In their first season back in the SEC American Division, and under new head coach James Whalen, who joined CHS from West Essex High School, the Columbia Cougars went 7-9 in league play and 12-14 overall.
They played tougher competition in the likes of Seton Hall Prep and Millburn, which swept all the Cougars in all their meetings in the regular season. The competition was clearly better. However, Columbia also got some quality wins against a talented Roxbury team, as well as two wins against Montclair and three against Nutley.
It was a tough transition year for the team, as they lost a key starter in catcher Quinn Krais, who went off to play at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. However, senior pitchers Danny Boehmer and Peter Nolet returned to continue leading the pitching staff. The core of the lineup returned as well, in senior Daniel Cotler, juniors Luke Jackson and Christian Pierre, and sophomore Eliot Dix.
Overall, the team scored 100 runs, had a collective .267 average, and had 161 hits. Pierre led the team with a .348 average, while Cotler led in hits with 25. The pitchers had a collective ERA of 3.67 while surrendering 76 earned runs and striking out 112 batters. Nolet went 4-4 to lead the team in wins, while pitching 42 and 2/3 innings with an ERA of 3.11. Junior Michael Roseman had a team low 2.18 ERA.
The team as a whole performed well once again this year, advancing to the semifinals of the Greater Newark Tournament, losing to Millburn, and also losing to them in the first round of state tournament play. The SEC American Division has long been filled with a high level of talent, and for a young team with a new coach, their first year was “one that looked disappointing on paper, but actually had many positives,” according to Jackson.
“It’s difficult to buy into something completely new when you’re used to the old,” added senior Reid Evans.
While the team clearly had their struggles, both Jackson and Evans feel that the future is bright. Evans is confident that “the boys will fit into their full potential now that they’re a bit more settled with their surroundings.” A change of scenery in coaching is enough to derail many high school teams, especially a young one, but Jackson thinks that “with a majority of our players returning next year, we should have a lot of success next year.”