Monroe baseball team faces early struggles in move to Red Division


By Jimmy Allinder

The first quarter of the season is complete and what was supposed to be a promising spring for the Monroe Township High School baseball team hasn’t happened.

The Falcons, who are now members of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division, were 4-3 overall following a 4-3 loss to Blue Division opponent Spotswood High School April 15. Monroe is 3-1 in division play with a pair of wins against Perth Amboy High School and a split of back-to-back games with Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen, which makes the Falcons very much alive in that race.

“We’re coming off a year when we went 10-0 in the White Division and won a third consecutive [title],” coach Pat Geroni said. “We’re proud of that, but the season kind of ended on a disappointing note.”

The Falcons lost to John P. Stevens High School in the semifinals of the conference tournament and to Edison High School in the second round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group IV tournament to finish 15-6 overall.

Despite losing a number of quality performers due to graduation, Monroe is projected to be among the best in the GMC. The Falcons are bolstered by multiple arms in the pitching department, which is important because of a rule change requiring pitchers to rest a certain number of days based on how many throws they make in previous appearances.

Senior Eric Heatter, who is committed to Rutgers University, has been a workhorse leading in innings pitched (11) and strikeouts (15), and he is 1-1. Junior Nick Payero has also been a mainstay with 10 innings of work, striking out 10 with a 1-0 record, while senior Chris Perdoni and junior Matt Zurawiecki are both 1-0. Freshman Anthony Bruno, senior Shawne Eldridge and sophomore Matt Fopeano have also contributed innings.

The starting lineup changes every game depending on who the Falcons face. Payero is either at shortstop or third base, Heatter plays first base, Perdoni is at shortstop or third base and senior Matt Sorrento plays first base.

Freshman Bryant Skurbe plays center field or in the infield; junior Conor Carey is at third base, second base or in the outfield; senior Joe Pedulla is at second base, shortstop or left field; senior Nick Quercia is in the outfield; Eldridge is at third base or first base; and senior Tim Ruckdesckl is the catcher.

“We plan to shuffle a lot of players at different positions,” Geroni, said. “The idea is to get the best matchups against our opponents.”

Top reserves include seniors Christian Quijano (outfield), Connor Schmidt (outfield), Dan Leitner (first base), Chris Kutch (pitcher) and Will Niven (outfield). The juniors are Spencer Mochari (catcher), Michael Dalton (catcher), Vin Abene (infield), Kevin Maiola (pitcher/infield), and Christian Vilchis (infield/outfield). There’s also sophomore Louie Folgore (outfield/infield/pitcher).

“We expect the move up to the Red Division will be a challenge, but every season, the goal is to win as many championships as we can,” Geroni said.