BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Despite finishing with a 9-19 record, the Bloomfield High School baseball team managed to become county tournament runner-up this season. The seventh-seeded Bengals defeated sixth-seeded Nutley in the semifinals before losing to fourth-seeded Seton Hall Prep in the final of the Greater Newark Tournament, which is considered to be the county tournament. It was the Bengals’ first GNT final since 1997.
In an email to the Independent Press, BHS baseball head coach Mike Policastro said the season “wasn’t the success that we envisioned when it started. Most of the team struggled offensively from the start, with the exception of a few guys. We had our moments scoring here and there, but we had a lack of consistency on the offensive side, where(as) the pitching was a big strength for us most of the season. We lacked experience on the mound as far as varsity innings were concerned, but our pitching staff did a tremendous job of keeping us in games, allowing us the opportunity to win games, but sometimes that isn’t enough.”
Policastro said the team suffered seven losses by two runs or fewer, “which, if you get an extra hit or two in those games, it’s a completely different season and record for us.”
Policastro said the team’s most consistent offensive players all season were juniors Tyler Bell and Daniel Murawinski. “Daniel led the team in hitting with a .364 average, 24 hits, and 15 RBIs; he had eight multi-hit games on the season. Tyler Bell batted .354 with 28 hits and 19 RBIs, both of which led the team. He also pitched 50 ⅔ innings on the season and was our No. 1 pitcher, but his record was not indicative of the season he had on the mound. He was 2-9, in 50.2 innings, with 20 (bases on balls), 52 strikeouts, and a 3.18 earned run average on the season. He gave us a chance to win a game every time he took the mound.”
Senior Nico Ong, one of three captains, coming off a junior year that saw him hit .570, started off slow then battled back to bat .352 with 26 hits, including nine multi-hit games, said Policastro. He finished his career 84-for-208, with a career batting average of .404, and will attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the fall on a baseball scholarship. “Nico will go down as one of the best baseball players to ever play at BHS. If we had a 2020 season, there is no doubt he would have joined the 100 hit club,” said Policastro. The 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic.
The fourth-leading hitter was sophomore Evan Freid, who finished the season hitting .309 with 22 hits, while playing an excellent second base and throwing over 20 innings on the mound. Junior Brandon Piacenza came off a sophomore season that saw him hit .450 but had a down offensive season, Policastro noted. However, he had an excellent season on the mound as the team’s No. 2 pitcher this year, where he threw 37.1 innings, finishing with a 3-2 record and a 2.44 ERA that led the team, Policastro cited. “One of his losses was a 1-0 loss to Nutley (in a Super Essex Conference–American Division game) in which he threw a two-hitter with seven strikeouts and no earned runs. Piacenza hit a home run in the first inning against Nutley in the GNT semifinals that spurred us to victory.”
The Bengals’ No. 3 pitcher was senior lefty Logan Kot, who went 3-2 in 24.2 innings with 3.09 ERA. He started and pitched in relief, and will continue his baseball career at Rosemont College in Pennsylvania.
Policastro lauded other players on the team.
“(Co)-captain Isaiah Ortiz was an outstanding defensive third baseman for us who made several spectacular plays and saved at least three games for us. He will be continuing his baseball career at New Jersey City University in the fall. (Co)-captain Liam Hempstead, who was injured in the preseason and couldn’t throw, ended up DHing the entire season. He will be playing next year at the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Other contributors on the team were junior first baseman Chris Sanchez, who got hot late and ended up batting .290; senior right fielder Jackson Laub; and junior outfielders Michael Rosamilia, Keithdem Perez and Jake Sullivan, who all played their parts for us on the season. Junior pitcher Alex Klena pitched over 20 innings for us this season and will have a much bigger role next year. Seniors who also contributed were Charles Abplanalp, Justin Nunez, Justin Costomiris, Ethan Kielb and Isaiah Quinones. Everyone contributed to the run that we made in getting to the GNT finals for the first time in 25 years. It was a great experience and honor to lead this group of young men, but we have work to do to get ready for next year. We are returning a ton of experience next year in terms of pitching and players with experience. … Getting to the GNT finals and then losing a heartbreaking walk-off to Columbia in the first round of the states left a bitter taste in all of our mouths. The kids pledged to work harder for next season. This summer we will be practicing and playing games against Millburn, Montclair, Cranford, Summit and Bayonne with the hopes of seeing better competition than the (High School Developmental League) has been providing. Hopefully next year will bring better results. Our coaching staff did a tremendous job this year and I am so proud of them.”
Photos Courtesy of Jerry Simon.