NUTLEY – The Nutley High School baseball program always has been one of the best in Essex County.
Year in and year out, the Raiders are considered one of the title contenders in the Super Essex Conference-American Division, Greater Newark Tournament – which is the considered the Essex County tournament – and the state tournament.
This season, the Raiders once again are talented and experienced, which bodes well for another outstanding campaign.
Under 13th-year head coach Bob Harbison, the Raiders boast a strong lineup led by one of the best players in the state in senior right fielder Anthony Condito, not to mention a quality pitching staff.
For the first time ever, the Raiders will travel to Orlando, Fla. to compete in spring training games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for six days beginning March 16. The team is joining the NHS softball team, which also will compete in Orlando. The softball team has traveled to Florida for sprint training in previous years.
The NHS baseball Raiders open the season April 1 at Montclair in a SEC-American Division game.
After going a competitive 14-14 last year in which they advanced to the GNT semifinals and the state North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 tournament quarterfinals, the Raiders enjoyed a productive summer as they won the Essex County Senior Legion League title under head coach Phil Agosta, who also is one of Harbison’s assistant varsity coaches.
The Raiders hope to carry that success into the spring.
Leading the offense is Condito. The left-hitting and lefty thrower is a four-year starting right fielder who batted a whopping .519 with 41 hits, 23 RBI and 15 stolen bases last season. Condito, who was named the MVP of the annual Essex/Union Underclassmen All-Star Game at the end of last season, signed with Rutgers University last fall to continue his baseball career on an athletic scholarship. Condito also was the starting quarterback for the NHS football team that finished 8-2 last fall.
But the Raiders have more than just Condito. Senior three-year starting center fielder Andrew Connor also is a productive hitter who will make it difficult for opponents to pitch around Condito.
Senior Nicky Miller and sophomore Peter Lopez will share time in left field.
Senior second baseman Matt Butler and senior third baseman Andrew Santos are returning starters. Junior first baseman Jake Ramezzano also saw time last year and will serve as the team’s No. 3 pitcher.
Freshman shortstop Marty Higgins arrives with much hype. Higgins, who also played varsity basketball for Harbison this past winter for NHS, already has gained attention from college baseball coaches after making a name for himself on youth travel ball.
Seniors Dominic Palumbo and Nick Balitsos will split time handling the catching duties.
Harbison has high hopes that his team can do damage at the plate.
“I’d be disappointed if we didn’t do well offensively,” Harbison said. “I think we can hit.”
The pitching staff will be anchored by experienced seniors John Lawton and Nick Senatore. Freshman Josh O’Neill also will start on the mound.
Senior Nick Santoriello emerged as the team’s best reliever last season. Senior Ryan McGrath and freshman Jonathan Luberto round out the pitching corps.
The pitching staff is much improved and experienced, much to Harbison’s delight.
“Senatore got bigger and has thrown the ball better,” said Harbison. “Lawton has a full year of baseball under his belt, pitching-wise. Ramezzano could be the darkhorse kid where he can really turn around and pitch well for us. He’s our one big lefty. He’s a prospect, I think, as a pitcher.”
Senior first baseman Anthony Alonso, senior outfielder Brian Dieterle and junior utility player Sean Bernardo provide depth off the bench.
The Raiders recognize the difficult task of competing in the SEC-American Division, which is the highest division of the conference, with the likes of Seton Hall Prep, Montclair, Millburn and Bloomfield.
But make no mistake, Harbison’s team is ready for the challenge.
“If we play well, we can beat them,” said Harbison about competing in the division. “If everybody accepts their role and everybody buys into what we are trying to do, that will go a long way. If our seniors play together and really support the young guys, then I think we can have a very good season.”
Seton Hall Prep
(all times at 4 p.m., unless otherwise noted)
April 1, at Montclair
April 2, Bloomfield, 3 p.m.
April 4, at Newark Academy
April 6, at Millburn
April 8, Belleville
April 11, at Livingston
April 13, Caldwell
April 15, East Side
April 16, at Bayonne, 7 p.m.
April 18, at Seton Hall Prep
April 20, Montclair
April 22, at Bloomfield, 7 p.m.
April 23, at Paramus, 11 a.m.
April 25, Newark Academy
April 26, at Pequannock
April 27, Millburn
April 29, at Belleville, 7 p.m.
May 2, Livingston
May 3, at Hasbrouck Heights
May 5, at Secaucus
May 9, at Caldwell
May 16, Montville
May 18, Seton Hall Prep
May 19, Pompton Lakes
May 24, Kearny, at Jackals Stadium, Montclair State University, 7 p.m.