Nutley has long been a great baseball community and one with a number of hard-hitting and very competitive teams which have appeared in 13 Greater Newark Tournament finals – including last year – while capturing four titles.
And, while there have always been pitches to help solidify the mound staff, the potential of the 2019 staff for the Maroon Raiders is perhaps as good as it’s been in some time with as much talent and depth as any of the top contenders in this spring’s Super Essex Conference-American Division title chase.
Nutley, which was 21-9 last spring, reaching the North 2, Group 3 semifinals before losing to eventual champion Somerville, opens the new season in a rematch of the 2018 GNT final while visiting Livingston 4 p.m., Monday, April 1.
The Maroon Raiders, who upset perennial title contender Seton Hall Prep, 3-2, in last May’s GNT semifinals behind a brilliant mound performance in relief by then sophomore left-hander Trevor Santos, who worked the final five innings allowing just three hits, walking one and striking out six, return Santos, or ‘T-Dog’ as he’s called by his teammates, who can be an effective ‘swing’ guy working as either a starter or reliever.
However, Santos is just one of returning pieces to form a potentially very strong staff which also includes two veteran starters in seniors Josh O’Neill (5-3, 1.83 ERA in 2018) and John Luberto (4-3) along with a very effective returning closer and occasional starter in the versatile Marty Higgins, the St. John’s University-bound senior.
Plus, there is a new addition who could be another vital cog this spring in 6-foot-4 right-hander Eli Acosta, who high jumped for the track and field team last spring and is known to Nutley fans as a solid football player, but is also a talented pitcher who makes the Maroon Raiders’ staff even deeper.
“It’s a good situation to have with a number of guys who can hopefully eat up innings for us and be effective as well,” said Bob Harbison, Nutley’s 16th-year head coach. “Santos is a good offensive player and important to us in the outfield, but he pitched so well in big spots for us last year he really emerged as a pitcher as well.
“O’Neill and Luberto are both experienced starters who have pitched well for us, while Marty is able to relieve or start and have a big impact, plus he’s one of the best all-around players in the state, and having Acosta with us could be a big boost as well.”
Keeping up with the Seton Hall Preps and Millburns of the SEC-American – two other teams with deep and talented pitching staffs – will be one area where Nutley should more than hold its own, plus the team still has a solid lineup to rely on with the return of Higgins (.450 BA, 5 HR, 15 doubles, 29 RBI), who may bat lead-off to maximize his plate appearances, and others such as senior first baseman Kevin Hogan (.351 BA, 24 RBI), who will hit either third or fourth in the order plus a number of other players who will contribute offensively.