BELLEVILLE – The Belleville High School varsity baseball team last season moved up two divisions to the Super Essex Conference-American Division, which is the highest division of the conference.
The Bucs had to face the likes of such perennial contenders as Seton Hall Prep, Millburn, Bloomfield and Nutley, just to name a few.
But the Bucs managed to have a competitive season, finishing with a 13-14 overall record. That included advancing to the quarterfinals of the Greater Newark Tournament – which is considered the Essex County Tournament – where they lost to eventual champion Seton Hall Prep. The Bucs also advanced to the state North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 tournament quarterfinals, losing to Randolph.
With a diligent group of players, the Bucs hope to build off last year’s progress this season.
“We hope to build on what we accomplished last year,” said BHS head coach Joe Sorce, entering his 10th year at the helm. “We jumped two divisions and played in the American Division and we certainly think we had a good year. We won 13 games; we won a first round game in the GNT (6-5 win over Montclair); we won in the first round of the state tournament (7-2 win over Kearny). We want to build on that.
“We got a good bunch of kids,” Sorce added. “We got five seniors, all seem to be major contributors this year.”
The seniors are twins Dustin and Dylan Walicky, who will play third base and catcher, respectively; pitcher/center fielder Adrian Alarcon; shortstop Allen Cruz and second baseman Andrew Perez. The Walicky twins are four-year starters. Dylan threw out 13 runners and hit over .300, while Dustin batted .328 and played DH in the final weeks after being hampered by a shoulder injury last season.
Alarcon is a three-year starter. Cruz also batted .328 while playing shortstop, third base and second base last year.
Sorce has been pleased by his seniors’ play this spring.
“Those five guys are having a pretty good spring and they look like they are going to lead us,” Sorce said.
The juniors are outfielder Sam Abreu, pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Brayan Villar; pitcher/first baseman Mark Cruz, Allen’s younger brother; pitcher/first baseman Anthony Roman; pitcher/outfielder Alex Luna; and outfielder Brandon Basantes.
The sophomores are catcher/pitcher Dan Pinedo; pitcher Justin Klus; and outfielder/infielder Dominick Borowski.
The Bucs have improved since the first day of preseason, much to Sorce’s delight.
“We’re fortunate that we got six scrimmages in already,” said Sorce on Sunday night, March 20. “We’ve definitely have gotten better this week than we did in our first two opening scrimmages. We’ve scrimmaged so far Colonia, Westfield ,Passaic Valley, Newark East Side and a doubleheader with Johnson. So far we have seen kids in game situations, which is obviously good, and we’re going to see a lot more because we got four scrimmages lined up this week and one next week before our first (regular-season) game.”
The Bucs are scheduled to scrimmage at Scotch Plains on Monday, March 21, weather permitting. If that game is canceled due to inclement weather, it will be rescheduled for Tuesday, March 22. BHS then will scrimmage at Governor Livingston in Berkeley Heights on March 23; at Kearny on March 24; host Mount Olive on Saturday, March 26, at 11 a.m. and host Rutherford on Monday, March 28.
The Bucs will open the season on April 1 at home against defending state Group 4 champion Millburn. BHS will host Glen Ridge on April 2 in a SEC non-division game.
Getting good pitching will go a long way toward the Bucs’ goal of having a successful season.
“I think we need to see where are pitching goes,” said Sorce. “Alarcon got a lot of innings as a junior. Brayan Villar got some innings as a sophomore later in season, and the rest of the guys were sub-varsity pitchers. So now we are going to see who is going to fit in behind those two guys in roles. And that’s what March is for, and sometimes you really don’t figure that out until you are into the season. But I like where we are at. We got a real, good bunch of kids, and they’re working really hard every day. They enjoy playing baseball and they seem like they really enjoy playing together. I think this group will be just fine.”
Seton Hall Prep
Belleville HS schedule
April 1, Millburn
April 2, Glen Ridge, 11 a.m.
April 4, at Livingston
April 6, Caldwell
April 8, at Nutley
April 9, at West Essex, 3 p.m.
April 11, Seton Hall Prep
April 13, Montclair
April 14, at Bloomfield, 7 p.m.
April 16, West Orange, 7 p.m.
April 18, Newark Academy
April 20, at Millburn
April 21, Lodi
April 22, at Linden
April 23, at Paterson Kennedy, 11 a.m.
April 25, Livingston
April 27, at Caldwell
April 29, Nutley, 7 p.m.
May 2, at Seton Hall Prep
May 4, Columbia, 7 p.m.
May 9, at Montclair
May 11, at Paterson Kennedy
May 16, Bloomfield, 7 p.m.
May 18, Newark Academy
May 19, Union, 7 p.m.