With a switch to the new BBCOR bats this season, the presumption amongst area players and coaches was that offensive production would take a hit for the sake of improved player safety.
Now that the 2012 campaign is in the books, it’s fair to say that those predictions, for the most part, held true.
One player who bucked the trend in a big way, however, was Buena Regional High School shortstop/pitcher Anthony Lopez.
The senior generated an area-best 50 hits, 43 runs and 34 RBIs to go with a stellar .446 batting average. On the mound, the right-hander logged 51 innings, going 5-3 with a 2.20 ERA and 42 strikeouts.
For his breakout season at the plate and dependability on the hill, Lopez is The Daily Journal Baseball Player of the Year — narrowly edging Millville senior pitcher Andrew Biggs for the honor.
“He’s what a Buena baseball player stands for,” Chiefs 10th-year coach George West said. “He’s been one of my favorite players to coach, especially with the progression I’ve seen since his freshman year.
“Anthony did everything for me this year. He played shortstop, he pitched, batted third in the order… I just asked so much of him and he was so consistent. He’s really the prototype for a high school baseball player.”
Lopez, who belted five home runs this season with a .777 slugging percentage, played an integral role leading Buena to its first-ever appearance in the Group II state championship game and first South Jersey title since 2008.
While the new bats changed the way some area hitters approached their strategy at the plate, Lopez shook off the notion and followed the same formula that had made him a dangerous offensive threat throughout his high school career.
“It wasn’t a big adjustment for me at all, you just have to square the ball up more and be a smarter hitter,” Lopez said. “I’ve always just let the game come to me. There’s no pressure at all.”
As calm as Lopez looks with the bat, his demeanor around the Chiefs is equally as tranquil.
“He doesn’t get too revved up, he has great respect for the game and the way it is supposed to be played,” West said. “He just does things the right way and that’s been a continuous process.”
It would have been wrong to mistake Lopez’s lack of visible emotion following Buena’s 11-4 loss to Mahwah in the state final as not caring. The senior was the pitcher of record in the defeat in a relief appearance.
“It was tough, it hurt, but I just tried to carry myself in a positive manner and move on,” Lopez said. “You can’t dwell on it forever.”
Lopez recalls spending a lot of time on the bench as a freshman on varsity in his first season, and, as a senior, he felt it necessary to shoulder some of the responsibility of paving the way for Buena’s younger players.
Learning from Lopez, who West said was one of the best players to ever wear a Buena uniform, is a wise way to go.
“The underclassmen were watching him, always seeking guidance,” West noticed. “Anthony has been around me for a long time, he’s knows I’m not always easy to play for and he understands that it’s easy for those younger players’ cages to get rattled. I think those guys grabbed on to Anthony’s knowledge as far as what we want our players to do.”
As West can attest to though, a player like Lopez doesn’t come along every day.
He has yet to commit to college, although Lopez has full intentions of playing baseball at the next level. Right now, his options are narrowed down to Division I Southern Illinois University, Division II Bloomfield College or Cumberland County College.
2012 Daily Journal Baseball All-Stars
Christian Adorno, St. Augustine — A stellar defensive shortstop, Adorno hit .396 his senior year, tied for team-highs in hits (36) and runs (27) and stole a team-best 22 bases.
St. Augustine — The senior nicknamed “Country” led all area pitchers in wins with nine, to go with a 1.60 ERA and 64 strikeouts. Baxter added 20 RBIs and a pair of home runs with the bat.
Andrew Biggs, Millville — Runner-up for Player of the Year, Biggs dominated on the mound this season. The senior was 6-3 with a 0.58 ERA and an amazing 109 strikeouts in 602/3 innings pitched. Biggs was .324 at the plate with 12 RBIs as well.
Christian Carmolingo, St. Augustine — The senior third baseman was as steady as ever for the Hermits, tying for the team-lead in hits with 36 to go with his 22 RBIs and .379 batting average. Carmolingo even proved a reliable pitcher for the Prep, going 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA.
Manny Colon, Buena — The senior put together another stellar campaign behind the plate for the Chiefs. Colon had 176 putouts while hitting .333 with five home runs and 27 RBIs.
Aaron Cox, Millville — A crucial piece to the puzzle for the Bolts, Cox hit .320 with 11 RBIs and a team-high three home runs at third base. On the mound, Cox was 6-0 with a 0.86 ERA and 71 strikeouts.
Bryan Dobzanski, Delsea — A shoulder injury kept this sophomore off the mound for the majority of the season, but Dobzanski made up for it with two shutout playoff wins, a 4-3 record and 0.92 ERA. Dobzanski led Delesea with 22 RBIs and 24 runs scored, and was second on the team with 28 hits.
Holvin Figueroa, Sacred Heart — The senior’s 5-6 record doesn’t tell the story. Figueroa posted a 2.38 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 612/3 innings. Offensively, Figueroa hit an impressive .463 with team-highs in hits (37), RBIs (27) and home runs (5).
Nick Freijomil, Delsea — The junior led the Crusaders in innings pitched with 58, going 8-2 with 53 strikeouts and a 1.89 ERA. Freijomil also added 16 RBIs at the plate, with five doubles and a home run.
Joe Gatto, St. Augustine — The sophomore first baseman turned it on midway through the season, finishing with a .381 batting average and team-highs in RBIs (31) and home runs (6).
Justin Geri, Buena — The right-hander evolved into Buena’s go-to pitcher this season and the senior responded with an 8-1 record, 2.26 ERA and 49 strikeouts over 68 innings. Geri also hit .396 with 20 RBIs for the Chiefs.
Anthony Lopez, Buena — The Daily Journal Baseball Player of the Year.
Chris Lopez, Vineland — This gritty senior led by example during a tough year for the Fighting Clan, batting .372 with a team-high 39 hits. On the mound, Lopez was 4-6 facing Vineland’s toughest opponents with a 2.03 ERA with 47 strikeouts.
Tovine Potts, Sacred Heart — The junior shortstop put up impressive numbers in the middle of the Lions’ order this season. He hit .373 with 22 RBIs to go with 31 runs. Potts also stole 11 bases and trailed only Figueroa with 10 extra-base hits.
Johnny Malatesta, Vineland; Kenny Dunns, Colin Meandro, Millville; Jarred Corniell, Robert Bunton, Buena; Bobby Gifford, Theo Mercurio, Brandon Triantos, Sacred Heart; Barry Buchowski, Kyle Lindsay, Mike Elfreth, St. Augustine; Garrett Craig, Delsea; Austin Loatman, Jarred McCafferty, Schalick.