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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton Day School senior stars, from left, Colin Johnson, Charlie Bird, and Dan O'Brien are all smiles after a practice session last week. The trio of seniors will be counted on to provide leadership and production as PDS looks to improve on the 10-6 mark it posted last spring. The Panthers get their 2005 season underway this week by playing at Rutgers Prep on April 5 and at Oratory Prep on April 6 before hosting Timothy Christian on April 7 and a four-team invitational tournament on April 9. PDS then has road games at Pennington on April 11 and Blair on April 12.

With Mix of Veterans, Young Talent, PDS Baseball Aims to Keep Winning

By Bill Alden

On paper, it would appear that the Princeton Day School baseball team may be looking at a lean season.

After all, the Panthers graduated four key cogs ‹ Will King, Alex Sugiura, Tyler Pakradooni, and Lon Johnson ‹ from a team that went 10-6 last spring.

PDS coach Bruce Devlin, though, believes he has the blend of experience and young talent to remain competitive.

In terms of veterans, the Panthers will feature three stellar seniors in pitcher/outfielder Dan O'Brien, outfielder/first baseman Colin Johnson, and outfielder Charlie Bird.

Devlin acknowledges that his team's fortunes could well depend on the multi-talented O'Brien, who hit .503 last spring with five homers and 33 RBIs, and was one of the team's top hurlers.

"As he goes, we will go," said Devlin of O'Brien who will be playing at Trinity College in Connecticut next season.

"He can really hit. He started slow on our preseason trip in Florida, and then he went on a tear. We are getting good leadership from all three of our seniors."

The Panthers also should get some good leadership from its junior class which features catcher/infielder/pitcher Logan Laughlin and outfielder Drew Godwin.

"Logan can play all nine positions defensively," said Devlin, whose core of juniors also includes pitcher first baseman Andrew Davidson, second baseman David Gordon, and infielder Adam Shavitzky.

"He's a tough kind. He's a catcher and he speaks up. Drew is a leader for the basketball team and I'm expecting that to carry over in baseball."

As for the young talent, Devlin has high hopes for his quartet of freshmen ‹ pitcher/shortstop Clint O'Brien, second baseman/outfielder Mike Shimkin, catcher Sam Hamlin, and pitcher third baseman Jordan Mickens.

"The freshmen are good athletes and tough kids," said Devlin, whose core of young talent also includes sophomores pitcher/outfielder Blair "Bam" Miller, pitcher/first baseman Brett DePace, and outfielder Michael Hartnack.

"In baseball, you have to be mentally tough. You have to be patient to deal with the ups and downs of the game."

Devlin is confident his pitching staff can provide some up moments this spring. His starting rotation will include Dan O'Brien, Miller, DePace, and Gordon with Clint O'Brien, Davidson, Mickens, and Laughlin getting innings out of the bullpen.

"These guys throw strikes, we only walked eight guys in seven games on our trip to Florida," said Devlin.

"People are going to look at us and see that King and Sugiura are gone and think we will be worse. I think our pitching could be better this year. Last year, we relied on three kids. This year we have more kids who can throw."

In Devlin's view, his team could throw off a lot of opponents as this spring unfolds. "We can be an over-.500 team," asserted Devlin, whose club plays at Oratory Prep on April 6, hosts Timothy Christian on April 7, and a four-team invitational tournament on April 9 before road games at Pennington on April 11 and Blair on April 12.

"If we can catch the ball and make timely hits, we should be good. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people."

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