By TOM WILLIAMS
Despite the quarantine, things have been happening on the Ocean City sports scene.
Most recently, the Philadelphia Phillies today signed Ocean City High School senior Jake McKenna to a contract. McKenna had committed to St. Joseph’s University. The 6-5 left-hander is considered to have great potential by MLB teams and could have been a sixth or seventh round selection. But the draft was shortened to five rounds this year because of COVID-19.
McKenna joins Dan Nunan (LA Angels) and Sean Mooney (Minnesota Twins) as former OCHS pitchers under contract to MLB teams.
Last season, McKenna pitched in eight and one-third innings over eight games, striking out 18 and walking 13. He had a 0.84 earned run average, allowing two hits and one earned run.
He would have been part of a pitching staff this spring that included junior Gannon Brady (committed to Fordham), junior Matt Nunan (Boston College) and sophomore Tom Finnegan (Vanderbilt).
McKenna is communicating with the Phillies largely via Zoom and should soon receive instructions about where and when to report as baseball starts to prepare to play.
Three new head coaches will be part of the OCHS athletics department when the 2020-21 school year begins, probably in September.
Softball coach John Bruno, girls lacrosse coach Alyssa Morrison and girls soccer coach Kelly Halliday all resigned. Bruno had a 109-276 record over 20 seasons, frequently struggling to find solid pitching. But his teams were 60-53 in his last six seasons, including two NJSIAA tournament wins in 2019 for the first time in 30 years. Morrison’s teams were 110-29 in her seven seasons, including four Cape-Atlantic League championships and seven NJSIAA wins.
Halliday resigned recently after seven seasons. The Raiders were 104-34-7 with five CAL titles, two South Jersey championships and the program’s first state championship last year. Her teams were 15-6 in the NJSIAA tournament, 3-5 in the Coaches Invitational and 3-1 in the CAL Tournament. She leaves with an impressive lineup returning.
Keri Tricinelli will replace Bruno. She is the founder and head coach of the New Jersey Brawlers Fast-pitch Organization, a former head coach at Mitchell (CT) College and assistant at three other colleges who played high school softball at Donovan Catholic and college ball at University of New Haven.
Leslie Graham takes over girls lacrosse. She played at Ithaca (NY) College and spent a year coaching in Scotland. She was most recently an assistant at Stockton following head coaching positions at St. Leo University and Chestnut Hill College.
No replacement for Halliday has been determined.
Speaking of new coaches, former OCHS girls crew coach Jeff Garbutt, a long time member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, has been named head rowing coach at LaSalle University. He will coach both the men and women at LaSalle and the two rosters currently include 11 former CAL crew team members. That includes Andrew Leonetti, a sophomore from Ocean City,
Former OCHS basketball star Connor Laverty, recently named the Raider Player of the Decade (2010-19) was selected as the Male Athlete of the Year at Widener. Laverty, who finished his college career with exactly 1,000 points, was MAC Commonwealth Player of the Year and was named first, Middle-Atlantic District by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Another very successful OCHS basketball player – Grace Sacco – has transferred from North Carolina-Wilmington to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Sacco was third on the team in assists as a freshman and was a three-time winner of the CAA Commissioners Academic Award. She played in one game this past season as a junior before deciding to transfer.
Most people know by now that Millville’s Mike Trout has been nominated to the New Jersey Hall of Fame, which recognizes great accomplishments from people with Garden State connections. But another nominee this year is Ocean City High School graduate Gay Talese, one of America’s greatest authors and journalists of the last 60 years.
Talese, 88, whose parents had a successful tailoring business on Asbury Avenue for decades, wrote sports for the Sentinel-Ledger newspaper from 1946-49 and went on to graduate from the University of Alabama. He became a reporter for the New York Times and Esquire Magazine, wrote many successful books and was awarded the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Journalism in 2011.
An avid tennis player, he became good friends with Ocean City tennis director Phil Birnbaum during his decades of summers in the resort.
Among other nominees for the New Jersey Hall of Fame are athletes Eli Manning, Rick Barry, Gerry Cooney, Monte Irvin and Sue Wicks; basketball coach Vivian Stringer; entertainers Mary Chapin Carpenter, Buddy Hackett, Cissy Houston, George Benson and Flip Wilson; actors John Amos and Danny Aiello; and authors Joyce Kilmer and Fran Lebowitz.
You can vote by going here.
Speaking of Halls of Fame, the fall induction of new members of the OCHS Sports Hall of Fame has been cancelled for 2020 because of the uncertainty created by COVID-19. The next induction will be in the fall of 2021, though nominations can be made now by going here.
A member of the OCHS Sports Hall of Fame – Renee Tomlin – is involved in a new project this month. A multi-sport star at OCHS who won the Flagship Award as the top female athlete in the CAL’s Class of 2006, Tomlin is one of the top triathletes in the world.
“On June 19th & 20th,” Tomlin says, “the USA Paratriathlon Team will ride 483 miles across the state of Colorado. We’re calling it Operation CO>COVID, aiming to beat the sunset on the Kansas boarder while raising money for those impacted by the pandemic.
“As a relay enthusiast, I am beyond excited to be apart of this team in this pursuit! The money we raise will go directly towards the Care and Share Food Bank, as well as the USAT Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund Grant Program. Even if you aren’t able to financially contribute, feel free to share in our journey by following along and by spreading the word.”
Contributions can be made here.
There could still be youth baseball in Ocean City.
The Ocean City Youth Athletic Association, like many other groups, is waiting for further requirements from the State of New Jersey regarding the playing of sports. The driving force of the OCYAA, Greg Donahue, indicates the group will do everything it can to give local baseball players an opportunity to play.
Little League Baseball has cancelled its World Series and all of the regional competitions that lead to it. But they are allowing states to decide what to do within their state. New Jersey officials are hoping to have a tournament in late August and September, but they are waiting for guidance from state health officials.
At least three area leagues – Upper Township, Greater Wildwood and Northfield – have decided not to play this year. Players from those communities, however, may play in neighboring towns.
Although no final decisions have been made, Donahue suggests interested players register now by going here. If a schedule is created, those who register will be contacted.