Vol. LXII, No. 14
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
SMOOTH STROKE: Hun School baseball star Mel Williams follows through in action last spring. In helping Hun go 20-4 last season, Williams set program single-season records in hits and runs. Hun is depending on leadoff hitter Williams to be the catalyst this spring as it defends its state Prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) titles.
Featuring a murderers row lineup that resembled a high school version of the 1927 Yankees, the Hun School baseball team pounded its foes into submission last spring.
In going 20-4 and winning both the state Prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) titles, the Raiders set program single-season records for wins, runs, homers, and hits.
As Hun looks forward to the 2008 season, longtime head coach Bill McQuade recognizes that graduation losses mean his team wont be an offensive juggernaut this spring.
We wont be as strong offensively; six of those kids are playing in college this spring, said McQuade, whose senior class last year included such standouts as Shane Davis, Andrew Baxter, Sean Munley, Sean Pucciarelli, and Matt Welsh.
We broke just about every school record last year offensively; we will have to work harder for runs this year.
Hun will be looking at senior shortstop Mel Williams to be its catalyst once again.
Williams will be leading off, he set the school record in hits and runs last year, asserted McQuade, who is in his 38th season guiding Hun. Hes got to get on base for us.
While McQuade believes the lineup should have pop, he needs the bottom of the order to be a factor
We have John Gianis, Mike Ford, Mike Russo, Dave Putman, and Brendan Dudeck after Williams, said McQuade, whose team hosts Lawrenceville on April 3 and St. Lukes on April 5.
I think our top six are solid. We need the bottom three to come through; we cant afford to throw away three outs every three innings.
Hun will need such young players as freshman Chris Leach together with sophomores Patrick Andrews and Julian Dandridge to come through.
McQuade, though, is plenty confident that his pitching staff can throw the team to plenty of victories as the Hun offense gets up to speed.
The Raider mound corps features N.C. State-bound Russo (6-1, 0.94 ERA in 2007), Duke-bound Putman, and promising sophomore Ford, a transfer from Montgomery High.
Russo is bigger and stronger and has more command of all of his pitches, said McQuade, noting that 18 major league scouts turned up to see the powerful righthander in the teams first outing on its preseason trip to Florida.
Putman is healthy; hes got a fastball that should top out at 90 m.p.h., right now hes at 86 or so. His curve ball is devastating when its working, it can buckle your knees. Ford is our third starter; he could be No. 1 on a lot of teams.
A critical part of the pitching staff could well be N.C. State-bound Gianis, who McQuade is counting on to be the teams top reliever. Gianis will come into play, we need him to fill relief role, said McQuade.
He hasnt done much throwing in the past two years but he could be a big help. A key last year was Baxter and Pucciarelli giving us two or three innings in relief. That allowed us to pitch Russo five innings and then have him come back sooner than he would have if he had gone seven.
In McQuades view, the teams recent trip to Florida could be a preview of how things may go this spring for Hun. We played well every game; I think we won five of seven games, said McQuade.
It was like what I think we will be like this season. The pitching was dominant at times, the defense was solid but the hitting struggled until the last three games. We will have to play small ball — steal more bases, hit and run, be more be aggressive.
Although Hun likely wont be dominant from wire-to-wire this spring, McQuade is hoping his team can end things with a bang. We are a team that should gather steam as the season goes on, said McQuade.
The pitching has to come through at the start and the defense has to be solid. The younger kids have to play and contribute. The kids all get along, the group had a lot of fun down in Florida.
And if the batting catches up with the pitching, Hun could have a lot of fun this spring.
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