CBA head coach Marty Kenney had a talk with his team several weeks ago, and the Colts have responded in a big way. Photo courtesy of letsgocolts.com
CBA head coach Marty Kenney had a talk with his team several weeks ago, and the Colts have responded in a big way. Photo courtesy of letsgocolts.com

Christian Brothers Academy baseball coach Marty Kenney Jr. loves the Lincroft team he will take into battle against St. Augustine Prep, Richland, in the June 10 South Jersey Non-Public A sectional championship game.

Kenney appreciates their talent, enjoys the fact that they are good kids personality-wise, and admires the way they have shown their faith this season.

“They have gotten together to say a prayer before every game, which is something they’ve done on their own,” the coach said. “The seniors kind of took the lead on it. It’s not something we imposed on them previously. It’s unique to them and it’s from the leadership of this class this year.”

Kenney, who took over for his dad, Marty Kenney Sr. prior to the 2020 COVID-shutdown season, served as a Colts assistant in three different stints but never saw this kind of faith-based group effort before. Mostly, it was individual prayers.

“I don’t think it was something my father ever really did a lot,” Kenney said. “I think it’s better this way. The more the kids do and the more the kids impart it on their teammates, it’s just received so much better than when a coach says, ‘Hey we’re gonna do this.’ I was really proud … and saw it was important to them. It’s why you go to these schools, right?”

It is indeed, along with academics and athletics. And the baseball team is another shining light in the school’s outstanding sports program.

CBA (18-9) entered the sectionals as the No. 6 seed and squeaked by 11th-seeded Paul VI of Haddonfield, 3-2. Since then, it has embarked on what it hopes is a “3-2-1 blast off!” trek, having defeated No. 3 Red Bank Catholic, 3-1, and No. 2 St. Joe’s of Metuchen, 11-0. All that remains is No. 1 seed St. Augustine of Richland, which is also ranked No. 1 in the state by NJ.com.

Kenney, however, feels the seeds make no difference.

“Parochial A is a gauntlet every year,” he said. “I don’t even get caught up in the match-ups because I honestly believe anyone you play in Parochial is gonna be really good. They’re all great programs.”

They now play the greatest of them all – at least in South Jersey for the past five years. Since CBA won the Non-Public A state title in 2016, St. Augustine has won four straight sectional titles, and was state champion in 2018.

The Hermits are 26-1 and have won 12 straight, while the Colts are 18-9 and have won five in a row. Kenney feels they are playing their best ball of the season.

“We’ve felt we had a talented group,” he said. “We’ve had flashes of greatness and had times where we’ve laid a dud. We knew we could play with anybody in the state on any given day. We’ve always had that with us, but we’ve lacked that consistency.”

Indeed, the Colts hung right with some talented teams before losing.

On its spring trip to Myrtle Beach, CBA played tough against nationally ranked Archbishop Moeller of Cincinnati in a 5-3 loss. They also lost close ones to Red Bank Catholic in nine innings and state power Seton Hall Prep of West Orange, 1-0.

After watching his team that includes five Division I commits fail to get on a roll, Kenney felt it was time for a “chat,” so to speak.

“Coach gave us a talk a couple weeks ago about what is expected at the Academy and how, in order to cement our legacy, we must prove it by putting a ‘ball on the wall,’” senior centerfielder Jack Frankovic said. “Whenever we win a division, county, shore, section or state championship, we put a baseball up on our fence and the year we won it.

“This year we haven’t performed well enough to put a ball on the wall and we haven’t really been playing our game,” he continued. “Coach Kenney does a great job of being real and honest with the guys and he expects a lot from us. He gave us a reality check; we haven’t yet cemented our legacy and we feel like this is our last chance to prove to the state what we’ve got.”

Kenney said he challenged the players to play with some anger, intensity and energy, and they have responded.

“It’s been fun to watch and fun to see them grow into this team that we thought we should have and could have been all year,” the coach said.  

CBA has been led by seniors Colin Reilly, a Tulane commit, and Frankovic, a Lehigh signee.

Reilly has a 6-2 record and 1.54 ERA. He has sparkled in state wins over Paul VI and St. Joe’s, allowing just nine hits, two runs (one earned) and two walks in 12 innings.

“All season our guy Colin Reilly has been giving us 110 percent, putting everything out on the field for us and we just want to battle at the plate for him,” said Frankovic, who went 5-for-5 with three runs scored against St. Joe’s. “I couldn’t be prouder of the player he has become in the past four years.”

Frankovic isn’t too bad himself, hitting .404 with 18 runs scored out of the leadoff spot. A natural athlete (his normal position is shortstop but since Harrison Campi – who’s hitting .636 with two homers and 20 runs scored – is solid there), Frankovic played third base last year and is in center field this year.

“He has the ability to basically move anywhere,” Kenney said. “It wasn’t that he was any better or worse than Campi. We just knew we could move him to other positions, and he just excels wherever.”

Other big hitters are Hunter DelGuercio (.456, 3 home runs, 30 RBI), senior Alexey Stout (.405) and junior Zaine Toneske (.431, 2 HR, 17 RBI). Among the junior class, Toneske is committed to St. John’s (Queens, NY), Campi will head for Walford (Spartanburg, S.C.) and Luke Roccesano is bound for Maryland (College Park).

Roccesano (3.04 ERA) allowed three hits in five innings in the sectional win over Red Bank Catholic and is one of three hurlers Kenney feels could go against St. Augustine along with Reilly (1.54) and Frankovic (2.87), who is a quality pitcher along with his other attributes.  

“I think it will be a combination of the three,” Kenney said. “The plan is to use them all. Against a team like St. Augustine, it’s kind of what you have to do … as long as they come in and throw strikes.”  

St. Augustine could counter with Andrew Gaines or Marco Levari, as its ace, CJ Furey, just pitched in the semifinal against St. John Vianney. The Hermits have a deep staff as witnessed by a team ERA of 1.63 to go with a team batting average of .358.

But Frankovic feels his team is battle tested and ready.

“With us competing with and beating the three seed our in our crosstown rivals RBC, and the powerhouse two seed St. Joe’s Metuchen, it’s just a preview of what we have left in the tank,” he said. “Being able to play St. Augustine on Friday is truly special to us considering they’re one of the top dogs in the state. We have a lot of respect for their program and can’t wait to compete.”

And before they compete, they will bow their heads in prayer.