Neptune’s Ryan Cole Chooses Next Collegiate Destination

By Chris Christopher, as seen in The Coaster, Asbury Park

Ryan Cole is off to NCAA Division I.

The former Neptune High School and Brookdale Community College baseball player will continue his career at Charleston Southern University on a full scholarship, according to Brookdale coach Johnny Johnson.

Cole signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Buccaneers of North Charleston, S.C.

“I am super excited to receive this opportunity,” the 5-foot-11, 190-pound right-handed pitcher said. “Playing Division I baseball has been a big dream and a big goal of mine for my whole life. Brookdale gave me two extra years to achieve that goal. This is a blessing. It’s a big dream of mine to play at that level. I played for my whole life and worked for it. I don’t want to be done yet. I want to keep getting better and see what I can do on the field. It’s awesome and I am super excited to get going.”

Brookdale competes in National Junior College Athletic Association Division III. Its players are non-scholarship athletes. Cole said his scholarship is worth $25,000-30,000 per year.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “It feels great. I put myself in the position to achieve the scholarship by working hard and putting in the hours. I dedicated my whole life to getting better and achieving that goal and here it is coming true. I could not be more grateful. People helped me get better. I practiced with them and they kept me motivated to keep going.”

Cole said he chose Buccaneers over Fairleigh Dickinson University, Rider University and St. Peter’s University after speaking with pitcher coach Karl Kuhn and visiting the campus. Cole will major in business administration.

“I was on the phone with their pitching coach, who has a great reputation,” Cole said. “I believe he will make me the best pitcher I can be. The school is in a beautiful place. There is great weather all year round. The facilities and the field are nice. I have slightly thought about playing major league baseball, but let’s see what happens with the rest of my college career for now.”

Cole found the recruiting process difficult.

“It was a pretty hard decision,” he said. “I enjoyed all of the schools that gave me the opportunity to play Division I baseball. Charleston Southern is my favorite place. I enjoyed the coaches and that made my decision a lot easier.”

“He was recruited as a pitcher and hitter,” Johnson said. “I think if he becomes stronger he could be a very good Division I pitcher and possible major league drafter pick. He just needs to become stronger and be in the best possible shape. He throws a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. Hist slider was his best pitch and he threw it for strikes. He learned how to throw his slider for strikes. His fastball was clocked at 88 to 92 miles per hour.”

“I have to develop a good changeup and add a few more miles per hour to my velocity,” Cole said. “I have to improve my command. You can never have enough command. You can always get better at command. It will never hurt. My out pitch is definitely my slider. I throw it at any time in the count.”

Cole, a sophomore who also played first base, batted .434 (63-for-145) for Brookdale’s Jersey Blues during the regular season for 26th in NJCAA Division III. Among his hits were five home runs and 23 doubles. He posted a .697 slugging percentage and a .512 on-base percentage.

He drove in 61 runs and scored 54. The Neptune City resident drew 21 walks whiffed nine times. He notched 101 total bases. He stole 20 bases in 24 attempts and was hit by two pitches. He was credited with four sacrifice hits. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder made 172 plate appearances through 42 games.

“He did not strike out too much,” Johnson said. “He always hit the ball hard and was a great two-out hitter. He is mostly a pull hitter, but he has gap power. The fastball up and in was his best pitch to drive. He was baseball speed. He has quickness and can steal bases. He learned how the pitching was at this level and he learned how to swing at his pitches.

“He is just an RBI (runs batted in) guy. He gets big hits in big games.”

Cole was 9-2 record on the mound and finished in a two-way tie for sixth in Division III in wins. He pitched two complete games. In 60 1/3 innings, he whiffed 91 and allowed 44 hits enroute to a 1.94 earned run average. He averaged 13.57 strikeouts per nine innings. He allowed four home runs and posted a 1.13 WHIP. He appeared in and started 12 games.

“My goal is to get the batters thinking and pound the zone,” Cole said. “Getting ahead in the count is one of the most important parts of the game.”

