Riding Pitching of Hernandez-Burt, Hot Hitting, Hun Baseball Wins 2nd Straight Prep A Crown
COMING UP BIG: Hun School baseball player Joaquin Hernandez-Burt delivers a pitch in the final round of the state Prep A tournament last Sunday. Post-graduate pitcher Hernandez-Burt, a former Princeton High standout, starred as Hun defeated Lawrenceville 15-3 last Sunday to clinch the title, striking out four and giving up six hits and two runs over six innings to get the win. It was the second straight Prep A title for Hun, who ended the season at 13-10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
For Joaquin Hernandez-Burt and Mike Pedota, sticking to basics was the overriding theme as the Hun School baseball team pursued a second consecutive state Prep A title.
With second-seeded Hun playing at top-seeded Lawrenceville in the final round last Sunday, needing just one win to clinch the title in the double-elimination competition, post-graduate pitcher Hernandez-Burt took the mound looking to keep it simple.
“Last game, I struggled with my command; I was worrying about my mechanics,” said Hernandez-Burt, a former Princeton High star.
“I tried to come out today and not think about mechanics. I was trying to throw as hard as I can and just throw through the mitt.”
Meanwhile, senior third baseman Pedota, a fixture at the top of the Hun batting order, focused on making contact at the plate.
“Going into the game, all we want to do it to put the ball into play and make things happen,” said Pedota.
Mission accomplished on both counts as Hun rolled to a 15-3 win to defend its title and end the season at 13-10. The Raiders jumped out to a 6-1 lead after three innings while Hernandez-Burt kept the Big Red hitters at bay, striking out four and giving up six hits and two runs over six innings. Hun posted five runs in the sixth and three in the seventh to turn the game into a rout.
“I think my slider was working,” said Hernandez-Burt in assessing his outing.
“I was really getting them out in front and getting swings and misses on that.”
With Hun getting out to the big early lead, Hernandez-Burt was able to relax on the mound.
“It helps a lot,” said Hernandez-Burt. “We struggled against this team in the past. In the beginning of the year we lost some close games (1-0 on March 30 and 3-2 on April 20) to them so getting ahead was letting them know we are here to decide it.”
Hun’s aggressiveness at the plate proved decisive as the Raiders got production up and down the order.
“Everybody put the ball into play and we did a tremendous job,” said Pedota, who ended up going 3-for-5 with a double, two runs and an RBI.
“We were hitting during the week during practice and our coach [Tom Monfiletto] was just telling us that since February to now we have been hitting so much better. I guess that shows in the games.”
Hun head coach Monfiletto, for his part, had his players clear their heads coming into the Prep A competition.
“We had a tough stretch,” said Monfiletto, noting that Hun suffered two losses to Nottingham and a defeat to Allentown in the week before the Prep A tourney.
“We gave them Friday off and Saturday off and they had Sunday off. I said when you come back on Monday, it is a brand new season. In each game, we swung the bats really, really well It is awesome to see how hard they work and the progression throughout the season.”
Having defeated Blair Academy 12-3 on May 17 in its Prep A opener and Lawrenceville 11-3 on Saturday to bring a 2-0 record into the final round, Hun was poised to wrap up the title in the first game on Sunday.
“We came in really confident today,” said Monfiletto, whose team pounded out 16 hits in the win over the Big Red with Matt Moore, Chris Pontrella, Ryan Strype, and Chris Sumners each getting two hits.
“I think we understood that the two losses we had against them were a little bit unlucky. They did a great job in both of those games but we felt like we were the better team. We came out today and they played like the better team.”
Monfiletto was thrilled to see Hernandez-Burt do a good job on the mound in the finale.
“Joaquin certainly saved his best for last, we had a feeling about it,” said Monfiletto.
“I think he appreciated how we gave him the ball in the clincher. We said this is it, go win a championship.”
For Monfiletto, who is in his first year at the helm of the Hun program after succeeding the legendary Bill McQuade upon his retirement last spring, winning the championship in his debut season was special.
“It is great to continue what coach McQuade was able to finish last year,” said Monfiletto, still wet from getting doused with the water bucket by his players in the postgame celebration.
“It is a great way to end the season. I wish we could play 20 more games because I feel like we are playing our best baseball right now.”
In reflecting on his team’s title run, Monfiletto pointed to resilience as a defining quality of the squad.
“Our ability to bounce back from tough losses and keep our confidence and continuing to progress offensively throughout the season led to our best at-bats at the end of the year,” said Monfiletto.
The positive leadership displayed by the team’s group of seniors helped hold things together for Hun through the spring.
“We didn’t have five or six Division I guys out here; they played together,” said Monfiletto, whose Class of 2017 includes Blake Brown, Matt Moore, Ryan Moore, Ryan Strype, Cam Cavanaugh, and Chris Sumners in addition to Hernandez-Burt and Pedota.
“I really feel like they got along. This group of seniors was a hard-working tight knit group that supported one another. They have done a phenomenal job of leaving a legacy of being mentally tough and resilient.”
Hernandez-Burt felt that support, quickly developing tight bonds with his Hun teammates.
“Coming here and winning is amazing; it is the best feeling,” said Hernandez-Burt.
“We are family now. I am really close friends with all of them and I will be close friends for a long time.”
One of his new friends, Pedota, saw that family feeling as a key element in the title repeat.
“Last year we were able to do it for our seniors and now it is for us,” said Pedota.
“It was awesome. This team is special, everybody is in it together. We are brothers.”