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West Essex's Frank Lagreca (23) watches ball sail over right field fence in fourth inning of Thursday's North 1, Group 3 state sectional quarterfinal 11-1 win vs. Wayne Hills as the Knights' DH had very big day at the plate going 3-for-4 with a double, home run and 4 RBI. For his efforts, the senior standout 2-sport athlete is Sideline Chatter/360 Fitness Athlete of the Week. (Photos by Gene Nann-visit www.genenann.smugmug.com)

The Knights' Frank Lagreca is greeted by happy teammates on way to home plate after delivering his game-breaking 2-run homer during a big 5-run fourth inning for Wessex.

The Knights' Frank Lagreca has good follow through as he connects vs. Wayne Hills

Many West Essex Knights come out to greet Lagreca (23) at home plate after homer

Lagreca Would Like Another State Title
Before Finishing Senior Year At Wessex

SC/360 Athlete of the Week Enjoying Final Scholastic Baseball Season

By Steve Tober
For sidelinechatter.com

NORTH CALDWELL- It’s been quite the senior year for West Essex’s Frank Lagreca, who as a starting offensive right tackle and defensive end on the Knights’ football team had the joy of being part of a state championship squad when his gridiron squad captured the North 1, Group 3 playoff crown last December.

Now, the West Essex multi-sport standout would like to bring home one more state championship in his final scholastic season as the Knights’ 19-1 baseball prepares for Tuesday’s North 1, Group 3 state sectional semifinals vs. Pascack Valley.

The designated hitter and first baseman for one of Essex County’s top stories this 2018 spring season is the latest Sideline Chatter/360 Fitness Athlete of the Week after delivering a 2-run double and 2-run home run while going 3-for-4 in the Knights’ 11-1 6-inning N1G3 quarterfinal triumph over eighth-seeded Wayne Hills on Friday.

“We have the same positive mindset in baseball as our football team had and we have a number og guys who have been a member of both teams,”said Lagreca, who is hitting a solid. 370 this spring with 11 doubles, a homer and 20 RBi for the red-hot Knights diamond squad. “Last year we had the talent in baseball, but weren’t as consistent as we are now and the seniors have really tried to set the tone this spring.

“We had a great off season and we continue to talk and encourage each other trying to reinforce the great camaraderie we have developed this season, combinging a terrific group of seniors with some really good younger guys.

“Now, we’d like to go out and win a baseball state title, which we know is going to be a tough task only because there are so many good teams in our section and you just never know in baseball.

“Unlike football, you can hit the ball perfectly and line out, or you can flick the ball off the bat and get a big RBI hit, which I love about baseball and the uncertainly of it all makes it an incredibly captivating game to be a part of.”

Lagreca’s baseball teammates who double as football compatriots are junior shortstop Ryan Rusignuolo (starting tight end and reserve defensive end in football), freshman third baseman Vin Panzarino (linebacker) and sophomore pitcher Tanner Newby (running back and safety).

“Football is a huge sport in our school, but baseball has a great tradition as well, and we just try to uphold the winning ways of two terrific spors here,” said Lagreca. “We try to carry over the energy of the positive outlook in football to baseball, which is a totally different sport in many ways, but is a great game as well and requires a lot of guys chipping in to make it happen in terms of just getting this far with the way we’ve won a lot of games this spring.

“This is a great bunch of guys to be around this season, just as we had a lot of fun while working extremely hard in football as well, and – fortunately – I’ve had the good fortune to be part of both teams!”

Lagreca, who is 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, plans to try and play both football and baseball at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa. this fall.

“If I can make it work I’d like to try and play both sports,” said the Knights’ senior leader. “The football coaches at Moravian have been great to deal with and are very supportive which made my decision pretty easy with all the positive reinforcement they gave me during the recruiting process.”

Lagreca and Wessex baseball senior teammates such as close friends Dave Kolesar, Anthony Vassallo, Joe Connington and Newby like to join as many of the other Knights who will join them for post-practice or post-game eats at Hollywood Pizzeria in Fairfield, the hometown of Lagreca.

