MAPLEWOOD, NJ – In Jim Whalen first season as head coach of the Columbia High School varsity baseball team last season, the Cougars proved quite competitive, despite finishing with a 12-14 record.
The Cougars, who begin the 2018 season April 2 at Caldwell, have a strong returning nucleus looking to make some noise.
- Christian Pierre, senior center fielder (St. John’s University commit).
- Luke Jackson, senior third baseman (Dickinson College commit).
- Eliot Dix, junior shortstop (Longwood University commit).
- Michael Roseman – senior pitcher (Washington College commit).
- Daniel Lawall, senior catcher.
- Palmer Krais, senior pitcher.
- Ben Mintz, senior pitcher.
- Phil Whitney, junior outfielder.
- Aiden Mayberry, senior first baseman.
All but Mintz, who worked out of the bullpen, are returning starters.
The top hitters in the lineup are Pierre, Dix, and Jackson. Pierre in center field, Dix at shortstop, and Lawall behind the plate will anchor the defense.
Roseman, Krais, and Mintz spearhead the pitching rotation. Whalen is looking for other pitchers to step up, following the graduation losses of Danny Boehmer, who is currrently pitching at Mercer County College, and Peter Nolet, who is pitching at Salve Regina.
Having an experienced team, Whalen indeed has high hopes for this season.
“We return a solid nucleus of players who are primed for big seasons,” Whalen said. “Our goals and expectations for our team are to show up ready to compete on a daily basis. We believe in our individual abilities and in the process of playing the game of baseball. We will handle adversity and figure it out when things don’t go our way. And we will have fun while we are doing it. If we stay focused on those things, we believe we can win many games and compete for championships.
“The keys to achieving these goals are to not get too high when we win and not to get too low when we don’t win,” Whalen added. “We are in as good a league as there is in the area and we need to be excited about the opportunity we have to play against the best in Essex County, day in and day out.”
Though they lost to powerhouse Millburn by identical 9-0 scores in the Super Essex Conference-American Division, the Cougars’ efforts were quite better against that same foe in the Greater Newark Tournament and state tournaments last season.
In the semifinals of the Greater Newark Tournament, which is considered the county tournament, Columbia lost to top-seeded Millburn, 5-4.
The 16th-seeded Cougars dropped another tough decision, 2-1, against top-seeded Millburn in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 state tournament first round. Millburn, also seeded No. 1, went on to win the section and Group 4 state titles.
This season, the program will also have a freshman team for the first time in many years.
“It is a very exciting time to be a part of the Columbia baseball program,” Whalen said. “With the first year returning the freshman, there will be many challenges across all three levels of baseball. We need to understand there will be those challenges and embrace them.
“We are looking to build upon these successes on the varsity level last year in addition to welcoming back our freshman team. It is an exciting time to be a Cougar and we are going to enjoy the ride!”
The assistant coaches are David Crouch (varsity assistant, second year in program); Dillon White (JV coach, second year); and Max Nichols (freshman coach).
April 2, at Caldwell, 4 p.m.
April 4, Seton Hall Prep, 4 p.m.
April 6, at Newark Academy, 4 p.m.
April 7, at Newark East Side, 11 a.m.
April 9, at Cedar Grove, 4 p.m.
April 11, Roxbury, 4 p.m.
April 13, at Montclair, 4 p.m.
April 14, Nutley, 10 a.m.
April 16, at Livingston, 4 p.m.
April 18, Caldwell, 4 p.m.
April 20, at Seton Hall Prep, 4 p.m.
April 21, Demarest, 11 a.m.
April 23, Newark Academy, 4 p.m.
April 25, Newark East Side, 4 p.m.
April 27, at Millburn, 4 p.m.
May 2, Barringer, 4 p.m.
May 4, at Dickinson, 4:30 p.m.
May 7, Montclair, 4 p.m.
May 8, Millburn, 4 p.m.
May 14, at Nutley, 4 p.m.
May 16, Livingston, 4 p.m.
May 18, at Chatham, 4 p.m.
May 22, at Randolph, tbd