Monmouth Gearing Up For Season

Former Monsignor Donovan player Vinny Grasso. (Photo courtesy Monmouth University)

Tymere Berry, the former Toms River High School South standout now starring for the Monmouth University football team, has earned a berth on the All-Big South Conference first team as a defensive back.

Berry, a redshirt junior and a two-year starter at cornerback, was a second team all-conference selection last season after leading the Big South in passes defended with 16 passes defended, including 14 breakups, for the Hawks. He ranked fifth in the NCAA in passes defended and posted 43 total tackles, including 33 solo stops.

He played in 11 games, picked off two passes and made 4 1/2 tackles for 11 yards lost. He blocked one kick.

Other local players on the Hawks’ roster are Freehold resident Ryan Wetzel, a senior offensive lineman and a first team selection out of Colts Neck; graduate student Vinny Grasso, a wide receiver from Donovan Catholic, senior wide receiver Matt Castronuova (Jackson Memorial), sophomore running back Mike Gawlik (Jackson Memorial), freshman offensive lineman Scott Prendergast (Howell), sophomore defensive back Brady Watson (Brick Memorial), sophomore offensive lineman Justin Szuba (Brick Memorial), junior defensive lineman Adam Kakar (Toms River North) and freshman wide receiver Eddie Morales (Howell).

Former Toms River South star Tymere Berry has earned All-Big South Conference first team honors. (Photo courtesy Monmouth University)

Berry, Wetzel, named an all-conference first team offensive lineman, and others were honored at the annual Big South Conference Football Media Day at the Renaissance Suites Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. The honorees were chosen in a vote of the league’s head coaches and a media panel.

“It means a lot to be recognized by my peers and the other coaches,” Berry said on the Hawks’ Facebook page at the event.

Grasso was second on the Hawks in reception last year with 29 for 315 yards. He blazed 66 yards with a punt return for a touchdown. He rushed for 79 yards and one touchdown on three carries. He returned two kickoffs for 23 yards. He appeared in 12 games.

Castronuova hauled in six passes for 34 yards in 2017 and returned five kickoffs for 98 yards. He returned one punt for four yards. He plated in 12 games.

Kakar made six tackles, including three solos, in 10 games.

The Hawks were selected to finish second in the 2018 Big South Preseason Poll, their highest predicted finish since joining the league in 2014.

Monmouth, which finished second a season ago in the conference at 4-1, earned 82 total points and one first place vote. Defending Big South champion Kennesaw State received 17 of a possible 18 first place votes and garnered 107 points.

The poll’s voters were the league’s head coaches and a media panel.

The Hawks return 16 starters, including 10 on offense, from last year’s NCAA Playoff team, which was 9-3 overall. Kevin Callahan, who is in his 26th season as the lone head coach in program history, ranks 10th among active NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision coaches with 144 wins – all at the West Long Branch school.

Freehold resident Ryan Wetzel (center), who played for Colts Neck, is a top Monmouth University offensive lineman. (Photo courtesy of Monmouth University)

“Our mentality is that we have to be better than we were last season,” Berry said. “We want to get over that hump.”

Berry hopes to fill the void created by the loss of standout defensive back Mike Basile (Brick Memorial) and others to graduation. Berry said taking on the team’s high-powered offense in practice will improve his play.

“Going against our offensive players will make me better,” he said. “When it is game time, they will make me better. We have a lot of young guys taking a lot of reps (repetitions) in the defensive backfield. They are stepping up and trying to fill the void that we lost.”

Berry said he enjoys playing for the Hawks.

“From the improved facilities to the players to what we do to get ready for the season the only way to go is up,” he said. “Go Hawks.”

Monmouth will open its regular season Saturday, Aug. 31, at Eastern Michigan University at 6:30 p.m. The game will air on ESPN+. The Hawks will host Hampton University in their home opener Saturday, Sept. 8, at Kessler Stadium.