“His curveball breaks late,” Johnson said. “It looks like a fastball, then it just breaks late into the zone. He threw all of his pitches, including his breaking ball, for strikes. Nothing bothers him on the mound. You can’t tell if he is winning or losing. He was our ace. If we needed a big game, he would pitch it.”

Cole was a second-team All-Region 19 selection after excelling during the regular season when he fielded .985. He made 189 putouts and added 12 assists. He was charged with three errors. Slowed by a wrist injury, he turned one double play.

“His strong point was that he was a Gold Glove,” Johnson said. “He caught every ground ball and was excellent at picking low balls in the dirt.”

In a 12-10 loss to Northampton Community College in the double-elimination NJCAA District Championship Tournament, Cole went 2-for-4, drove in three runs and drew one walk. With the Jersey Blues’ season on the line, Cole whiffed 16, walked two and allowed one earned run and eight hits in a 6-1 win over Middlesex College. Cole, who faced 36 batters, went 1-for-5 at the plate.

“I felt I had everything,” Cole said of his virtuoso performance on the mound. “My slider had maximum movement. I was cruisin’. Nothing could stop me. I wanted the ball in my hand. I felt good to get the job done with the season on the line.”

Cole said he threw “nearly” 130 pitches.

“My pitch count was getting higher and coach Johnson asked me if I wanted to leave the game,” Cole said. “During the game, I felt great. I felt ready to go. I love my teammates. The next day, I definitely felt it in my right shoulder for sure. My legs were a little sore for the next two days. I tried to keep a positive attitude despite feeling sore and having to play in a game the next day. I wanted to play for my teammates and coaches and I kept pushing for it.”

“He is one of the best big game players I have ever coached,” Johnson said. “He always came through in big games.”

Brookdale fell 7-5 to Rowan College South Jersey-Gloucester in the semifinals. Cole, who batted cleanup, went 0-for-5. The Jersey Blues ended their regular season at 44-9-1 overall. Rowan was ranked first in the final NJCAA Division III Poll of the regular season. Brookdale was ranked fourth after a 41-7-11 regular season, its most wins in a regular season since 2009 when they won the Region 19 Tournament and finished third in the NJCAA Division III College World Series. It was 29-7 in conference play in 2024.

“He was the reason we were so successful as a team,” Johnson said. “He hit forth in order and always came through with two-out hits. I put him at fourth because teams pitched around our number three hitter and Ryan would always hit with two outs.”

Cole was the winning pitcher in the quarterfinals of the Region 19 Tournament in 9-5 conquest of Ocean County College in the second game. He hurled 4 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs, six hits, walked one and struck out six as the starter. He faced 20 batters. He went 1-for-4, scored town runs and drew one walk. He stroked two hits in five at-bats and plated one fun in the first game, a 9-2 victory over the Vikings.

Cole was named the Division III Garden State Athletics Conference Pitcher of the Week after whiffing 13, walking one and allowing six innings in a 15-1 win over Salem County College. He faced 22 batters.

Earlier this season—hits 25th at the helm-Johnson notched his 800th coaching victory. The former Middletown South baseball, football and basketball player termed Cole “one of the best players in the country and one who I have ever coached. “That’s high praise for anyone, especially since it’s from a coach who owns a highly successful record. “He is a leader and respects this game like no other,” Johnson said. “His passion for the game is what sets him apart.”

Cole as a sophomore was one of 10 Brookdale athletes honored with a Gold Star Award at a banquet at the Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch. Brookdale’s Student Life and Activities Committee and the Student Life Board hosted the event. Athletes were honored for their exemplary contributions and achievements on campus.

“It’s beautiful there,” Cole said.

“I had a great time. I showed loyalty to my coaches (Johnson and assistants Gerald Malanga, Jay Blackwell and Jacob Werb) and performed well on and off the field and in the classroom. I was a good teammate to all of my teammates. It was awesome, nice to be honored. Coach Johnson said some nice words about me.”

