July 24, 2017

After Big Senior Season for PDS Baseball, Dudeck Set Positive Tone for Post 218

DOING WELL: Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball player Zach Dudeck takes a cut in recent action. Last Wednesday, center fielder and lead-off batter Dudeck contributed a double and a walk in a losing cause as Post 218 fell 19-2 to South Brunswick. The defeat left Princeton with a final record of 2-20 this summer. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Zach Dudeck, changing his priorities helped him enjoy a breakout year this spring in his senior campaign for the Princeton Day School baseball team.

The center fielder starred as PDS posted a 10-10 record, hitting .322 with 16 runs and 17 RBIs.

“I started focusing mainly on baseball; before I was trying to do soccer and baseball,” said Dudeck, reflecting on his final high school campaign.

“Once I kind of fell off for soccer, I started focusing on that less and more on baseball. With that one track mind, it helped me a lot.”

This summer, Dudeck joined the Princeton Post 218 American Legion team, looking to build on his senior season and help prepare him for a shot at playing for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute baseball program.

“It was a good bridge, I wanted at-bats and a little more fielding experience,” said Dudeck. “That is something I can’t get if I don’t play any games.”

While the Princeton squad struggled this summer, Dudeck tried to be a positive force.

“I tried to keep fighting and tried to keep the spirit up with everyone,” said Dudeck, who contributed a double and a walk in a losing cause as Post 218 fell 19-2 to South Brunswick last Wednesday to end the summer with a 2-20 record.

“I try to talk as much as I can, trying to keep everyone into the game as much as we can. It is all you can really do.”

Starting this fall, Dudeck will be trying to make the RPI baseball team.

“I was mainly focusing on architecture,” said Dudeck in reflecting on his college selection process.

“Baseball is a side thing that I knew I wanted to do. I am trying to be a walk-on. I have talked to the coach and my coaches have talked to the coach a little bit. I know they are losing some of their outfielders, which is really nice for me.”

Although Post 218 endured a steady diet of losing, assistant coach Paul Sumners liked the focus displayed by his players.

“We may be short on talent compared to the other teams, but these guys always fight,” said Sumners.

“I would say over the last couple of years, I enjoyed this team the most. They never quit. We have gotten beaten bad before and you could see guys hang their heads, give up, and not come, all of that kind of stuff. These guys gave the best that they had.”

Sumners credited his son Chris, a recently graduated Hun School standout, and Dudeck with setting the right tone.

“They are not the most vocal guys,” said Sumners. “They are the guys that came on time and when they come to practice, they come to work. The guys can feed off of that. They don’t have an attitude or anything. After the game you will see them  carrying equipment and working on the field. A lot of times with the older kids, they are gone.”

The squad’s younger kids gained valuable experience this season. “If you are in 9th or 10th grade and you don’t get much varsity time, here you get to play baseball,” added Sumners.

“You get a chance to get a lot of playing time, which can benefit you greatly next year when you are playing at the varsity level. You are not as intimidated. Some of it is physical but the mental aspect is so much of it, the feeling that I belong and the feeling that I can compete at this level.”

In his post-game message last Wednesday, Post 218 manager Tommy Parker beseeched his players to keep competing.

“It was learn the game, love the game, and be about excellence,” said Parker.

“The awe factor for these guys is gone. Next spring when high school baseball season starts, they will be ready to play at a varsity level with their experience here.”

Looking ahead, Parker is confident that Post 218 can experience greater success if its youthful core keeps improving.

“We have a great foundation for next summer,” said Parker. “We go to league meetings and these guys like to be boastful. The thing I can smile at is yeah, but we will see you down the road. You are going to have to deal with these kids for another three years if all of them stay together.”

Dudeck, for his part, believes that things can come together for Princeton.

“I feel like it has gotten better,” said Dudeck. “They grew as the season went on.”