June 20, 2024
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Highland Park 12U Owls Make Back to Back Championship Appearances

Highland Park has one of the few municipal recreation departments that prohibits games on Friday night and Shabbos day. Over time the baseball program has waned as a diverse group of Highland Park kids went to Edison or nearby towns in search of better competition. Highland Park has historically drawn Orthodox Jewish kids from the area as well as East Brunswick, and even down to Manalapan. The competition and coaching were known to not be on par with surrounding communities. There were dedicated parents who would try their best and draw from their experiences playing ball as kids but it wasn’t until Rob Kaplan-Sherman, a former AAU coach, moved to town and volunteered that the program began to evolve into something special.

Rob has brought a level of organization and leadership that we’ve not seen before. His ability to push kids out of their comfort zone led the 12u team last fall to a 9-1 Fall Ball championship in the local Inter-County League.

With returning stars Netanel Renna, Sam Blau, Jake and Sammy Levine the team began work in January on a season of success. As the COVID situation set in, the team was put on ice from mid-March to late June when they prepared to participate in the USABL Central NJ division. After an opening win against Basking Ridge, the team, only playing on Sundays, struggled finishing the summer season with a playoff loss at Middlesex.

After Labor Day the Fall Inter County League kicked off and the team was finally ready to take off. Aryeh Bloomberg (Yeshivat Shaare Tzion) threw a no hitter against Sayreville and Jake Levine (RPRY) followed that up with one of his two no-hitters against a team from South Amboy. When the team realized they needed to improve their outfield defense, starting shortstop Sammy Levine (Netivot) moved to centerfield with Netanel Renna (RPRY) seamlessly filling his shoes at short, as well as finishing the season 13 for his last 20 at the plate.

A few highlights of their 11-4-1 campaign that included a trip to the league championship game were a 13-1 blowout at South Amboy where Levine and Aaron Botvinik (RPRY) both hit home runs and a 14-2 shellacking of Spotswood, highlighted by a pregame pep talk by Eric Holtz, the manager of the Israeli Olympic baseball team.

The program is excited to get going again next year with 14u, 12u and 10u teams planned.

By Coach Jeremy Renna

 

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