Kenny and Marco Levari were supposed to compete together on the St. Augustine Prep baseball team this spring.
But because the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the spring season, the brothers will not have that opportunity in high school. However, they can possibly make up for lost time in college.
Marco verbally committed last Friday to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. The 15-year-old freshman will receive a full academic and athletic scholarship.
The shortstop and right-handed pitcher made the announcement on Twitter.
“It just felt like it was a good fit for me,” Marco said. “They have a good track record of getting people drafted. I just thought it was a great fit.”
Kenny, a standout pitcher for the Hermits, is also committed to Old Dominion. The 18-year-old St. Augustine senior anticipates having the chance to play alongside his brother in four years.
The Levaris are from Vineland.
“He’s a good kid, and he works hard,” Kenny said about his younger brother. “We are always competing out in the backyard or in anything we do.”
Old Dominion, an NCAA Division I program that competes in Conference USA, went 12-4 under ninth-year coach Chris Finwood before the coronavirus crisis ended this college season.
Finwood has produced 14 MLB draft selections in his tenure at Old Dominion, including Tampa Bay Rays left-handed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough.
Marco said his brother played a role in his recent commitment. But the university also mirrored his academic and athletic desires.
“It’s an honor,” Kenny said about Marco following his footsteps. “I know he looks up to me, even though we fight sometimes like brothers do. But he does look up to me, so I need to be a good role model.”
The Monarchs featured two Press-area players on their roster this year — freshmen Noah Dean (Pinelands Regional) and Robbie Petracci (Egg Harbor Township). Cedar Creek senior pitcher Luke Vaks is also committed to Old Dominion.
“The culture around there is what I’m looking forward to the most,” Marco said. “The atmosphere is amazing, so I’m looking forward to having fun and competing with the team.”
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs most high school sports in the state, canceled the spring season May 4 after Gov. Phil Murphy closed all high school buildings for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.
Both brothers had high hopes this spring.
“It would’ve been a great experience playing together,” Kenny said. “We never really played together on a competitive team, so it definitely would’ve been fun. So, maybe we’ll get another shot in a few years.”
Last season, St. Augustine captured its fourth consecutive South Jersey Non-Public A title. The Hermits won the state title in 2018.
The Hermits also have many other D-I recruits, including seniors Brian Furey (U.S. Naval Academy) and Alex Hunt (Iona).
“I feel like we were going to be one of the best teams in the country this season,” said Kenny, who was a first-team Press All-Star last spring. He was also the Hermits’ closer and struck out 24 in 192/3 innings.
“I would’ve been shocked if we lost a game. I thought we were going to be that good,” Kenny said.
Marco said his goal at Old Dominion is to win a College World Series title and make it to the big leagues.
But right now he is very disappointed that his freshman season and the chance to play with his brother was taken away. He will use that as motivation next season.
Marco also plays for the South Jersey Sand Sharks Baseball Club, an AAU travel organization based in Galloway Township.
“I was looking forward to playing with him,” Marco said. “We love each other, but, with baseball, we are always competitive. We are always trying to beat each other in something. It’s like a brother thing. Hopefully I can make up for it the next three years.”