Sheppard’s 800th and five other coaching milestones upon us

By Bob Behre | May 7, 2021

Seton Hall Prep’s Mike Sheppard, Jr., left, is on the precipice of his 800th career victory. That’s his dad on the right, the since deceased Mike Sheppard, Sr., who won 998 games at Seton Hall University.

As a service to the baseball community, we published here on Feb. 12 the All-Time NJ High School Baseball Coaches Victories List.

Included were 103 coaches starting with No. 1 Kenny Frank (894) of Toms River South and marching down to Nos. 102 and 103, Brian Anderson (300) of Shawnee and Bill Donoghue (300) of Moorestown. You’re welcome.

We alerted you at the time that eight separate coaching milestones were likely to be reached during the course of this much-anticipated season. One, in fact, has already fallen. Millburn’s Brian Chapman secured career victory No. 200 on May 1 in a 11-5 victory over perennial Hudson County powerhouse St. Peter’s Prep.

Yes, 200 wins isn’t significant when compared to some of the legendary win totals on this list, but Chapman’s .750 career winning percentage entering the season added plenty of juice to achievement. Chapman has a chance to be involved in a much bigger milestone on Monday should Seton Hall Prep, as expected, get past Newark Tech in a Greater Newark Tournament first round game on Saturday.

Seton Hall Prep coach Mike Sheppard, Jr. enters the weekend at 798-210-5 in his remarkable career. That places him third all-time behind Frank and the retired Marty Kenney (832) of Christian Brothers Academy. Should the Pirates dispatch Newark Tech on Saturday, next up would be Chapman and Millburn (8-2), which opened its season with a 4-1 victory over Seton Hall Prep. Social distancing could be a concern that afternoon at Millburn’s home field as Sheppard, Jr. attempts to enter hallowed victory ground.

Millburn is ranked No. 20 in the NJ.com Top 20 and the Pirates are uncustomarily unranked. But look out for the Pirates who opened at 1-2-1 and have since won seven straight.

Five more major milestones could be annexed as early as May 17.

Gov. Livingston’s Chris Roof and Kingsway’s Bill Alvaro each have No. 400 in his crosshairs. Roof, like Chapman, could be faced with a milestone staring him in the face against a fierce conference rival. Roof sits at 397-161-1 with games against Union, today (Friday), and Madison, tomorrow. Should Gov. Livingston get through those games clean, Westfield will be coming to Berkeley Heights on Monday trying to play spoiler.

Alvaro (398-202) needs just two more wins to claim victory No. 400 and his No. 11 Kingsway (8-2) club has five games on the slate next week. That’s helpful considering the first two are against No. 6 St. Augustine, on Monday, and perennial Group 4 power Eastern, on Tuesday.

The man at the top of the victory food chain, Frank, has seen wins tough to come by this spring as the Indians have opened at 2-6. That leaves the Hudson County native and Shore legend four wins shy of No. 900. Toms River South’s rugged Shore Conference schedule is no help to Frank (896-308-3) as it will have to navigate Ocean Twp., Brick Memorial, No. 12 Jackson Memorial, Brick Twp. and Jackson Memorial again in the next five games.

Red hot Bishop Eustace (9-0) is ranked No. 2 in the state and has Sam Tropiano racing toward career victory No. 700. Trop’ needs just five more wins to put yet another milestone behind him. Should Eustace stay as lethal as it’s been, Tropiano (695-251-1) could celebrate No. 700 as early as May 14 (Thursday) at Camden High.

Next up is another South Jersey legend, Dennis Barth of No. 14 Gloucester Catholic (9-1). Barth just returned from the college game and hasn’t lost a beat with his hard-to-fathom victory pace. Barth (494-95-1) is well in line to earn career victory No. 500 in the next week or so while doing so before he loses 100 games. Sick, my friends. Sick. Barth entered the season with an all-time state best .838 winning percentage. Should the Rams roll off five straight, Barth’s milestone would come due on May 17 at Pennsville.

Gary Sarno began his first season at Paul VI in Haddonfield with 481 career victories and was the longest shot in this group. Sarno’s boys have opened at 3-5, so he is still 16 wins shy of career victory No. 500. While the milestone remains a longshot this spring, Paul VI is certainly capable of making a run. Some postseason victories will surely be needed. Sarno sits at 484-298-2.

Enjoy the ball games!

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