Brandon Lashley is a throwback to a different era of high school baseball.
The Ocean City High School senior excels on the mound, at shortstop and at the plate. Lashley is The Press High School Baseball Player of the Year.
“I’m a competitor,” Lashley said. “I love being on the mound in big situations. I don’t want to be the guy sitting in the sun watching the team play huge games. I want to be the guy that’s part of it. I love the challenges.”
The Upper Township resident batted .451 with 27 runs scored, 19 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. He also was 6-1 with a 0.74 ERA. He will continue his baseball career as a pitcher at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York.
There was a time when what Lashley accomplished this season was not so unusual in high school baseball.
Star pitchers seemed to always be a team’s best athlete and would play shortstop or center field when not on the mound.
Nowadays, more and more pitchers of Lashley’s talent specialize and rarely play the field.
“You won’t see (what Lashley) did a lot anymore,” Ocean City coach Andrew Bristol said. “He’s just the epitome of an athlete. He’s not one of those kids who plays baseball all year long. He didn’t do specialized lessons. He was ready to go because of his natural ability. He’s a throwback.”
Lashley led the Red Raiders to a 19-5 record. He struck out 10 and threw a five-inning no-hitter in a 10-0 season-opening win over Oakcrest.
“Our coach wanted to put me out there for the first game of the year,” Lashley said. “That kind of set the tone for the season and gave me a lot of confidence.”
Bristol said Lashley is the most competitive player he’s ever coached.
“He pitched every big game we had,” Bristol said. “He was confident in his abilities.”
Lashley also starred as a wide receiver and defensive back for the Red Raiders football team. For the first time in his athletic career, he will specialize in one sport at Stony Brook.
“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “I think I can be better than where I’m at now.
Coach of the Year
Mike DeCicco took over as the Absegami High School baseball coach this season.
He had one big advantage — he knew the players.
DeCicco coached the current Absegami seniors when they were freshmen. He then was the Braves’ varsity pitching coach for two seasons.
“Of course, I had nerves,” DeCicco said. “(But) I still remember that first day of practice this year. Realistically, it felt like nothing had changed.”
Absegami finished 16-6, won its first playoff game in four years and advanced to the South Jersey Group III quarterfinals. DeCicco is The Press Coach of the Year.
“We all had one common goal,” DeCicco said. “Everyone was focused on playing good baseball. At the end of the day, if you throw strikes, play good defense and put the ball in play, I think you can always have a nice year no matter how talented you are.”
DeCicco, 26, credited former Absegami coach Brian Wastell for his help.
“Brian did a great job of coaching me in the last few years to be ready for this moment,” DeCiccco said. “He really set me up for success, and that says a lot about him as a person.”
Team of the Year
St. Augustine is always expected to be a Cape-Atlantic League favorite and one of South Jersey’s top teams.
But the Hermits weren’t expected to be a statewide success this season.
They graduated several standouts from last season’s state championship team. Several key players missed time with injuries this season.
The Hermits overcome those obstacles.
They finished 24-5 and won the fourth straight South Jersey Non-Public A championship. St. Augustine lost to Delbarton 4-3 in the state final. The Hermits are No. 1 in The Press Elite 11 and The Press Team of the Year.
Jayson Hoopes led the Hermits with a 6-0 pitching record. Cole Vanderslice provided senior leadership. Juniors Kenny Levari and Kevin Foreman sparked the offense.
“We weren’t expected to be here,” Hermits coach Mke Bylone said after the state final. “This team is so young, a lot of injuries. But I’m so proud of this group and how they persevered.”
The Hermits will have plenty of expectations next season.
“We’re only losing two position players,” Bylone said. “(The loss in the state final) is going to sting for a little bit because we were so close, but the sun is going to come, and I’ll wake up and look back at the roster and see that just about everyone is coming back.”