South Jersey Sports Weekly is a new publication produced by Sun Newspapers that appears in physical copy within the Suns throughout South Jersey (in Moorestown, Medford, Cherry Hill, Washington Township, Deptford, etc). each Wednesday. Most of the content also appears online. The weekly, online notebook will provide you with even more of the content within SJSW’s physical pages.
With a win over Lenape on April 16, Bishop Eustace Prep baseball coach Sam Tropiano passed former Delran coach Rich Bender for the record for career coaching wins by a South Jersey baseball coach. Tropiano entered the final week of April with a career record of 674-246 in 34 seasons (30 at Bishop Eustace).
“It makes you reflect on all of the great players you’ve been blessed to have over the years, the Blaine Neals and the Mark Sauers, Nick Italiano, Mike Appalucci, Zac Gallen, Devin Smeltzer, Tyler Phillips. We’ve been so blessed to have so many great players go through.You know you couldn’t do anything without great players. And I’ve also been blessed to have some great coaches. … And I couldn’t have done this without the support of my wife, Marianne.”
The key to running a consistent program for so long: Tropiano said it’s about the culture, which starts at the top with the Crusaders varsity team and trickles down to the junior varsity and freshman teams each spring. “It’s all about coming in, working hard, playing baseball the right way. Be prepared,” he said. Tropiano added that one change that’s made it easier in the last half dozen years, when compared to the first three-plus decades, is younger athletes specializing in sports early and playing in serious travel ball leagues. “It’s easier to coach now than it was years ago,” he said. “You’re getting ready-made players.”
Fun fact: Tropiano was born in Italy and played varsity soccer at Bishop Neumann High School. And his coaching career, at St. Augustine Prep, began with basketball under legendary coach Paul Rodio.
“I talked to Paul a great deal about how a good coach could probably coach any sport (as long as) you can teach skills and motivate kids to improve themselves,” he said. “I grew up playing soccer, I thought that’s where I was going to go. But the baseball thing got into my blood and the rest is history.”
Eyeing 700 wins? Tropiano, who turns 60 in October, and is in his third stint as Eustace’s athletic director in addition to his baseball coach duties, isn’t looking too far ahead. “Baseball and sports teach you to take it one game at a time. Just enjoy that next game, don’t worry about the one that just passed, that doesn’t mean anything anymore. Don’t look too much into the future.”
Life lessons: Beyond seeing players improve in their four years at Eustace, what does Tropiano hope his players can take out of their high school experience? “I think it’s important to look at the past and enjoy the good moments in the past, they kind of give you fuel for the future – but don’t live in the past,” he said. “Live in the moment. Get the most out of the moment and have a plan for the future. But don’t look too far. The present has to be where it’s at. Feed off the past, live in the present, and keep an eye on the future.”
South Jersey Sports Weekly Player of the Week
Paul VI High School
Freeland tallied two goals and four assists to lead Paul VI to an 8-6, come-from-behind win over rival Bishop Eustace on April 17 to keep the Eagles record unblemished (7-0). Freeland finished the game with a career point total of 100. He entered play on April 18 with 39 points this season (24 goals, 15 assists), the most points of any player in the competitive Olympic Conference.
Quotable: “He’s really focused on the field,” Paul VI coach Rich Burns said. “He’s very tough and he’s determined. If he has to get to the goal, he doesn’t fear anyone and he has really good moves, good inside moves and he’s a good shot placer. When he gets inside he’s pretty automatic. He also plays heads up, he has a lot of assists. He’s definitely our leader on offense.”
Games to Watch
Wednesday, April 24 – Tuesday, April 30
Track & Field: The 125th Penn Relays
Thursday, April 25 – Saturday April 27
Begins at 10 a.m. Thursday
at University of Penn’s Franklin Field
Softball: The 5th Annual Fred Powell Tournament
Saturday, April 27
9 a.m. at Williamstown High School
Participating teams include Williamstown, Paul VI, Moorestown, and Deptford
Boys Tennis: Gloucester County Open
Saturday, April 27 – Sunday April 28
8 a.m. at Clearview Regional and Kingsway Regional High Schools
Girls Lacrosse: Seneca vs. Camden Catholic
Saturday, April 27
10 a.m. at Camden Catholic High School
Crew: The 16th Annual Cooper Cup Regatta
Sunday, April 28
8 a.m. at the Cooper River on Park Drive in Pennsauken
Scenes from Last Week
Moorestown at Haddonfield
(All photos: RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)
Moorestown at Haddonfield
(All photos: MIKE MONOSTRA , South Jersey Sports Weekly)
Stories from Last Week
- One of South Jersey’s most dominant high school programs, Moorestown girls lacrosse, has a new coach. Neither the Quakers or Colleen Hancox has skipped a beat.
- Lenape girls track is back at it again at the Penn Relays. The Indians have qualified for either the 4×800-meter relay or distance medley relay for 10 consecutive years.
- Going one-on-one with Gloucester Catholic’s Lillo Paxia, who went from self-described fat kid to late-blooming baseball Little Leaguer to prestigious, pre-teen power prospect.
- Turning it around: Experience and positive attitude leading to breakout season for Clearview boys volleyball.