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Veteran Seton Hall Prep coach Mike Sheppard Jr. (left) guided his Pirates to the Non-Public A state title while also garnering Sideline Chatter Essex County Coach of the Year honors after the West Orange parochials finished 28-3 this past spring. (Photos by Richard Morris/SHP)

Seton Hall Prep freshman Nick Maldonado (middle) has discussion with Pirate teammate Ryan Toohers as two mainstays for SHP discuss strategy during a mound conference in state final.

Seton Hall Prep players happily raise the NJSIAA state championship trophy following 4-2 win over St. Augustine in the Non-Public A state tournament final at Toms River North High School.

Verona's Collin Kiernan is the Sideline Chatter Essex County Pitcher of the Year following his sensational junior season as he struck out 135 in 68 innings. (Photos by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

Nutley slugger Anthony Condito rounds third base and his assistant coach Phil Alagia after hammering one of his eight home runs this season in GNT quarterfinal vs. Newark Academy.

SHP Has No. 1 Team & Coach Of Year
To Highlight The Essex Baseball Season
By Steve Tober
For sidelinechatter.com

The biggest crapshoot in terms of a New Jersey high school sports state tournament has to be baseball where single-elimination and seven innings means surprises of all sorts.

However, occasionally, even while traversing a veritable array of formidable obstacles, the ultimate achievement is reached, which was the case for Seton Hall Prep in 2016 as the Pirates (28-3) captured the coveted Non-Public A state championship for an eighth time while earning such accolades as No. 20 in the country by USA TODAY, No. 22 in Max Preps and No. 36 in Baseball America.

SHP, which also won a fourth straight Greater Newark Tournament title, is also the Sideline Chatter 2016 Essex County Baseball Team of the Year.

Led by a potent lineup that featured such standouts as sophomore leadoff man Jack Zyska, clutch-hitting catcher Nick DeNicola, top RBI man Patrick O’Hare, and timely hitting John Savino, the Pirates were able to generate enough offense in key spots, while the pitching staff, led by seniors Ryan Toohers, Brendan Shamieh and promising freshman Nick Maldonado, was more than capable in shutting down opponents.

SHP went through a field of foes in Non-Public, North A that was capped by victories over both Bergen Catholic (8-5) and St. Joe’s of Montvale (6-2) prior to defeating surprising South Jersey entry St. Augustine, 4-2, in the final at Toms River North.

Other impressive teams in 2016 included Millburn (23-4), which captured the Super Essex Conference-American Division regular season championship, edging out SHP by a game. The Millers, who won Group 4 in 2015, had another talented cast of characters on hand led by junior outfielder Richie Schiekofer and pitchers Brian Lannino and Kevin Czapelski.

Nutley (20-10) upset Millburn in the GNT semis to reach the championship game. Bloomfield Tech (21-5), a little known program in Essex diamond circles, emerged as a North 2, Group 1 state sectional champion. West Orange (18-7), which had solid senior leaders, made it to a North 1, Group 4 sectional semifinal, while Newark Academy (13-12), despite being hit hard by graduation the previous year, and toiling under a first-year coach in Dennis Sasso, Jr., reached a state sectional semifinal in Non-Public, North B, and was very competitive throughout the season in the SEC-American.

TEAM OF THE YEAR: SETON HALL PREP

RUNNER UP: Millburn

 

OTHER SIDELINE CHATTER ESSEX COUNTY BASEBALL HONORS FOR 2016:

 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Anthony Condito, senior, Nutley

The Rutgers-bound outfielder concluded a historic high school career for the Maroon Raiders batting .405 with 10 doubles, 5 triples, 8 home runs and 35 RBI while also scoring 35 runs. His awesome power was unmatched in Essex County and he finished as Nutley's all-time leader in hits with 141.

POY Runner-Up: Richie Schiekofer, junior, Millburn

 

PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Collin Kiernan, junior, Verona

The Rutgers commit had a fantastic strikeout to inning ratiowith 135 K’s in 68 IP while putting together a 7-2 record for the 18-7 Hillbillies. He also walked only 14 batters while displaying some of the best talent in the state of anyone who stood on a high school mound in 2016.

Pitcher of Year Runner-Up: Brian Lannino, senior, Millburn

 

NEWCOMER OF YEAR: (1ST YEAR FROSH/SOPH): Nick Maldonado, frosh, SHP

One of the most exciting young players to arrive on Essex scene in some time, the slick-fielding shortstop was also one of the county’s top pitchers with a 6-0 record and 1.11 ERA while striking out 33 in 31 1/3 IP. To show how much his coach thought of him, he also got the nod to start the state final vs. St. Augustine and earned the mound victory.

Newcomer of Year Runner-Up: Jack Zyska, sophomore, SHP

 

COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike Sheppard, Jr., Seton Hall Prep

The relentless worker molded a Pirate lineup with six first-year starters plus a new-look pitching rotation into New Jersey’s best. He also notched his 700 th win is now 717-193-4 in 31 years including the past 30 at SHP. Always considered a top coach, Shep Jr. may have done one of his best jobs in 2016 while guiding his team to both the GNT and Non-Public A state titles.

