BLOOMFIELD – The Bloomfield High School varsity baseball team consistently has been a contender under head coach Mike Policastro.
With a good returning nucleus and deep, promising pitching depth, the Bengals are looking to have another successful season.
The Bengals, coming off a 17-11 campaign in 2015, return such key players as senior second baseman and three-year letterwinner Luis Rullan; senior two-year starting shortstop Brian Rennie (.346 batting average, 20 stolen bases in 2015); junior three-year starting right fielder Danny Carter (.329 BA); senior two-year starting center fielder Dionisios Bello (.328 BA, 21 stolen bases); and sophomore two-year starting left fielder Eddie Abplanalp (.259 BA).
Rullan, Rennie, Bello and Carter will serve captains.
Donato Saccaro and Joe Giliberti will battle for playing time in the outfield when Abplanalp pitches.
Juniors Andrew Altiery and Chris Veloz and sophomore Jamir Ramos are battling for the third baseman position.
Junior Roger Garcia and sophomore Craig Dittrich are vying for the catcher’s job.
A five-man battle for the first baseman position is being waged by juniors Adam Lutick and Victor Vazquez; sophomore Manny Corporan; freshman Kyle Tice; and senior Josh Cruz when he is not pitching.
The pitching staff is very young and inexperienced, but Policastro and his staff like what they have seen. Cruz will be the ace of the staff and is the only one who returns with significant experience. He went 4-2 with a 2.50 earned run average and three saves last year.
Seniors Ray Ramos, Jean Leonardo and Jimmy Guancione; junior Aldo Maldonado; sophomores Corporan and Abplanalp; sophomore Dylan PIacenza and freshman Tice will battle for the other spots in the rotation and bullpen.
“We have plenty of arms,” said Policastro, entering his 10th year at the helm. “We may be splitting games until we make our decisions, but we like the depth we have with our pitchers.”
The Bengals have a busy preseason scrimmage schedule, with 13 games. They had their first scrimmage on Friday, March 11, at Bayonne, losing, 6-2. The next day, the Bengals lost at Kearny, 8-6.
“Both games we made errors, costing many runs. But otherwise we like what we have seen from our team,” said Policastro.
After after playing at Newark East Side on March 16, the Bengals will have their first home scrimmage on Thursday, March 17 against Morristown at Bloomfield Middle School field. They will travel to Toms River on Saturday, March 19, for scrimmages against Toms River East and Toms River South. They have home scrimmages against Rutherford on March 22 and Cranford, March 23, and travel for their last road scrimmage against Westfield on March 24, before hosting four straight scrimmages against Jackson, March 26, at 11 a.m.; Scotch Plains-Fanwood, March 28; Clifton, March 29; and Watchung Hills, March 30.
The season opener is Friday, April 1, at home against Caldwell at BMS at 4 p.m. in a Super Essex Conference-American Division game.
The Bengals recognize the difficulty of their schedule, especially competing in the SEC-American. But the tough schedule certainly will help them get ready for the Greater Newark Tournament – which is considered the Essex County tournament – and the postseason.
“We feel that we will be a better hitting team this year than last year,” said Policastro. “We need to work hard defensively to make the routine plays and pitchers have to throw strikes and keep the ball down. If we can do those things, we could be very successful. Our league schedule is tough as always and our independent games are against some of the top teams in the state, so we will be battle-tested come GNT and state tournament time.”