2006-04-20 / Front Page
Kalish-led Caseys sure looking like contenders
BY DOUG McKENZIE
So with his team entering the week with all nine starters in the lineup hitting around or above the .400 mark, you can understand why the sixth-year coach is pleased with the early results this spring.
"We're hitting the ball as if it's May," Martinez said. "And that's a great sign."
And the pitching has been as good as advertised, as Martinez had been able to throw several different arms at opponents, all with solid results.
Leading the staff is senior Ryan Kalish, one of the top players in the state both on the mound and at the plate.
Kalish, who is headed to the University of Virginia on a baseball scholarship in the fall, came into the season a marked man - the guy you simply couldn't allow to beat you - and for good reason.
"He's the ace of the staff, a hard thrower who also knows how to pitch," Martinez said. "He's throwing it about 88 to 89 mph, with a good curveball that he's developed over the course of his career. He also has a real nice change-up, with has become a huge pitch for him with guys sitting on his fastball."
And he's just as dangerous at the plate, where he hit .470 last year with a .587 on-base percentage. And once he gets on base, he can beat you there too, as evidenced by his 32 steals and 34 runs scored a year ago.
"He's a special player who really understands the game," Martinez said. "It's like having another coach on the field the way he barks out orders and instructions to his teammates from center field."
With such a pronounced resume, Kalish has to remain patient at the plate, as he is not likely to see many good pitches over the course of the game.
"He knows that if he walks, he can steal second and third on the next two pitches," Martinez said. "There are just so many ways he can beat you.
What is making things easier for Kalish thus far has been the protection offered by senior third baseman Greg Geran. Geran went into Thursday's game with Holmdel batting .636 with 6 RBIs.
"He's been swinging the bat phenomenal," Martinez said. "And his success is key since he bats behind Kalish, who sees maybe one or two good pitches every game. Greg has been coming up with men on base, and he's taking advantage of it.
"And Ryan is not facing as much pressure with Geran hitting the way he is," the coach added.
The rest of the lineup is also performing thus far, starting at the top with junior right fielder Jeff Couch and senior catcher Pete Koar. After Kalish and Geran is junior shortstop J.C. Menna, senior first baseman Matt Siuzdak, sophomore designated hitter Kyle O'Neill, and the left field platoon of junior Greg Stipisich and Mike Oriolo.
Mike's younger brother, John Oriolo, starts as shortstop when Menna pitches, where he provides a good glove, according to the coach.
"We certainly don't lose much defensively when he's in there," Martinez said.
While Kalish heads the pitching staff, Martinez has plenty of other live arms to throw at opponents. Junior lefty Pat Quinn is the No. 2 starter, and is coming off a 4-1 year last spring.
"He's a crafty pitcher who figures out ways to get outs," Martinez said.
Mike Yaccurine has also looked good early on.
"He's a guy who beat Carney, the No. 12 team in the state, at the Shore Challenge last year, and hasn't looked back since. He shut out Matawan [last week] for us, and Matawan is a team that has always killed us for as long as I can remember."
When things get hairy late in the game, Martinez turns to Menna, who is a reliable closer with a knack for getting tough outs.
Coming off a 19-10 season last spring, the Caseys are hoping for even more this year. Thus far, they're 5-1, including 4-1 Class A Central, and have emerged as the team to beat in the division.
But before they look to far ahead, Martinez is content taking it one game at a time.
"We start off the year with a No. 1 goal of going after the division title," he said. "Once that's taken care of, everything else will fall into place. Chances are good that you'll qualify for the state and Shore Conference tournaments, and then you start to worry about seeds. We've made a habit of making things difficult for ourselves in the past, having to go play early round games in places like Toms River, and we'd rather not have to do that again this year."
The Caseys entered the week ranked fourth in the Shore behind CBA, Brick and Toms River East, but will have plenty of opportunities to climb the ladder the rest of the way.
This week, RBC traveled to Rumson-Fair Haven to take on the Bulldogs on Tuesday, and have an important divisional matchup with Raritan today at Count Basie Park in Red Bank. On Saturday, they'll take on Manasquan on the road in another divisional contest featuring two of the Shore's elite teams.