Holy Spirit Looks to Defend Baseball Title Under New Coach
Expectations remain high for the Holy Spirit High School baseball program a year after its most successful season in team history.
The Spartans finished 25-5, won a third-straight Cape-Atlantic League title and were the top-seeded team in the South Jersey Non-Public A playoffs. Holy Spirit went on to lose to fifth-ranked Paul VI in the group semifinals.
"Our team is led by senior captains A.J. Martinez, Mike Adams and Nick Zieniuk,” first-year Holy Spirit coach Bob Soifer said. "[Each] had solid years last year and we look for them to lead the way. I'm very grateful to be able coach this baseball team, rich in tradition established by former head coach Keith Gorman.”
Gorman led the Spartans for the past seven seasons, compiling a 120-54 record. Although Gorman remains Holy Spirit’s athletic director, he accepted a head coaching position with Cumberland County College’s baseball program.
Martinez, a lefty, will be counted on to lead on the mound, while Adams anchors the infield at shortstop. Zieniuk handles the Spartans’ pitching staff as the team's catcher and is one of the top offensive players in the Cape-Atlantic League.
Holy Spirit returns many varsity starters to this year's team, but has a new leader in Soifer. He served as the team's hitting coach during the previous three seasons.
“I have found that being a head coach requires a tremendous amount of time and responsibility as opposed to being an assistant coach as I was most of my career,” Soifer said. “There is zero down time and when things aren't going well, it's the responsibility of the head coach to figure out how we are going to turn it around. As an assistant coach you can pretty much go home and get away from it.”
The Spartans will also rely on senior twin brothers Alex and Chris Scarlett, who handle the corners, along with Kurt Hamby and Dan Levy. They are the core of a senior class that should be a huge part of Holy Spirit’s success.
The team also returns a solid group of juniors. Second baseman Ricky Hopkins, third baseman Tyler Kelly, outfielder Ryan Solari and designated hitter Gannon White will all be counted on and each has looked impressive during preseason, according to Soifer.
White suffered a shoulder injury that will likely restrict him to designated hitter this season. Last year, he was a solid starting pitcher, but will have to contribute exclusively on offense this season.
Speaking of pitching, Holy Spirit also returns sophomore pitcher Mike DiIanni. He saw time on the mound as a freshman and may be ready to take on a bigger role in 2012.
“This is a very special, tight-knit, unselfish, hard-working baseball team,” Soifer said. “They enjoy being around each other. We have a nice balance of players who will do whatever we call on them to do; bunt, move a runner or just throw strikes. They seem to always respond and want to sacrifice themselves for the better of the team.”
The Spartans will have many challengers in the Cape-Atlantic League, having moved from the National Conference into the American Conference.
"There isn't a team that we will be taking lightly," Soifer said.
The Spartans open the season on March 31 against Mainland before playing a neutral site game in Ventnor on Tuesday, April 2 against rival Atlantic City.
“That's the field I grew up on,” Soifer said, explaining his baseball background in Ventnor. “So I thought it would be a good place for that game so we can expose our program and people can come see a great ball game with high energy and a great atmosphere.”
Holy Spirit’s expectations are no different under Soifer than they were while Gorman was in charge. CAL teams will be gunning for the Spartans, but the team looks forward to the challenge.
“I'm really excited about this season and I absolutely love these guys,” Soifer said. “They have done everything I have asked so far. People ask me how we're going to be this year and I tell them, ‘I'll let them know 10 years from now when I see what they are doing’.”