Beverette signs: Former Lakewood standout Tyrice Beverette has signed a contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mackenzie Putman, a Toms River North graduate, earned an academic honor at Monmouth University. (Photo courtesy Monmouth University)

The safety tried out for the team as an undrafted free agent in rookie minicamp. He also tried out for the New York Jets. Beverette, a former Stony Brook University defensive back, is on the Bengals’ 90-man roster. The team cut a player to make room for Beverette, a 6-foot, 210-pound safety. He is one of eight defensive backs, including rookie second round draft pick Jessie Bates, in camp.

Beverette, who hopes to be on the Bengals’ regular season roster, clocked a 4.26 in the short shuttle, which would have placed him fifth among all safeties invited to the NFL Combine.

Beverette was a three-year starter at Stony Brook where he earned third team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors last season as a senior. He was a second team All-CAA selection as a junior.

Thor in NFL: Ira Thor, a Howell Township Board of Education member, has been named the New York Jets’ new crew chief and head statistician.

“The Jets called me and asked if I would consider taking a gameday role on their staff,” said Thor, who is in his first year of a three-year term. “Four years ago, my Sundays changed forever and I got to live a dream when I became the permanent internal public address announcer for the New York Giants. Now, I will work on gamedays for both teams. It’s cool to work for both teams.”

Howell resident Ira Thor will be busy on Sundays. (Photo courtesy Ira Thor)

Thor, a Fair Lawn graduate, is the Director of Athletic Communications and Marketing at New Jersey City University.

“I have been truly blessed with great opportunities in my career,” he said, “and am extremely grateful for yet another one. My Sundays will be busy from August through December and hopefully into January, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Thor played on the boys soccer and boys volleyball teams at Fair Lawn High School. He was on the Cutters’ volleyball team which won the first NJSIAA state title in 1995. He played club volleyball in college.

“I just know the game (football) and have a broadcasting background,” Thor said.

Thor coaches recreational soccer and basketball teams in Howell and coaches traveling soccer in Colts Neck.

Off to college: Senior tight end-defensive end Sean Morris of the Barnegat Bengals has committed to Holy Cross of NCAA Division I-AA.

Morris fielded three Division I-A and 14 Division I-AA offers before choosing the New England school.

Papcun packs pop: Brick resident Pete Papcun finished the season in a two-way tie for second on the Hawks’ baseball team in home runs with eight.

The former Christian Brothers Academy player wound up in a two-way tie for first on the club in doubles with 12 and had the slugging percentage (.503) on the club among the regulars. He was third on the club in runs batted in with 36 and hit one triple. He scored 20 runs.

The ex-Colt batted .258 (40-for-155). He played in 44 games and started 41 as the Hawks were 30-25 overall, including 16-7 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Matt Castronuova, a former Jackson Memorial standout, eyes the defense for Monmouth. (Photo courtesy of Monmouth University)

Teammate Chris Hawryluk, a sophomore from Jackson Memorial, saw limited action in relief.

Monmouth’s director of Baseball Operations was former Toms River South standout Jeff Barbalinardo, who starred for the Hawks. He has also served as a Monmouth assistant coach.

Fall a winner: Former Toms River South player Justin Fall finished in a three-way tie for first place in wins (7-2) at Brookdale Community College.

The freshman paced the Jersey Blues in innings pitched (64 1/3), strikeouts (72) and complete games (five). The owner of a 5.74 earned run average, Fall pitched in 12 games and started a team-high 11.

Other local players on the Jersey Blues’ roster were freshman pitcher Mike Soldo (Brick Township), sophomore pitcher Alec Merritt (Brick Memorial), freshman infielder Ryan O’Sullivan (Lacey Township), freshman pitcher Jayden Tisseker (Brick Township), sophomore outfielder Marco Meleo (Freehold), freshman outfielder Andrew Serrino (Brick Township) and freshman pitcher James Wynne (Howell Township).

Soldo was 3-4 with one save and an 11.92 earned run average in 12 games, including six starts. He pitched 25 2/3 innings, allowing 37 hits, 28 walks and whiffing 23.

