Entering his 13th season, Joe Sorce has become one of, it not the longest-tenured head coach in the history of Belleville High’s varsity baseball program.
And that’s saying something, considering the talented teams which have graced the diamonds for the Blue and Gold for the past half century.
Joe Sorce (right) giving instructions earlier this season. Thank you to Derek Lombardi, Sr., for the photos. (Click on photo for larger image)
Sorce had succeeded Alan Frank in 2007, after Frank held the job for eight seasons (1999-2006). Frank had also played for Belleville High from 1971-1973 and was named to the All-State team in ’72 and ’73.
Prior to Frank, Chuck Martin was head coach for five years (1994-1998) after being an assistant to Nick Grande, who held the job for six years (1988-1993).
Of course, the late George Zanfini was a legendary coach at BHS, with the varsity baseball field re-named in his honor in 2008. Zanfini was head coach from 1975-1982 and again in 1987. He also guided the Bucs to its only GNT championship, to date, in 1981.
Belleville catcher Derek Lombardi (center) with teammates. (Click on photo for larger image)
Ralph LaConte was Belleville’s coach from 1983-1986 and before that, it was Charley Travers.
So with that said, Sorce, a long-time educator in the Belleville school system, is excited about the 2019 season.
“We’re getting very good leadership from five seniors with varsity experience,” said Sorce.
Brian Defreites, a shortstop, will once again be Belleville’s leadoff hitter. Third basemen Chris Amparo will provide a strong bat as the team’s number three batter and his defense has shown marked improvement.
Outfielder and pitcher Sebastian Alverio is swinging the bat well, according to Sorce.
“It looks like Sebastian will be a solid cleanup batter in our lineup,” the coach said. “We’re working him in right field, which is new to him. In the past Sebastian played center and left field. We have several solid defensive outfielders and with Sebastian having the strongest arm we want to see how he adjusts to the new position.”
Derek Lombardi will do the bulk of the catching this season.
“Derek is a solid receiver who is a very smart player,” said Sorce. “Derek always knows what is going on each situation. Joe Monroig is a strong defensive first basemen who provides leadership and experience.”
In what shouldn’t be a surprise, the baseball field at BHS wasn’t ready for the start of the season.
“Unfortunately the varsity baseball field is not ready, so we will start the season on the road,” said Sorce.
Nevertheless, Belleville was off to a 3-1 start through games of April 9. The Bucs defeated Irvington in the season opener, 22-1, while also defeating Harrison, 16-5, and Barringer, 6-3. The only setback was a 9-8 loss to Edison.
“We’re off to a good start,” said Sorce. “Gio Torres pitched four innings and struck out 10 in the Irvington game while Chris Amparo was 2-for-3 with two RBI.”
The Bucs had an 8-4 lead at Edison, but the home team scored five times in the bottom of the seventh to win.
“That was a tough defeat,” said Sorce. “Kevin Arroyo pitched 4 1/3 strong innings in relief. Sebastian Alverio and Brain Defreites each had two hits.”
Versus Harrison, Albert Carrero struck out seven and walked one to pick up the victory and Monroig had two hits and drove in two runs.
“Our seniors have been providing strong leadership as well as solid play,” said Sorce. “Joe Monroig and Sebastian Alverio have shown improvement at the plate, and Derek Lombardi has been excellent behind the plate. His arm has improved and he’s been doing a good job of blocking, receiving, and framing.”
Arroyo scattered five hits against Barringer to get the victory on the mound while Alverio, Carrero, Jiustino Cecere and Monroig drove in runs for the Bucs.