2018 was quite a year for the Cumberland County College Dukes Baseball program. They spent the entire season at the #1 or #2 positions in the national polls and reached the Region XIX Final Four for the fifth straight year. Not only was their performance impressive at the college level, but their alumni mirrored that success at the professional level. Will Latcham, Anthony Lopez, Cody Stashak, and Joe Zanghi are all representing Cumberland County on the professional level. Latcham, Stashak, and Zanghi were all recently promoted at the Double-A Minor League Baseball level this season.
They all arrived in Vineland when the legitimacy of the baseball program was still in question. Even more so when Anthony and Cody both arrived in the fall of 2012. The first few days were anxious for Anthony, but he slowly came around. "I never heard of the 'JUCO' route, but after talking with Coach Gorman, I knew it'd be a good experience. I quickly meshed with the team and the rest was history." Cody felt the same, but admittedly was a little wary of the situation. "I was excited. I knew I was making the right move and that Cumberland will get me to the level I want to be at." He added, "It was a little nerve wracking though. I had just one NCAA Division 3 offer, so I was slightly inexperienced with college baseball overall and how the process would turn out."
Their commitment to Cumberland followed the commitment of arguably the most beloved athlete in Cumberland County College history, Devin McCann, whom they were teammates on a regional travel team. McCann was the first recruit of Head Coach Keith Gorman's staff, and he would move on to attend Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, respectively. "He was a huge part of our success. Whether he was catching me behind the plate or swinging it at the dish, he was great. Devin was a great teammate and student-athlete" Stashak said about Devin. Unbeknownst to many, the Lopez-Stashak pairing would go on to spark a significant turnaround for not just the baseball program, but the Cumberland Athletic Department altogether.
Over the course of two seasons, Anthony Lopez and Cody Stashak would dominate Region XIX and top the NJCAA national leaderboard. Lopez's career numbers read as follows: 163 hits, 139 runs, 121 RBIs, and 59 stolen bases. Lopez also holds the national record for most triples in a season by tallying 16 in 2014. Cody was a force at the plate as well as he reeled in 120 hits and knocked in 86 RBIs. Stashak's presence was felt especially on the mound as he would rack up 15 wins in his career, which set the program record at the time. He came into his own in 2014 as he would tally 10 of his 15 wins, total 74 innings pitched and reel in 85 strikeouts. Both players would garner All-American, All-Region, and All- Conference honors. Lopez would earn the honor of being named Region XIX Player of the Year. On both of their careers, Lopez said: "It's funny how people consider us the two that started it all. We were just two kids continuing our baseball journey. Needless to say, when I look back at our careers with the growth and success we had, it was unforgettable."
The careers of Will Latcham and Joe Zanghi can be described in one word: Dominant. Zanghi, a sophomore, arrived on campus for the 2015 season after stops at the University of Connecticut and Southern New Hampshire University. A physically impressive, highly touted high school prospect, Joe just needed a chance to readjust and refocus. "It was important for me to focus on academics. Coach Gorman and the coaching staff made sure that was an important point for me," Zanghi said. "They stayed on me so that I excelled in the classroom which meant a lot to me and my family." He would start the fall hopeful to become the starting catcher and pitch a few innings if needed.
Latcham, a freshman, would arrive after the fall semester, transferring from Kutztown University, also for the 2015 season. The two would form one of the most dynamic pitching duos many would ever see.
"We connected immediately," Latcham said about his relationship with Zanghi. "We encouraged each other to always compete, against the opponent and even each other. We always thought when we took the mound, we were the best player on the diamond." Latcham continued, "We still compete against each other to this day. Earlier this season, we had the opportunity to face each other in "A-Ball" (Single A Minor League) when he was still at St. Lucie and I was with Palm Beach. Joe is such a great guy and someone I look up to."
In his only season in Navy and Gold, Zanghi was temporarily saddled with the role of starting pitcher as an early season injury hampered his ability to swing a bat comfortably. This would be the first time Joe would be a full-time pitcher in his career and he would excel. He would hold a 6-3 record, total 63.2 innings, and would rack up an eye opening 81 strikeouts. In what would be his signature game, Zanghi would pitch the Dukes to their second straight Region XIX Championship game with a complete game while yielding just one hit and striking out 12. On his performance, Zanghi remembers it vividly. "After winning a crazy game against Bergen, the team was riding a wave. Emil (Zorrilla) and I were on the same page and I had a strong defense behind me, so my approach was to attack and throw strikes." Zanghi added, "It sure is one of, if not my most, memorable outings of my entire life. It was fun to be out there competing in playoff baseball."
