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Aviators Made Bigger Run in League

Pitching arms could carry Heights deep into '13 postseason

The Hasbrouck Heights baseball team might have not gone far in the state tournament, but they did well during the regular season.

The 2012 Aviators played well within the division and finish second to St. Mary in the league. Heights finished 14-11 overall and was 11-4 in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference Meadowlands at 11-4.

"We were competitive and better in the league this season," said Hasbrouck Heights head coach Rocco Minichiello.

The highlight might have been the two wins over rival Wood-Ridge.

"Wood-Ridge was good and we beat them pretty good over there," said Minichiello about the 10-2 win over the Blue Devils in the first matchup between the two teams. "We came from behind in the second game...Especially this year because there was a lot of hype about the team (Wood-Ridge)."

It was one of the biggest games during the regular season when  Heights faced Wood-Ridge at the home of Rockland Boulders, a minor league team, in Pomona, New York, in the Aviators last regular season game. In an exciting contest, the Aviators came from behind to sweep Wood-Ridge, 10-9. At one point Heights was down 8-3 before rallying to take a 10-8 lead.

Joe Crabbe started the game on the mound and Sean Waldron came in to pitch the last five innings to pick up the win. With runners on second and third with two out in the seventh inning, Waldron got the Wood-Ridge hitter to ground out and collect the victory in relief.

In that same inning, Aviators outfielder Brandon Kaehy picked up a Wood-Ridge base hit in right field, threw to first baseman Mike Pasqualone who proceeded to shoot down the tying run at home as catcher Gabe Toledo put the tag on.

On the first team All NJIC Heights had junior pitcher Ray Espinoza, junior infielder Crabbe and sophomore infielder Robert Klenk.

Espinoza had a 7-1 record including a 4-1 mark within the NJIC Meadowlands and a 1.78 earned run average. "He picked up the pace on the mound and he threw strikes," said Minichiello about the difference this season compared to 2011 for Espinoza.

Crabbe hit .360 at the plate for the season while adding defense and his arm for a first team nod. "He was solid at shortstop and was our number two pitcher," said Minichiello.

In terms of Klenk, he took over second base when senior Chris Abramo suffered a nose injury in a scrimmage against Emerson before the start of the season. Abramo came back for the second half of the year and was named to the All NJIC second team.

"He worked well and moved to shortstop when Crabbe was pitching," said Minichiello. "He's (Klenk) a player."

Despite a solid regular season, the Hasbrouck Heights head coach said that the team did not get that hot player near the end of the season and into the state playoffs that would equal a long run in the postseason.

"We had a lot of guys in the .340-.360 range in batting average," said Minichiello. "Nobody drove in 14 runs and nobody got really hot with like an 11-of-15 in the end of the season.

The All NJIC second team including Aviators, outfielder Michael Matteis, Pasqualone at first base, Waldron at pitcher and Abramo in the infield. Toledo was named to the All NJIC honorable mention list.

For 2013 the Aviators will have to replace graduated seniors, first baseman Pasqualone, Abramo and John Viola.

But Heights is expected to make a push for the realigned NJIC Meadowlands division and also a state sectional title.

For next spring the Aviators would definitely like to go further than this past season where they lost in the second round to Midland Park (10-0). Heights did win its first round game, a 9-6 victory at New Milford.

Minichiello is hoping to get a boost from several players on the field during the summer including Toledo, Crabbe, Espinoza and Mike Matteis who are playing during the summer.

Most of them are taking part in the Rutherford Senior Babe Ruth team and the Seminoles, a club team. "As long as the kids play that's all that matters," said Minichiello about not having a league team at Hasbrouck Heights. The Heights coach said the development of other sports during the summer makes it very difficult to assemble a local squad.

While Pasqualone was one of the team's top pitchers, Minichiello has several arms coming back and he is looking at Espinoza, Crabbe and Matteis as the top starters targeted for 2013.

Hasbrouck Heights baseball All-NJIC team

First Team

Ray Espinoza, pitcher

Joe Crabbe, infield

Robert Klenk, designated hitter/utility

Second Team

Michael Matteis, outfield

Michael Pasqualone, first base

Sean Waldron, pitcher

Chris Abramo, infield

Honorable Mention

Gabe Toledo, catcher

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