Ryan Morash is usually in the middle of things for Hofstra University.
Stetson’s Brandon Hylton has had a flair for early season dramatics.
Hylton, a former Diamond Jack out of Diamond Nation and a Ridge High School grad, drilled a long two-run home run in his first at bat of the season for the Hatters on Saturday.
The lefty-hitting Hylton, batting third for Stetson, came to the plate with one out and a runner aboard in the bottom of the first inning of his team’s season opener against Florida A&M. Hylton promptly launched a shot over the right field wall for a quick 2-0 lead that sent Stetson to a 6-3 victory.
Stetson (4-0) swept the four-game weekend series with Florida A&M and Hylton’s fifth inning sac fly capped the scoring in a 3-1 victory in the third game of the series on Sunday.
The 6-7, 240-pound Hylton is still a red-shirt freshman at Stetson. He was injured prior to the start of his freshman season two years ago and his 2020 season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hylton had opened 2020 incredibly strong, rolling off a nine-game hitting streak to start the season. He had multiple hits in four of those career-opening games. He led Stetson in 2020 with a .357 batting average and was named to the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American team.
A pair of former Diamond Jacks collided over the weekend when Hofstra visited Seton Hall University in a season-opening two-game series in South Orange. Hofstra’s Ryan Morash, a junior third baseman, and first baseman Matt Toke of Seton Hall saw their teams split the series.
Morash, a Gill-St. Bernard’s grad, went 1-for-3 with a stolen base in his team’s 3-2 loss in the opener on Sunday and had a single in his team’s 3-2 victory in the nightcap. Toke, an All-Big East first baseman last year, went hitless in the twin bill. He is a grad student taking advantage of the extra year granted by the NCAA as a result of the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
Christian Hlinka, another former Diamond Jack and a Delaware Valley grad, drew a walk in his three at bats as Virginia, ranked No. 17 in the nation, won 2-out-of-3 games in its weekend series against UConn. Hlinka is a 6-3, 215-pound senior. He was the DH and batted fifth in the second game of the series for the Cavaliers.
Virginia boasts a nice New Jersey flavor to its roster. Joining Hlinka in Charlottesville from the Garden State are junior lefthander Billy Price of Delbarton, sophomore first baseman Tate Ballestero of Morristown, senior infielder/RHP Devin Ortiz of St. Joseph (Mont.) and freshman catcher Kyle Teel of Mahwah. Ballestero also played for the Diamond Jacks.