Coach of the Year Runner-Up: Stephan Zichella, West Orange

 

Sideline Chatter All-Essex Baseball:

First Team:

P- Collin Kiernan, junior, Verona…7-2, 0.61 ERA, 135 K’s in 68 IP

P- Brian Lannino, senior, Millburn…9-1, 2.15 ERA 46 K’s in 52 IP

P- Ryan Toohers, senior, Seton Hall Prep…5-1, 1.68 ERA 33 Ks in 37 1/3IP

C- Nick DeNicola, senior, Seton Hall Prep….356 BA, 3 HR 20 RBI

Inf- Anthony Giachin, junior, Newark Academy…500 BA, 34 hits, 22 RBI, 12 EBH

Inf- Makhi Booker, jr., Montclair…415 BA, 22 runs, 25 RBI, 12 EBH; 5-2, 2.69 ERA

Inf- Austin Miles, junior, Livingston…440 BA, 37 hits

Inf- Andrew Scholz, senior, West Orange…453 BA, 33 RBI, 10 2Bs; 4-2, 1.16 ERA

OF- Anthony Condito, senior, Nutley….405 BA 35 RBI, 10 doubles, 8 HR

OF- Richie Schiekofer, junior, Millburn…435 BA, 37 runs, 19 RBI 13 EBH, 20 SB

OF- Jack Zyska, sophomore, Seton Hall Prep….500 BA, 37 runs, 19 RBI, .570 OBA

DH- Danny Carter, junior, Bloomfield….471 BA, 33 RBI, .588 slugging, 15 SB

 

Second Team:

P- Pete Nolet, junior, Columbia

P- Kevin Czapelski, senior, Millburn

P- Brendan Shamieh, senior, Seton Hall Prep

C- Quinn Krais, senior, Columbia

Inf- Johnny Serruto, senior, Millburn

Inf- Doug Hughes, senior, West Orange

Inf- Patrick O’Hare, senior, Seton Hall Prep

Inf- Nick Maldonado, freshman, Seton Hall Prep

OF- Mike Cavallo, junior, Caldwell

OF- Mike Garawitz, senior, Millburn

OF- Christian Pierre, sophomore, Columbia

DH- Luis Rullan, senior, Bloomfield

 

Third Team:

P- Nick Senatore, senior, Nutley

P- Dan Boehmer, junior, Columbia

P- Chris Walker, sophomore, West Orange

C- Dylan Walicky, senior, Belleville

Inf- Jonathan Toribio, senior, Bloomfield Tech

Inf- Elliot Dix, freshman, Columbia

Inf- Ian Metzger, sophomore, Verona

Inf- Marty Higgins, freshman, Nutley

OF- John Savino, senior, Seton Hall Prep

OF- Nick Minter, senior, Millburn

OF- John Sweetwood, sophomore, MKA

DH- Andrew Connor, senior, Nutley

 

SIDELINE CHATTER’S FINAL ESSEX COUNTY TOP 10:

1-Seton Hall Prep (28-3)

2-Millburn (23-4)

3-Nutley (20-10)

4- Newark Academy (13-12)

5- Montclair (16-12)

6-Columbia (17-10)

7-Verona (18-7)

8-West Orange (18-7)

9-Bloomfield (10-17)

10- Livingston (13-14)

 

FINAL SUPER ESSEX CONFERENCE STANDINGS:

AMERICAN DIVISION:

Millburn 15-1 (23-4)

Seton Hall Prep 14-2 (28-3)

Nutley 9-7 (20-10)

Newark Academy 8-8 (13-12)

Montclair 7-9 (16-12)

Bloomfield 7-9 (10-17)

Livingston 5-11 (13-14)

Caldwell 4-12 (7-18)

Belleville 3-13 (3-21)

 

LIBERTY DIVISION:

Verona 13-3 (18-7)

Columbia 13-3 (17-10)

West Orange 12-4 (18-7)

Glen Ridge 8-8 (12-13)

MKA 8-8) (12-14)

West Essex 8-8 (11-12)

Cedar Grove 7-9 (14-15)

North 13 th St. Tech 2-14 (4-19)

East Side 1-15 (6-19)

 

COLONIAL DIVISION:

Bloomfield Tech 11-1 (21-5)

Barringer 8-4 (12-9)

Science Park 8-4 (12-11)

Orange 7-5 (12-11)

Shabazz 4-8 (10-15)

Weequahic 3-8 (4-12)

Central 0-11 (0-14)

 

INDEPENDENCE DIVISION:

Technology 11-1 (12-5-1)

Newark Tech 9-3 (15-7)

Irvington 5-3 (5-6)

Arts 4-4 (7-8)

University 6-7 (7-9-1)

East Orange 4-10 (4-12)

Golda Och 2-6 (6-8)

West Side 2-9 (2-13)

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

SHP players hoist the GNT championship plaque (Photo by Richard Morris/SHP)

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