Jersey’s college boys off to fast start on opening weekend

By Bob Behre

The start of the 2018 college baseball season last Friday was certainly a breath of fresh air in the cold northeast.

As high school players continue their countdown to March 1 and the first day of practices around the state, Diamond Nation.com will keep an eye on our Jersey boys getting it done on the collegiate level.

Here’s a few fine performances we noticed during the first weekend of the college baseball season.

Christian Brothers grad Brandon Martorano, a junior and starting catcher for North Carolina, opened the season with a 6-for-9 performance during a three-game sweep of Xavier. Martorano, an All-State selection at CBA, ripped a pair of doubles, hit a home run, drove in three runs and scored six runs for the Tar Heels. All that while batting ninth in the North Carolina order.

Martorano’s high schohol and UNC teammate, big righthander Gianluca Dalatri got the nod at the very front of the Tar Heels’ rotation, starting Friday’s season opener. Dalatri, a consistent strike-thrower, had some uncustomary trouble with his command. He allowed three runs on three hits, struck out three, walked two and hit two batters before being pulled after 2.1 innings in Carolina’s 12-3 victory.

Former Diamond Jack Mike Maguire picked up where he left off from a productive sophomore season at Lehigh University. Maguire, who leads off and plays center field for the Hawks went 4-for-12 while his team was being swept by Duke. Maguire’s teammate and fellow Diamond Jack sophomore righthander Peter Woltersdorf, pitched 3.2 innings of two-hit shutout relief in Lehigh’s game three loss. Woltersdorf struck out three and walked one. A third Diamond Jack alum saw action for Lehigh as Tom Schumacher started games one and three in the series at first base, but did not get a hit. Schumacher is a North Hunterdon grad.

Across the diamond was another Diamond Jacks alum, Duke third baseman Erikson Nichols, who performed brilliantly in the sweep for the Blue Devils. Nichols went 5-for-9, drove in four runs and scored twice. Duke, by the way, has six players from New Jersey on its roster and more on the way, including current Diamond Jacks Alex Stone (2020), Luke Storm (‘20) and Adam Boucher (‘20).

Monroe grad Robbie Peto of Stetson had a nice performance while absorbing a hard luck 4-3 loss to Sam Houston State on Saturday. Peto, a 6-4, 215-pound redshirt sophomore, permitted two runs, one of which was earned, on six hits over 5.1 innings. He struck out three and walked three. Fellow Garden Stater Jon Meola, a Toms River North grad, delivered a double in the game.

Diamond Jacks alum Brandon Hylton, a talented freshman first baseman, was a noticeable absence from the Stetson lineup. Hylton was expected to bat in the middle of the Stetson lineup but suffered a torn meniscus sliding into third base prior to the season. He is expected to be out for the season and pot for a redshirt.

Manhattan catcher Matt Padre, yet another Diamond Jacks alum, batted either third or fourth in the batting order when his team went 1-2 in a three-game set at Stetson that included Sam Houston State and Virginia Tech. Padre had a single in Manhattan’s 5-2 victory over Stetson on Sunday.

Seton Hall first baseman Matt Toke began his junior season in style, cracking a two-run home run in a season opening 4-3 loss to Ohio State. Toke is slotted in the No. 3 spot in the Pirates’ batting order. Seton Hall suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of the Buckeyes.

David Yanni is batting fourth and playing third base for Pittsburgh, which opened the season with a victory over Villanova before dropping three straight to Iowa, Marshall and Milwaukee. Yanni, a junior and former NJ Super 17 player, singled and scored a run in the opening day win against Villanova.

A pair of freshmen from the Diamond Jacks program, righthander Mike Murray and infielder Ryan Morash, saw action during their very first weekend of college ball for Hofstra. Murray pitched a scoreless and hitless inning of relief in Hofstra’s game four loss to the University of Incarnate Word. Morash started both the third and fourth games of the weekend series at second base, going 3-for-7 with a double and a run scored. He batted leadoff in his first college start on Saturday and went 2-for-5 from the leadoff spot.

Two teams loaded with NJ players, Rutgers and St. John’s, were swept in their respective opening weekends against Miami and UCLA. Rutgers freshman catcher Peter Serruto of Millburn delivered a pinch-hit single in his first career at bat during the Scarlet Knights’ game one loss. Serruto struck out in a pinch hitting opportunity in the second game before getting the start behind the plate for game three. Serruto cashed in on that opportunity, going 2-for-4 with an RBI from the No. 8 spot in the Rutgers batting order.

Serruto’s teammate, sophomore center fielder Mike Nyisztor went 3-for-5 and scored a run in Rutgers game three loss to the Hurricanes. Nyisztor is a Toms River North grad.

Ocean City’s Sean Mooney, Gloucester Catholic’s Ian Murphy and Colts Neck’s Mike Antico had fine starts to the 2019 season for St. John’s, which was swept in its three games in Los Angeles against UCLA. Mooney limited UCLA to one run on three hits over 5.2 innings in a tough luck 3-2 loss in the opener. The righthander struck out eight and walked four. Murphy pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless relief in game two, striking out two and walking two. The junior Antico, batting leadoff and playing left field, had his first hit of the season in the second game. Talented freshman catcher Colin Wetterau, a Shawnee High School grad, saw some early action, going 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter in game two before getting the start at first base in game three. He was 0-for-3 and scored a run in the 9-3 loss to Miami.

Another talented pitcher who played many a game at Diamond Nation during his high school years, is sophomore righthander Dan Klepchick of Monmouth University. Klepchick, coming off a MAAC Conference Rookie Pitcher of the Year performance in 2018, put forth a terrific effort in the Hawk’s 1-0 loss to Penn State on Friday. Klepchick shut out the Nittany Lions on three hits over 6.2 innings, striking out six and walking one.

Mike Salvatore, a senior second baseman and leadoff hitter at Florida State, had a huge opening weekend in the team’s 4-0 sweep of Maine. Ewing’s Salvatore, who was selected in the 19th round of the 2015 MLB Draft by Cincinnati, went 7-for-16 with seven RBI in the series against Maine. Watch for Salvatore’s name in MLB’s 2019 Draft.

North Hunterdon grad Shayne Fontana is off to another outstanding start to a season at Division 2 Lynn University in Florida. Fontana is batting .389 with four HR, 13 RBI, 15 runs-scored and four stolen bases for the 7-2 Fighting Knights.