Merritt was 0-2 with a 7.94 earned run average in 11 1/3 innings. He allowed 12 hits, walked seven and whiffed five. He appeared in six games and started two.

O’Sullivan, who played in 22 games, batted .235 (11-for-51), hit one double scored eight runs and drove in seven runs.

Tisseker, the owner of an 0-1 record and a 7.40 earned run average, posted one save. He appeared in 15 games and started one. In 24 1/3 innings, he allowed 33 hits and yielded 17 walks while striking out 17.

Former Toms River North player Adam Kakar (light jersey) battles in the trenches for Monmouth University. (Photo courtesy of Monmouth University)

Meleo, who played in 55 games, batted .459 (90-for-196). He drove in 30 runs, scored 38 runs and hit 12 doubles and one triple. He slugged .377 and put up a .388 on-base percentage. He stole 10 bases in 15 attempts.

Serrino batted .281, stroking 16 hits, including five doubles, in 57 at-bats in 28 games. He scored 12 runs and plated six. He stole two bases in three attempts. He put up a .379 on-base percentage and a .368 slugging percentage.

Wynne, who led the team in saves with four, was 4-2 with a 3.29 earned run average in 54 2/3 innings. He surrendered 60 hits and nine walks while striking out 42. He appeared in 20 games and started one.

The Jersey Blues were 36-21 overall, including 17-7 in National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Region XIX and the Garden State Athletic Conference.

More on the diamond: On the Monmouth women’s softball team was former Brick Township High School player Christine Frazee, who saw limited action as a reliever.

The Hawks were 32-16 overall, including 19-1 in the MAAC. They won their first regular season title since 1999 and captured their initial conference tournament title. They made their first NCAA Regional Tournament appearance in program history. They lost 4-0 to Ohio University in the first elimination game in the NCAA Softball Knoxville Regional in Tennessee.

Trio wins honors: Three local players on the Brookdale Community College women’s softball team earned postseason honors.

Named All-Region XIX first team and All-GSAC first team was sophomore second baseman Paige Eckert (Howell). A second team All-Region XIX and first team All-GSAC selection was freshman outfielder Tori Lucarelli (Brick Memorial).

A second team All-GSAC player was sophomore catcher-third baseman Bridget Coulahan (Howell).

Named an NJCAA III first team All-American infielder, Eckert paced the Jersey Blues in runs batted in (63), home runs (seven), hits (80 in 180 at-bats), on-base percentage (.462 among the club’s regulars), slugging percentage (.700) and doubles (21).

Former Howell player Paige Eckert earned All-American honors at Brookdale. (Photo courtesy of Brookdale Community College)

She was second among the regulars in batting average (.444) and runs scored (58). She finished in a three-way tie for first on the club in games played (51). She added two triples and stole seven bases in eight attempts.

Eckert was named the Most Valuable Player of the Region XIX District E Tournament championship game as she went 3-for-4, drove in one run and scored one run in an 8-0 win over Camden County College.

The second baseman fielded .945. She finished with 201 chances and made 101 putouts. She handed out 84 assists, made 11 errors and helped turn six double plays.

Lucarelli, who played in 49 games, batted .391 (63-for-161). She plated 29 runs and was third on the team in runs scored (55) and hits.

Among her hits were 10 doubles and one triple. She stole 12 bases in 14 attempts for second on the team. She slugged .466 and put up a .409 on-base percentage.

Coulahan batted .365 (61-for-167). She was second on the team in runs batted in (52) and scored 45 runs. She put up a .429 on-base percentage and a .509 slugging percentage. She was 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts in 51 games. She hit four home runs and 12 doubles.

Freshman teammate Alyssa Raimondo, a third baseman from Toms River East, batted .342 (54-for-158) in 51 games.

Among her hits were one homer, three triples and eight doubles. She drove in 40 runs and scored 38. She finished the season with a .449 slugging percentage and a .413 on-base percentage.

