It’s difficult to fathom that Jared Greenzang entered his senior year at Hopewell Valley Central High School having yet to play a single game of varsity baseball.
Greenzang, a big, strong righthander with a mid-to-high 80s fastball and a getting-nastier-by-the-minute slider will provide an eye-opening introduction to Colonial Valley Conference hitters this spring. Hopewell Valley is the defending conference champ and projects to again be a handful for its Mercer County opponents.
Greenzang will have a lot to do with the headaches ahead for the Bulldogs’ CVC competition.
The 6-2, 195-pounder was a late commit to Rider University after first missing his sophomore season due to the COVID pandemic and losing his junior campaign a year ago after suffering a hip injury in a pre-season scrimmage.
“I injured my right hip on an awkward swing,” said Greenzang, who was also lined up to play outfield and be a factor in the Bulldogs’ lineup in 2021. “I fractured the hip and tore a small ligament. I remember the swing before it. I felt the hip tighten up. On the next pitch it just popped.”
The setback forced Hopewell Valley coach Ken Harrison to alter his own plans for a season already threatened by the lingering pandemic. The Mercer County coaches had already scrapped the Mercer County Tournament, always one of the state’s gems, and replaced it with the Colonial Valley Conference Tournament.
But much of the 2021 spring season went off, otherwise, without a hitch and the Bulldogs made the most of the Mercer County coaches’ switch to the CVC tournament. Hopewell Valley would post an ordinary 12-10 record on the season but seemed at its best in big games. Its 4-0 run through the CVC Tournament included victories over annual powerhouses Notre Dame (6-5), Allentown (3-1) and Steinert (6-3 in the championship game). Dylan Eng ripped a three-run home run in the top of the eighth inning to give Hopewell Valley its victory over Steinert and the league title.
While Greenzang was right there cheering on his teammates and slowly rehabbing his injured hip, the Bulldogs would, nonetheless, not benefit from what potentially had shaped up as a breakout season for the righthander.
“I was in the dugout,” said Greenzang. “It was hard. I just wanted to be on the field.” Harrison could feel for his young pitcher. “Jared was a great teammate last year,” he said. “He was at the games and supported our squad.”
Hopewell Valley defeated Brick Twp., 10-0, in its first round NJSIAA tournament game in Central Jersey, Group 3 but fell to local rival Hamilton West, 2-1, in a wildly entertaining eight-inning grinder in the quarterfinals. Hopewell Valley had performed well again in a big spot, but could not get the win this time.
“Jared was limping around earlier in the season and started to feel pretty good. He was even cleared for the Hamilton game,” said Harrison. “I think if we got past Hamilton we would have seen him on the field.”
Greenzang did get back on the field sooner than he expected and was ready to go for the Diamond Jacks Super 17U’s first summer tournament.
“The recovery wasn’t as bad as I first interpreted it to be,” said Greenzang. “I thought I’d be rehabbing through the majority of the summer but I was back for our first tournament. I wasn’t 100 percent but I was back.”
Greenzang grinded through six weeks of physical therapy, working through what he says were a lot of mobility issues with the hip. “Before I knew it things just started to click with the hip,” he said.
But Greenzang admits he really didn’t feel like he was all the way through the recovery process and back to being himself on the mound again until the fall.
“The fall was definitely my best season,” said Greenzang. “I felt like I fully recovered. My arm felt great.”
Greenzang played for coach Kevin Cust all summer and fall, so his development and improvement from June to September was clearly evident to the man calling the shots.
“Jared was awesome in the fall,” says Cust. “He just figured it out and really took off. He made one of the biggest jumps I’ve ever seen a kid make in the last 15 years, both physically and mentally. His slider was up to 82.”
Greenzang’s fastball sits in the mid-to-high 80s and hit 89 this fall, so it’s pretty plain to see the challenges he’ll present this spring to high school batters.
“I like to use my fastball to get ahead in the count,” he said, “and I use my slider to finish off hitters. I got a really good feel for it in the fall. It’s consistent with good movement and I’m able to keep it low in the zone.”
He also throws a changeup to keep hitters off-balance and guessing. “I use the changeup mainly against lefties. I feel like I have good movement on it but I need to work on my feel with it. Changeups are all about feel.”
Cust and the rest of the Diamond Jack coaches weren’t the only ones who noticed Greenzang’s drastic improvement in the fall as Greenzag’s recruitment, stifled first by COVID and then by injury, suddenly turned in his favor.
“I got in contact with Rider in September after a Perfect Game event in North Jersey,” said Greenzang. “After that they started coming to a majority of my games.” Iona was another school in the mix for Greenzang’s services.
That first Rider contact, coincidentally, was by another pitcher with Mercer County roots, Steinert and Rider grad Mike Petrowski, the Broncs’ pitching coach the past two seasons.
Finally, Greenzang visited the campus in Lawrenceville and met head coach Barry Davis. “I went up with my mom in October and walked around and they offered,” said Greenzang. “Rider has a good program. They’ve brought in a lot of new pitching. I like their pitching coach. I was comfortable there.” Rider won its third Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) title last year, stunning top-seeded Fairfield, 7-2, in the championship game.
With his recruitment suddenly settled, and his arm, hip and body returned to prime shape, Greenzang can now focus on making those incremental improvements in the off-season in preparation for what is certainly as highly an anticipated senior season a player could have.
“I’m lifting and I’m throwing as often as I can,” said Greenzang. “In a typical week, I lift three or four times and throw three or four days. I work on different things each day. It’s a good time to focus on my different pitches. I’m feeling good.”
Pre-season prep is one thing. Can you imagine how pumped Greenzang will be come March after having not played high school ball for so long?
“I’m honestly really excited to play this spring,” he said. “I haven’t played high school ball since my freshman year. Our team is going to Florida before the season starts and I’m definitely fired up for that trip.”
Greenzang joined the Diamond Jacks at the 13U level and often spent time working with Diamond Nation pitching coach Brian DelRosso. “DelRo helped me out a lot,” says Greenzang. “He made sure he took the time to point out my weaknesses and show me how to fix them.”
DelRosso says Greenzang has always been prepared to work.
“Jared always came to listen and work every day he stepped through the door,” said DelRosso. “Those characteristics will translate well for him at the next level. He accepts criticism very well and always strived to be a top level prospect. He is prepared to have a huge senior year. I wish I could work with 100 Jared Greenzangs. I’d consider myself lucky.”
Harrison considers he and the Bulldogs fortunate to get Greenzag back on the field this spring.
“Jared would have been one of our top of the line starters last year,” said Harrison. “In fact, he was on the varsity roster as a sophomore before COVID hit. Obviously the first thing you notice with him is the velocity. Mid-80s velocity is pretty hard for a high school kid.
“He’s a big strong kid and super athletic. Our players played basketball during their morning workouts this fall and Jared was dunking. We are hearing he is looking really good, which is great for the team. I know he fine-tuned some stuff this summer. He’ll be a big time starter for us, eating up innings.”
There is certainly nothing in Greenzang’s way this time.