By Bob Behre
It’s pretty neat when two players from the same team are recruited by Division 1 schools. It’s even better when each is drafted by a major league team. Better still when they begin their professional careers impressively.
St. Joseph of Metuchen grads Brandon Bielak and James Ziemba are already making a name for themselves and for their high school by performing well at the lower levels of minor league ball.
The two pitchers played for coach Steve Bucchignano at St. Joes.
Bielak, drafted in the 11th round out of Notre Dame by Houston, has opened his professional career with a 2-1 record and a miniscule 0.90 ERA over 30 innings for the Gulf Coast League Astros and Tri-City of the Low-A New York Penn League.
Ziemba, drafted in the 22nd round out of Duke by the L.A. Angels, is off to a 3-0 start with a 2.08 ERA over 26 innings for the rookie level Orem Owlz.
Bielak, a 6-1, 193-pound righty, has started in three of his nine appearances, permitting just three earned runs, striking out 35 and walking four. He is pitching to a paltry 0.77 WHIP.
The lefty Ziemba, a 6-10, 230-pound specimen, has appeared in 17 games while starting just once. He has permitted six earned runs, struck out 33 and walked 12. He’s posted a 1.23 WHIP.
Both players benefitted from the experience of playing in the ultra-competitive Cape Cod League in the summer of 2016.
Bielak recorded an 11-11 record with a 3.86 ERA in three seasons for Notre Dame. He struck out 191 batters and walked 99 over 217 career innings. Ziemba was 3-5 with a 4.98 ERA and struck out 95 while walking 53 in 85 career innings for Duke.
Houston drafted Bielak 331st overall and Ziemba was plucked at No. 655 by the Angels.
Bielak was the Middlesex County Player of the Year his senior year at St. Joseph when he also earned First Team All-State recognition. He registered an 8-1 record and a 0.82 ERA that spring. Ziemba struck out 43 batters in 36 innings his senior year and posted a 3.89 ERA. He also played on St. Joseph’s basketball team where he won four Middlesex County Tournament championships.