

Jack Mahala, a 6-4, 190 freshman righty out of Seton Hall Prep and a former Diamond Jack, got his feet wet last Friday in Harvard’s wild 5-3 victory over Samford in 15 innings. Mahala entered in the seventh inning and permitted two runs, one of which was earned, on two hits over three solid innings. He struck out three and walked one.

Columbia University freshman Jack Chernow, a former Diamond Jack from Chester, came off the bench in the third inning of the Lions opener and lined a single up the middle in his first collegiate at bat. Chernow played second base and went 1-for-2 in his team’s 8-3 loss to UNLV. He is a West Morris grad.

Scotty Bradley, a redshirt sophomore first baseman at Big Ten favorite Indiana, is coming off an injury-shortened season in 2017 that led to him taking a redshirt. The 6-2, 221-pounder made All-Freshman Big Ten in 2016. The Hopewell Valley grad has two hits in the early going, one of which is a home run, as he works his way back in at first base for a Hoosier squad that returned most of the team that posted a 34-24-2 record and qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2017.

Tom Schumacher leads a trio of former Diamond Jacks off to strong starts for Lehigh University. The junior first baseman out of North Hunterdon is joined by center fielder Mike Maguire, who played his high school ball for Immaculata, and Peter Woltersdorf, a gritty right-handed freshman from Hunterdon Central.

Schumacher is batting .389 for the 2-5 Hawks. He’s scored three runs, has a pair of doubles and boasts a .450 on-base percentage. Maguire is 7-for-28 with four RBI and has started every game in center field. Woltersdorf has yet to allow an earned run in 3.2 innings while permitting just one hit, striking out two and walking two.



By Bob Behre

Anyone who has been to a Somerset Patriots baseball game is well aware of the good feeling one leaves with after a night at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater.
“From day one we’ve worked to do things the right way on and off the field,” said Dave Marek, the Patriots’ Senior Vice President of Marketing. “We’ve always tried to be more than just baseball. We spend the entire year planning and executing our mission at the ballpark and with the entire community.”
The Patriots community is a great swath of Central Jersey, growing exponentially since the franchise’s berth in the Atlantic League in 1998. In fact, the Somerset Patriots are one of the top drawing minor league teams throughout the country, consistently averaging more than 370,000 fans a season and 5,200 per-game.
Success on the field is a big part of that, as is the organization’s family-friendly approach to customer service. “Our area is a tremendous market of families, businesses and community organizations,” says Marek. “Every night at the ballpark generations of families, a large number of co-workers, and community organizations choose to spend their time with us.”
And what better way to entertain those fans than with the highest quality product on the field. The Patriots are the winningest franchise in Atlantic League history, capturing Championship Series titles in 2001, ‘03, ‘05, ‘08, ‘09 and ‘15. The Pats, who’ve played in a total of 10 Atlantic League Championship Series, reached the league semifinals last summer before falling to the Long Island Ducks.
Even the selection of the team’s name was done with care and consideration for the community the organization is very much a part of. The Patriot name derives from the nearby Middlebrook encampment, where the first official flag of the United States was unfurled.
Such care, consideration and attention to detail has made TD Bank Ballpark truly the premier family, corporate and community gathering place in Central New Jersey. “To see how often people continue to enjoy sharing special nights and events at Somerset Patriots games is an honor,” said Marek. There is something for everyone who attends a Somerset Patriots game. Even if you are not the biggest baseball fan in the world, the Patriots provide unparalleled entertainment, food, unbelievable Fireworks Nights and promotions that are sure to make you leave the stadium with a smile on your face.
“We continue to grow both at the ballpark in throughout our community,” says Marek. “We are always looking for new and exciting ways to use the ballpark or introduce new areas to provide unique experiences for our clientele. We always try to stay ahead of the curve with our events and how we engage our audience.”
The Somerset Patriots players are not just here to play baseball. “Our players are community-minded individuals who enhance everyone’s experience at the game, even with something as simple as an autograph or picture with a fan.”
The Patriots organization has found a unique way to combine affordable family and community entertainment with a high level of professional minor league baseball. It has achieved that by providing the best customer service, entertainment and fan access.
“The Patriots organization has been long-time partners with Diamond Nation and HealthQuest fitness center, enabling each partner to reach and engage a great number of people and stay active in our community,” said Marek. “We all share the common values of not just serving our clientele, but also being positive forces in our markets.”
(908) 252-0700  •  1 Patriots Park, Bridgewater, NJ 08807