“He is just a very kind and caring teammate,” Johnson said. “His teammates love him. I have the utmost respect for him as a player and a person. He is just a great teammate and friend. He is just a loving kid who loves to play baseball.”

As a Brookdale freshman, Cole batted .254 (33-for-130) and was 4-3 on the mound. He also played second base. Among his hits were four home runs, six doubles and one triple. He drove in 25 runs and scored 38 runs. He drew 19 walks and whiffed 24 times. His on-base percentage was .378.

His slugging percentage was .408. He stole six bases in eight attempts. He was hit by seven pitches in 158 plate appearances. He hit into three double plays and was credited with two sacrifice hits in 46 games.

“I struggled a little bit as a freshman,” Cole said. “I knew my sophomore year could be my last year as a hitter so I worked hard to get where I wanted to be. I tried to make contact and hit the ball hard. I definitely like pitching more than hitting. There is nothing better than getting the big hit for your team, looking into the dugout and seeing everyone hyped up. When you pitch, you control the game and have better options.”

He appeared in 11 games and posted a 3.44 earned run average. He started four games. He struck out 41 through 34 innings and allowed 30 hits. He led the team in saves with two. He allowed two home runs and averaged 10.85 strikeouts per nine innings. His WHIP was 1.35.

Cole fielded .985. Presented with 200 total chances, he made 170 putouts and was charged with three errors. He turned one double play.

Johnson discovered Cole while reading of his Neptune exploits in a newspaper. He saw Cole play for the first time during his senior season.

“I called him on the phone to recruit him,” Johnson said. “I wanted him to be a Jersey Blue because I knew he could be a good one with some coaching. He was everything I expected. He worked his butt off in out drills and just did everything I told him to do.”

Johnson said Cole arrived at the Middletown Township school as a pitcher.

“During the winter of his freshman season, we had a few guys go down with injuries,” he said. “I asked him if he could play in the infield and he said, ‘Yes.’ We opened the season in Myrtle Beach (S.C.) and he was lights out in the field and at the bat. He played a Gold Glove first base and never came out of the game.”

Cole, who majored in business administration, said he enjoyed playing for the Jersey Blues.

Brookdale was a very affordable option,” he said. “Coach Johnson accepted me on the phone. The school is close to home. It gave me the opportunity to get better as a baseball player at an affordable price.

Johnson said Cole was a joy to coach.

“Ryan is just a great kid,” he said, “and I loved having him on my team. I still coach because of kids like Ryan Cole. His passion and love of this great game are what make him so special. I am going to miss him a lot. I love the kid.”

Cole spends the summer pitching and playing first baser for the Wall Clippers of the Atlantic Baseball Confederation Collegiate League, a wood bat circuit.

“I have the same goal every day whether I’m pitching to aluminum bats or wood bats,” he said. “It’s the same approach—get the batters out. It’s fun hitting with a wood bat. When you square it (the ball) up, it feels much better than with an aluminum bat. It’s definitely easier to get more distance with an aluminum bat.”

He also enjoys spending time with his buddies Evan and Kyle Pollack of the Shark River Hills section of Neptune and enjoying the beaches in Ocean Grove and Bradley Beach. And there are flesh punishing sessions at the Jersey Shore Fitness Shop in Bradley Beach.

Cole is a 2022 graduate of Neptune where he played four years of varsity baseball under then-coach Kevin Frederick. He played second base as a freshman and sophomore and shortstop and pitcher as a junior and senior. He was in the Scarlet Fliers’ starting lineup for 3 ½ seasons.

“My career was pretty good,” he said. “I got to play on the same team with my childhood friends and had a good relationship with my coach. It was fun competing against teams that had people I knew on them. Coming out of Neptune, some small Division III schools were interested in me. Considering where I was, I was kind of set on Brookdale as I wanted to see how I would develop.

My Brookdale career was awesome. I loved every part of it. I played with a bunch of guys who had the same mindset. The past two years were the best years of my life as I played for coach Johnson and Brookdale Community College.