On paper, it looked as if the Roxbury baseball team was going to have a rebuilding season in 2015.
The Gaels lost seven starters from the 2014 team that won a school-record 25 games, capturing the Morris County Tournament title and advancing all the way to the overall NJSIAA Group IV title game. The team’s top two pitchers, Timmy Pilrun and Nick Busby, had also graduated.
But there was one group of people who didn’t see this as a rebuilding year: the Gaels themselves.
The players were right. Roxbury won 21 games in a weather-ravaged season, including its second straight MCT crown in early May. Though this season didn’t produce any NJSIAA hardware, the Gaels won enough to be selected as the 2015 All Daily Record Baseball Team of the Year, just like in 2014.
“The kids believed all along that we were going to win,” Roxbury’s veteran head coach Greg Trotter said. “They felt like they were talented and that they had been there before, so they could do it again. They wanted to be the No. 1 seed (in the MCT) and wanted to defend our championship. We lost a lot of talent from last year, but we knew we were still going to be all right.”
The Gaels (21-8-1) were led by the stellar pitching of senior left-hander Alex Busby, who followed in his older brother Nick’s footsteps in leading the Gaels to a county title. Senior Scott Marshall emerged as a solid No. 2 pitcher who also provided his share of clutch hits throughout the season.
They also received solid infield defense from people like Stephen Loreng, Ryan Jasiecki and Craig Roumes, all of whom earned NJAC-National First Team honors.
“Jasiecki had five at-bats all of last season,” Trotter said. “But he was in the weight room throughout the offseason, going five days a week, so he could continue to get stronger. We gave him every opportunity to win the job (at third base) and he made the biggest jump up of any kid I’ve ever coached. He transformed himself into a player more than anyone else.”
The Gaels also received a boost when standout catcher Nick Matera decided to transfer back to his home district from Morris Catholic, where he was an All Daily Record honoree last year. Matera already made a verbal commitment to attend Rutgers, and needed core curriculum classes at Roxbury that were not offered at the private school. Because of that, Matera was eligible to play right away and provided a major lift.
Matera fit right in with the Gaels, many of whom had played with him during previous years of youth baseball.
“Getting Nick was huge,” Trotter said. “Scott Marshall was going to be our catcher, but with Nick back, we were able to strengthen ourselves at two positions and put Marshall at first, so he could also pitch when we needed him. It made us so much better.”
Veterans like Kyle Macrae keyed the outfield slots. Macrae and Loreng were the only returning starters from the 2014 MCT championship team.
“I really didn’t have expectations, because the team was so young and inexperienced,” Trotter said. “You can’t expect to have the same kind of year. It just happened. The kids came to play and took care of business. In 90 percent of our games, we played pretty well. You could just see it in the eyes of our kids that they came ready to play and consistently stepped it up in big games.”