The Jersey Blues placed fifth in the NJCAA Division III Tournament. They were ranked third in the final NJCAA Division III poll of the season.

Marco Melo, who played for Freehold, was a force for Broookdale. (Photo courtesy of Brookdale Community College)

Brookdale was 34-17 overall. It won the Region XIX and GSAC titles at 11-1.

Putman earns honor: Recent Monmouth graduate Mackenzie Putman, who hails from Toms River North, made the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Assocation Zags Sports Division I Academic Honor Roll for the second straight season.

Putman majored in business. The midfielder was scoreless in seven games this year when she notched three caused turnovers and hustled to one ground ball.

The Hawks shared the MAAC regular season title at 6-2 with Marist, Fairfield and Canisus. Monmouth was 8-10 overall.

Meanwhile, former Howell Township player Reese Parr, a junior member of the Rowan University Profs, also was named to the IWLCA Zag Sports Division III Academic Honor Roll.

She saw playing time in every game at attack, scoring five goals and handing out three assists for eight points. She collected 16 ground balls.

Enrolled in the mechanical engineering program, Parr has been a Rowan Scholar-Athlete for three straight years. She is a member of the Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athlete Honor Society and is a New Jersey Athletic Conference honorable mention selection.

Parr helped the Profs to a 14-4 overall record.

And two Stockton University players made the IWLCA Zag Sports Division III Academic Honor Roll.

Senior Amanda Scarpa (Freehold Township) was honored for the second straight season. Another honoree was junior Melanie Patterson (Jackson Liberty).

Scarpa, a defender who started each of the Ospreys’ 18 games, anchored a defense that registered a 10.63 goals against average per game. She was second on the team in ground balls (42) and caused turnovers (19). She started every Stockton game over the past four years and finished her career as the five-year-old program’s leader in ground balls (113) and third in caused turnovers (56).

Former Freehold Township player Amanda Scarpa starred at Stockton University. (Photo courtesy of Stockton University)

Patterson played in 18 games and started 14. The midfielder scored 24 goals and dished three assists for 27 points. She was third on the team in draw controls (34) and added 16 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers in her third season on the team.

Duo cited: Two local players were named to the All-Region XIX team after starring for Brookdale in men’s lacrosse.

Cited were sophomore defender-midfielder Jake Dudics, a former Freehold Township player who lives in Howell, and freshman defender Pat Gazzillo, a Colts Neck graduate and a Freehold Township resident.

Dudics scored four goals and added two assists for six points. He added 28 ground balls. He appeared in eight games and started seven.

Gazzillo hustled to 21 ground balls. He played in and started six games.

Freshman teammate Dan Clayton, a Howell resident from St. Rose, put home four goals for four points and added six ground balls. He appeared in four games and started one.

Brookdale was 2-7 overall, including 1-1 in Region XIX and the GSAC

Patrick Gazzillo, a Freehold Township resident and a former Colts Neck player, earned All-Region XIX honors at Brookdale. (Photo courtesy of Brookdale Community College)

Strikes and smarts: Six local athletes from the Felician University women’s bowling team have been named to the National Tenpin Coaches Association (NTCA) All-Academic team

Cited were sophomore Nicole Aumack, an education major and a former Brick Township standout; junior Kaitlyn Buck, a psychology major from Howell; senior Michelle Gulino, a criminal justice major from Howell; senior Alex Laurenzano, a graphic design major from Brick Township; senior Kristin Natoli, a senior biology major from Howell, and Jessica Zalewski, a senior elementary education major from Barnegat.

In 2017-18, Aumack put up a 3.629 grade point average, Buck a 3.508, Gulino a 3.969, Laurenzano a 3.959, Natoli a 4.000 and Zalewski a 3.322.

In the cumulative GPA department, Aumack owns a 3.557, Buck a 3.634, Gulino a 3.973, Laurenzano a 3.967, Natoli a 3.978 and Zalewski a 3.523.