Jason Cozzi and Michael Fattore share common characteristics.
They are seniors at Bridgewater-Raritan High School who are both extremely talented and skilled baseball players.
They were each honored on the All-Skyland Conference First Team last baseball season.
They also both signed letters of intent to continue their baseball careers on the collegiate level—Cozzi will pitch next year at the University of Massachusetts and Fattore will swing his bat at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina.
And they both get it.
Their similar approach to the game of baseball is as simple as having a catch in the backyard.
“We want to have fun,” Fattore claimed. “We hope to have a good season but we want to have a fun season with memories.”
Cozzi followed with his perfect strike.
“We want to compete. We have an older team with a lot of players back and hope to win a county title,” Cozzi said.
“But we want to have fun and make memories,” Cozzi added.
Fattore chimed in.
“And victories can be fun,” he confirmed.
Yes, victories are fun and under the superb guidance of veteran head coach Max Newill and his loyal lieutenant, Evan Seavey, victories may be plentiful on the diamond located at Baslione Memorial Field in Bridgewater.
Cozzi touched on how these Panthers are older—14 letter winners return from the team that finished 15-13 last spring.
“I am very much looking forward to the 2023 season and the challenge that our schedule presents,” Coach Newill stated. “We have a group of players who bring a combination of talent and experience that should allow us to be very competitive. We also have some talented newcomers that we are looking forward to seeing to compete.”
The schedule, as Coach Newill pointed out, is taxing.
The season will kick off on April 4 when neighborhood rival; Watchung Hills Regional High School, makes the short drive to Basilone Field.
The schedule includes other highly competitive local foes such as Ridge High School, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, Hillsborough High School and Immaculata High School.
But outside this neck of the woods are lurking such heavyweights as Howell High School, Roxbury High School and two St. Joseph High Schools—one from the high north in Bergen County’s Montvale and the other a shorter relay throw away in Metuchen.
To combat these forceful units, Coach Newill will first turn to his two stalwart seniors---Cozzi and Fattore.
Cozzi, who throws lefty, will be the ace of the staff. He came off a 2022 season when he finished 2-4 with a 3.43 ERA. For his career, he has posted an 8-5 record and a 25.8 ERA while he has registered 62 strikeouts in 65 innings.
Fattore, a two-time All-Skyland Conference selection, batted .393 and drove in 28 runs last spring. He also smoked five home runs and produced eight doubles a season ago. The righty batter hit .342 and knocked in 13 runs as a sophomore, when he earned honorable mention honors on All-Skyland Conference. He will play first base and third base and the right-hander will do some pitching.
This is not the only Fattore who these sound opponents on the schedule must deal with.
Michael’s younger but equally talented brother, Matt Fattore, a junior, is a double-threat weapon for Coach Newill.
With the stick, this righty batted .392 and drove in 14 runs, while on the mound, the right-hander ended with a 4-3 record and a 2.39 ERA when he earned Second Team All-Skyland Conference in 2022.
The welcome sight of spring included the appearance of Noah Matheson, who returned healthy after he missed his junior year with a knee injury. The lefty flashed a 5-2 record and a 2.70 ERA in 2021 when the righty hitter collected a .333 batting average and scored 11 runs.
A deep pitching staff will also include senior righties Cole Cabatu, Jacob Rosado, Stephen Colon and Kevin Lee, junior right-handers Trevor Kelly, Joey Letko and Cory Rible, and two lefties, sophomore Owen Crimmins and freshman Kellan Komline. Sophomore righty JR Rosado, who finished 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA last season, will also see some work out of the bullpen.
They will operate with a sturdy defense behind them, led by the double play tandem of junior second baseman Devin Goldberg and senior shortstop Matt Moore. Coach Newill labeled the pair “one of the best double play tandems in the state.”
Goldberg is also a spark at the top of the order with his speed—he stole 15 bases and reached base at a .415 clip while he hit .247 last spring. Moore batted .283 as a junior.
The batting order provides punch with JR Rosado, a catcher who batted .302 and produced 14 RBI last year, senior outfielder Jimmy Turchi, who hit .361 last year, senior first baseman Ethan Leon, who has recovered from his elbow injury after he batted .231 last spring, and senior outfielder Tim Travisano, who hit 268.and drove in 10 runs.
Turchi and Travisano have also committed to continue their careers on the collegiate level. Turchi is headed to the County College of Morris and Travisano will play at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
The lineup will receive a boost in late April when catcher /outfielder Frankie Verano, who was a .243 hitter as a sophomore, returns from his knee injury.
This group will be steered by Coach Newill, who has compiled a 198-176 record over his 15 seasons at Bridgewater-Raritan.
He once again has set the same goals—-compete for Skyland Conference, Somerset County and North Jersey, Section 2, state championships.
“We set ambitious goals every season, goals I truly believe are achievable,” Coach Newill said. “But it will take the combined efforts of everyone to reach them.”
They will have fun while they seek to accomplish these goals, too.