March 27, 2019

With Abundance of Talent Around the Diamond, Hun Baseball Ready for Another Title Run

TOUGH GUY: Hun School baseball player McGwire Tuffy takes a big swing in action last spring. Senior shortstop and team captain Tuffy figures to be a key catalyst for Hun this spring. The Raiders, who have won three consecutive state Prep A titles, host Lawrenceville in their season opener on March 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Tom Monfiletto is dealing with a problem this spring that would be the envy of many coaches.

In assessing his Hun School baseball team, head coach Monfiletto notes that he has an abundance of talent at his disposal across the diamond.

“We have a lot of kids, it is going to be really difficult for us,” said Monfiletto, who has guided the Raiders to the state Prep A title in his first two seasons at the helm of the program with the team also winning the crown in 2016, the final campaign of legendary head coach Bill McQuade.

“We have 12 or more guys who we want to see contribute in games.”

The squad’s depth starts with the pitching staff as Hun features senior Jack Erbeck, senior Blaney Soper, post-graduate Andy Blake, junior Jake Sloss, junior Anthony Bencardino, sophomore Ricky Erbeck and a trio of freshmen in Carson Applegate, Ryan DiMaggio, and Jackson Kraemer.

“I think pitching stands out as our biggest strength and a lot of the credit goes to coach [Steve] Garrison; I think we have some really good talent on the mound,” said Monfiletto, whose team had its annual spring training trip in Florida earlier this month.

“We have Jack Erbeck who was outstanding for us last year and looks better than ever. Everybody knows about the year Andy Blake had last year (for Hopewell Valley) and it looks like he is throwing a little bit harder. He has such great command and presence. Blaney Soper is back for us. He pitched a good amount for us last year. We also have Jake Sloss and Anthony Bencardino. Both of those guys got some innings out of the bullpen last year for us and they will probably have an increased role. We also have Ricky Erbeck, Jack’s younger brother, who is going to be very good as well. We have three freshmen that I think will help – Carson Applegate is a very good pitcher, Ryan DiMaggio is a lefty and then we have Jackson Kraemer, who can pitch and play the outfield.”

The batting order includes, among others, senior McGwire Tuffy, Blake, Jack Erbeck, senior David Melnick, Sloss, junior Cole Palmeri, Applegate, and sophomore Ben Petrone.

“Offensively is probably what we need to focus on,” said Monfiletto, noting the seniors Chuck McGrath and Jack Carney also figure to get at-bats.

“As the season goes on, the bats usually start to warm up as the weather warms up. I thought we ran the bases really well in Florida. We squared up some balls and we were able to figure out to produce runs with the bat. We really want to get to third base and we put as much pressure on the defense as we can.”

The Hun defense looks solid around the infield with Melnick starting at catcher, Blake and Sloss at third base, Tuffy at shortstop, Petrone at second and senior Dylan Galgano and Jack Erbeck at first with Ricky Erbeck taking on a utility role. Across the outfield, Sloper is in left field and Applegate is holding down center with Palmeri, Bencardino, Kraemer, and senior Shaan Patel also slated to see time at right and other spots.

Noting that Hun is facing a gauntlet of formidable foes including Allentown, Steinert, St. Augustine, Somerville, Perkiomen School (Pa.), and Seton Hall Prep, Monfiletto is looking for his squad to rise to the occasion.

“I want to win one of these big marquee games on our schedule; last year we beat Steinert in the second round of the MCT and that was kind of a signature win for us,” said Monfiletto, whose team posted a 15-6 record in 2018.

“When we made it to the semifinals, it was a bit of a wakeup call. We ran into a buzzsaw. Hopewell was on a roll and Andy was on a roll. He pitched a really great game.”

With the Raiders hosting Lawrenceville on March 28 to open the season, the team will be looking to get rolling early on.

“The keys are to start strong but to continually get better through the season,” said Monfiletto.

“If we became satisfied too early, you wind up coasting at the wrong time. I want to be playing our best baseball at the end of the season. We have a good amount of arms; if the pitching stays consistent we will be able to figure out how to score. We have a lot of really good hitters, we just need to turn that into runs consistently.”