Among the top teams in southern New Jersey, St. Augustine Prep (Egg Harbor Township) can roll out some big arms. Two of them were on display in a game against Washington Township High (Sewell, N.J.) at Millville (N.J.) High—where Mike Trout made a name for himself.
Righthander Chris Oakley and lefthander Zach Warren certainly don’t anticipate following the same career path as Trout, but they hope to represent South Jersey well as the advance to the next level. Oakley has a monstrous presence on the mound, standing at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds. He is committed to North Carolina and attracts plenty of attention with his frame, but this start would be one he will try to put behind him.
“I came out in the first inning and felt a little off,” Oakley said. “I wasn’t getting my legs working, leaving the ball up. Second inning, I tried to pick up the intensity and it worked a little better for me. I got a lot of strikes and from there I was struggling on and off with command.”
Oakley started strong, throwing 90-92 mph and striking out the first hitter, but then things unraveled from there. He hit the next batter, walked two, surrendered an RBI fielder’s choice and walked another before escaping with a strikeout. Despite throwing 35 pitches and having the bases loaded, Oakley allowed just one run.
He settled down in the second inning, striking out the side on 17 pitches, but eased up on the throttle as he sat 88-90 with his fastball. His curveball ranged from 71-76 and is a work-in-progress, but shows more potential with better velocity. He also flashed a good changeup in the high 70s.
“One good sign he showed today, he did take something off on his fastball and was locating a bit better,” head coach Mike Bylone said.
Oakley struck out five consecutive batters from the first to third innings, but he found trouble again in the fourth and gave up another run on an RBI single. His defense helped him out a couple times, cutting down a base stealer to end the third and turning a double play in the fourth to limit the damage.
Oakley was removed in the fifth after giving up a run on a double, stolen base and fielder’s choice and loading the bases. Bylone called on Warren, who was working on two days rest.
“Oak was laboring a little bit that inning and Zach gives absolutely a different look from the left side,” Bylone said. “It’s very effective. We’ve used it a couple times this year.”
Warren got out of the inning without any runs being charged to Oakley. He made an athletic play on a comeback to cut down the runner at home and then induced a double play to end the inning.
Warren worked in the mid 80s and touched 87-88 early. He showed feel for his secondary stuff—a low-70s curveball and mid-70s changeup. After escaping the fifth inning, his only blemish was a walk in the sixth. He finished with two strikeouts in three innings while Oakley walked six, struck out eight and hit one in four innings.
“The first inning, my arm felt good and I was throwing strikes,” Warren said. “The later two innings, I was trying to hit my spots and get movement on my pitches to get them out because I wasn’t 100 percent.”
Just a junior and uncommitted, Warren reportedly sits around 87 when he’s on regular rest. He has a tall, lanky frame at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. The top two schools he is considering are Miami and Tulane, which he will visit after the season.
“Last year, Zach had a quirky wind-up and probably sitting low 80s,” Oakley said. “He has one of the best work ethics I’ve ever seen. He’ll in be in the same situation I am next year, if not better. He works hard and has no distractions. He’s come miles from where he was last year.”