Latcham would have a career for the ages. During the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Latcham would establish himself as a force to be reckoned with. In his career, he would submit these career numbers to the record books: 142.1 innings pitched, 12 wins, 2.00 ERA, 209 strikeouts, and a 13.9 Strikeout per 9 Innings ratio. In the two seasons since Will has graduated, no pitcher has yet to come close to those record numbers. Latcham's mental approach to the game explains his success with great clarity. "When I take the mound I ask myself, how can I help my team have the best chance of winning? What do I have to do?" Latcham continued, "It's either me or the hitter that is going to succeed, and I'm so hungry to win at all costs that I'd bet on me every single time. That is just my mindset."
After the 2014 season, Anthony Lopez would go on to continue his career at Campbell University, located in Buies Creek, North Carolina and a member of the always competitive Big South Conference. Cody Stashak ventured north to attend St. John's University (NY) and compete in the Big East Conference. At the conclusion of the 2015 season, Joe Zanghi was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 24th round of the Major League Baseball Draft. He would not sign with Reds and would eventually sign with the New York Mets. Will Latcham would make his way to Conway, South Carolina to attend Coastal Carolina University.
At Campbell, Lopez would shine as the starting shortstop. He started 92 games for the Camels, tallying 103 hits, scoring 62 runs, and depositing 9 home runs during a strong career for the perennial Big South contender. He would garner All-Conference honors after the 2016 season and more importantly, graduate with a Bachelor's Degree from Campbell. Anthony's career would not end there as he would sign to play professionally in Europe and Australia. Anthony just concluded his 3rd season as a professional for the Dornbirn Indians in Austria.
Cody would become the number 2 starter of the 2015 Big East Champion, St. John Red Storm. He would hold a 7-4 record, total 85.2 innings pitched, and reel in 69 strikeouts. A highlight in 2015 for Stashak was getting the nod as the starting pitcher against Oklahoma State in the 2015 NCAA Stillwater Regional opener, a show of confidence that legendary St. John's Manager, Ed Blankmeyer, had in Cody. 2015 would be the only season Cody would pitch for the Red Storm as he would be selected by the Minnesota
Twins in the 13th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft. Cody continues to rise in the Twins organization as he is currently pitching for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. Currently, Cody has 45 innings pitched with 61 strikeouts for the minor league club and continues to impress the Twins organization with each outing.
After signing with the New York Mets, Zanghi quickly became a well-known name throughout the organization with his high-90s fastball and devastating slider. He burst onto the scene while at "low" Single-A Brooklyn pitching 29.1 innings, striking out 45 batters, and holding a perfect 8 for 8 in save opportunities. He continues to rise through the Mets farm system reaching Triple-A Las Vegas and recording a save in his only opportunity with the 51s. Joe is currently at Double-A Binghamton and has a cumulative total of 4 saves and 41 strikeouts in 52 innings pitched in 2018.
Will Latcham arrived on the Coastal Carolina campus with much hype after his career at Cumberland County. The high-energy Latcham did not disappoint the defending National Champs as he brought his "Dukes Moxie" with him. In 2016, Latcham totaled 25.2 innings, struck out 29 batters, and pulled in 4 saves in his new role as closer for the Chanticleers. It would be a role he would flourish in as the bullpen would be his path to the professional level. Will went on to be drafted in the 17th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft by the St. Louis Cardinals and would have a terrific start to his career. At "low" Single-A State College, he would rack up 4 saves in 30.2 innings pitched with 41 strikeouts. In 2018, he would begin the season in "high" Single-A Palm Beach and was recently promoted to Double-A Springfield in Missouri. Despite the change in level, he has continued his success with the cumulative totals of 44.2 innings pitched, 55 strikeouts and 12 saves.
As the old saying goes, "We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us". When it comes to Cumberland Athletics, these four gentlemen have certainly set an example for current and future Cumberland County Athletes to reach and surpass. The dedication and commitment set forth by Anthony, Cody, Joe, and Will established the foundation of which the Dukes Family was built on.