Featuring a Balanced, Versatile Lineup, PDS Baseball Coming Together Well
IN THE SWING: Princeton Day School baseball player Ryan Augustus takes a big swing in a game last spring. PDS is looking for senior outfielder Augustus to provide punch in the middle of the lineup this season. The Panthers, who defeated Peddie School 4-3 last Monday to improve to 3-0, host the Hun School on April 13 and Willingboro on April 15 before playing at WW/P-S on April 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
For a program that doesn’t boast big numbers to begin with, the Princeton Day School baseball team absorbed a major hit when it lost its so-called Big 3 to graduation last June.
The trio of stars, pitcher Cole McManimon, infielder Jake Alu, and outfielder J.P. Radvany, starred from day one as freshmen, producing stellar careers.
With McManimon pitching for Lehigh, Alu playing at Boston College, and Radvany competing for Villanova, that has opened up things for the returning players.
“The other guys are looking at it like hey, now it is their time to step up so I think the team has come together pretty well,” said head coach Ray O’Brien, who guided the Panthers to a 10-14 record last spring and spot in the state Prep B semifinals.
“When you are not sitting around waiting for the Big 3 to take care of everything, I think that is going to make everyone more involved and more on board with the team part of it.”
The 2016 team does feature three battle-tested seniors in Dom Gasparro, Ryan Augustus, and Sam Guarino.
“Sam and Dom have been pretty much playing since their freshman year,” said O’Brien. “Ryan has played a little less but he looked real good in Florida on our preseason trip. We are expecting big things from all three of them this year.”
The Panthers have looked very good in the early going, starting the season at 3-0 by defeating Pennington 6-4, Lawrenceville 15-1, and Peddie 4-3.
With its starting rotation featuring a trio of juniors, Chase Fleming, Ryan Sparks, and Russ Kirczow, PDS has the mound depth to build on its positive start.
“The bulk of the pitching will be the three juniors,” said O’Brien. “We have the two lefties, Chase Fleming and Ryan Sparks, and then Russ Kirczow, who basically pitched us into the semifinals last year in the prep tournament. He pitched two great games. He will be the right-hander. Luke Franzoni is a sophomore this year and he will throw. Matt Nyce will also throw for us.”
In O’Brien’s view, the team’s offense will come down to a group effort.
“I don’t expect to replace those three bats (Alu, Radvany, and McManimon) but I expect maybe a little more balance and having games where different people pick it up,” said O’Brien. “Hopefully in the end we will have enough numbers and score enough runs.”
There don’t appear to be any easy outs in the PDS batting order. “We have Sam and Dom at the top of the order; Paul is a junior he has had two good years hitting and Zach has another year under his belt and he has some experience,” added O’Brien.
“I think Fleming and Russ will get some hits. Luke had a really good trip in Florida hitting the ball. We can hit Ryan Sparks anywhere in the order. We can hit him in the top or the middle and I am expecting him to have a really good year. Ryan Augustus is going to hit right in the middle of the order, in the four-five-six-spot. He looked really good in Florida also. I think it is going to be interesting.”
O’Brien is expecting his team to be good defensively. “On the the left side of the infield, we have Sam at short and Dom at third so we have experience with the two seniors,” said O’Brien.
“On the right side, we will have a combination. Luke Franzoni will play second and Sparks and Chase will rotate in and out at first base, depending on who is pitching. Paul is at catcher. We have Augustus in left, Zach in center, and Russ in right. One pleasant surprise is Matt Nyce, the freshman, he is a good addition to what we have coming back and he will definitely see some playing time.”
As the Panthers get their season underway, O’Brien is sensing a good vibe around the group.
“I think once we get people settled into positions and get a few games under our belt and as long as we stay healthy, we will end up being a tough out come tournament time,” asserted O’Brien, whose team hosts the Hun School on April 13 and Willingboro on April 15 before playing at WW/P-S on April 19.
“I am really excited. We have the potential to progress and become a pretty good team. I like it. Over the 10 years or so that I have been coaching here, this team has a really good camaraderie and they really work hard. It is the most together team I have had in a long time.”