In 2011, the Hun School baseball team saved its best for last.
Going through a 2-3 stretch in the middle of the season, the Raiders caught fire and rode that late surge to a state Prep A title.
“Last year we came out of nowhere; the kids played extremely well at the end,” said longtime Hun head coach Bill McQuade, whose team ended the spring with a 12-7 record.
“We did everything we needed to do. We caught the ball; we got good pitching and timely hitting.”
McQuade is confident that his squad can pick up where it left off last year. “Overall, I think we are a little better than we were at this point last year,” said McQuade, who is entering his 42nd year at the helm of the program. “Most kids are back and they are older and stronger.”
The Raiders certainly have some good kids at key defensive positions. “You always want to be strong up the middle,” said McQuade, whose team started its 2012 season with a 9-7 loss to Lawrenceville last Wednesday.
“We have Gavin Stupienski at catcher. We needed to replace Chris Leach and he has turned out to be very good there. We have Eddie Paparealla at shortstop. He played third base a little bit last year. He had a great summer and he has to come through. He has spectacular plays some games and then makes errors in others. He works his tail off. In center field, we have David Dudeck; he is such a competitor. He is fast and he has a good arm.”
In McQuade’s view, Dudeck’s work ethic sets a tone for the team. “Dave is workout-aholic; he is in here at 6 in the morning lifting weights,” said McQuade of Dudeck who is heading to Boston College this fall where he will be playing for the Eagles’ football program.
“We were leaving for our Florida trip on March 12 and I told the guys to report at 6 a.m. I get there at 5:30 and I see a bucket holding open the gym door. I go in there and he is hitting with his dad in the batting cage.”
McQuade is expecting some good work on the mound from star pitchers, junior Austin Goeke and senior Alex Fabian.
“Goeke has to be the ace; he is throwing harder than last year and has a better curve ball and is working on a change-up,” said McQuade.
“He really wants to be a pitcher. Fabian has come on too; he is still working on his control. He has been working out and his fastball is much stronger; his curveball is better. I love his attitude.”
Hun should have better depth at pitching this year with junior Mike Manfredi, freshman Jason Applegate, junior Christian Galkowski, senior Thom Browne, senior John Campbell, and junior Stevie Wells all having the chance to see action on the mound
“Mike Manfredi is going to get some innings; he pitched for us last year and helped at designated hitter and third base,” added McQuade.
“Jason Applegate is a freshman and he is going to be a player. He can pitch and will be competing for right field job. Christian Galkowski is a lefty junior transfer from Notre Dame; he wears big glasses and looks like the “Wild Thing” character from the Major League movie. He is an easygoing kid who gets people out. We have other kids who can throw strikes, Thomas Browne, John Campbell, and Stevie Wells can give us an inning here or there. We have six kids we can rely on.”
The Raiders have a solid infield upon which it can rely. “I have Stevie at first base; he can crush the ball and he is much better defensively,” said McQuade.
“He is a great kid; I can’t say enough about what kind of a person he is. I have Bailey Hammer at second. I told him to follow Dave Dudeck around. He starts going to the gym at 6 to lift weights and I see a difference in him in one week and how he is carrying himself. Brandon Smith is at third and has looked unbelievable in preseason. He has done everything we have asked of him. He is looking really good in the field and at the plate.”
In the outfield, Hun has some good players flanking centerfielder Dudeck, “Devan Birch in left field has tremendous speed,” said McQuade.
“He may even get a better jump on the ball than Dave. The two of them could cover the outfield on their own. Brett Forman and Campbell are also in the mix in right field.”
On offense, that team speed will come in handy as the Raiders figure to be playing more small ball this spring.
“With the BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) bats, the ball doesn’t jump off the bats,” noted McQuade. “It is going to be like playing with wood bats, you can hear the difference. We will need to manufacture runs. We are focusing on baserunning and bunting runners along.”
While McQuade knows it will be tough to repeat as Prep A champions, he believes his squad has the pieces in place to produce another big spring.
“If it all comes together defensively, we could be very good,” said McQuade, whose club hosts Blair on April 4, plays at Hopewell Valley on April 5, and then hosts Germantown Academy (Pa.) on April 10.
“The pitching has to hold up; we need to be strong up the middle. At the plate, we have to hit line drives and find gaps.”