“We all have a lot of fun away from the field as well together as well,” added Lagreca. “The coaches make it a very positive atmosphere to begin with and the players all share their feelings with each other and we tell each other if we feel something should be done better than it’s being done, and that’s good because we’re honest and open because we care about each other, while always trying to make ourselves a better team.”

And, several of the current Wessex senior baseball players will be headed to college in the fall, including in addition to Lagreca, pitchers Kolesar (Quinnipiac- student only), Ian McLaughlin (Tulane- student only) and Vassallo (Centenary College for baseball); second baseman Mike Cesare (Salem State in Massachusetts for baseball); the Ruvo twin brothers, and the outfielders Ben and Max (Washington College in Maryland for baseball).

“We all love baseball and several of the guys will continue to play at the next level,” said Lagreca. “Right now we’re enjoying the heck out of a tremendous senior year and we’d like to continue playing together a while longer!”

***
The N1G3 final is slated for Friday, June 1, at the higher-seeded team’s home diamond.

In roaring past Wayne Hills (15-8), the Knights rode a 5-run fourth inning when they sent 10 batters to the plate and banged out five hits in the frame highlighted by its No. 8 batter, senior designated hitter Frank Lagreca (3-for-4 with 4 RBI), who delivered a two-run home run over the right field fence, while also driving in the No. 7 hitter in the order, freshman Tyler Sorrentino (3-for-3 with a walk and 3 runs scored).

For Lagreca, Thursday proved to be one of his best performances of the season on the diamond, starting with a two-run double in the second inningto get the Knights on the board, and then his 2-run round-tripper to ignite the big 5-run fourth.

“We’ve been swinging the bats well and we just look to drive the ball to the opposite field,” said the Knights’ powerfully-built DH who also plays first base on occasion when senior ace left-hander Ian McLaughlin pitches. “The home run was a fast ball inside and I just went with the pitch where it was and tried to drive it.

“Fortunately, it went over the fence in right!”

With Sorrentino and Lagreca combining for six of the Knights’ 11 hits off four Wayne Hills pitchers and other key hitters such as McLaughlin (2-for-4 with 2 RBI), who hits fifth in the order and plays first base,, and Rusignuolo (2-for-4 with 2 RBI), who hits ninth, also chipping in, the length of the Knights batting order is impressive indeed.

Plus, Wessex continues to pitch well, and in Thursday’s state tourney contest it was senior right-hander Kolesar (5 IP, 4 HA, 3 BB, 5 K’s, 1 R, 1 ER), who did another superb job on the hill, utilizing his sharp-breaking curve and pinpoint control for the most part until he started to tire in the sixth after a walk and the a double by the Patriots’ Mike Zaccone.

The junior southpaw Connington came in, struck out two hitters and although he allowed an RBI single by Michael Disleso, he also was able to limit the damage in the inning as a Wayne Hills baserunner was thrown out at the plate for the third out of the frame.

West Essex scored three times in the bottom of the sixth, capped by Rusignuolo’s 2-run walk-off hit to end the game via the 10-run rule with two outs in the sixth.

***

North 1, Group 3 quarterfinal results:

(1) West Essex 11 (8) Wayne Hills 1

(5) Pascack Valley 8 (13) Sparta 6

(2) Montville 8 (7) Demarest 3

(3) Roxbury 6 (6) Ramapo 2

N1G3 semifinals, Tuesday, May 29:

Pascack Valley at West Essex

Roxbury at Montville

Final: Friday, June 1 at higher seed

Student-Athletes selected for the Sideline Chatter/360 Fitness Athlete of the Week award receive a free speed and agility session at the state-of-the-art 360 facilities located at 25 Greenbrook Road in Fairfield. For more information on all the sessions available at 360, call 1-877-787-0360, ext. 1005 or log on to http://wwwnj360fitness.com

Follow Steve Tober on Twiter @Chattermeister

Frank Lagreca has provided great mileage in lower third of the West Essex batting order as he has produced .370 batting average with 11 doubles, a home run and 20 RBi for 19-1 Knights.

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