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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

MEAN GENE: Hun School senior Gene Pavitt fires a pitch in action last spring. The Raiders are depending on pitcher/first baseman Pavitt to provide solid work on the mound as well as production at the plate this spring. Hun starts its 2005 season by playing at archrival Lawrenceville on April 1 and then hosting Princeton High on April 5.

Hun Baseball Has the Muscle, Needs to Sharpen Execution

By Bill Alden

Bill McQuade sounds like a football coach in delivering the scouting report on his 2005 Hun School baseball team.

"We have a big, physical team," said McQuade, who is in his 35th year piloting the Hun baseball program. "We have a lot of kids that are around 6'2, 6'3."

But with all that muscle at his disposal, McQuade realizes that his team's most precious asset is the gifted left arm of senior pitching star and co-captain Steve Garrison, who pitched the Raiders to the state Prep A title as a freshman in 2002 and has only lost 3 games in his Hun career.

"Stevie is a special young man," said McQuade, noting that while the fireballer committed to the University of North Carolina he is drawing the attention of others in the baseball world.

"He has a love of the game that shows through. The scouts are calling me all the time, wanting to know when he is going to pitch. We know what we have in Stevie."

McQuade acknowledges that he isn't quite as certain about what he has in his other starters, senior co-captain Gene Pavitt and freshman Mike Russo.

"Gene knows he has to come through for us on the mound," asserted McQuade, whose club went 8-7 last spring and made it to the state Prep A semifinals.

"He throws about as hard as Stevie but he needs to work on his control. Russo has poise. He came out of the Nottingham program and he has a presence about him. He could be a right-handed Stevie. He may end up as our No. 2 starter."

Others who should see innings this spring for the Raiders include seniors Dan Grico and Kevin Tylus together with sophomore Sean Munley.

"We have six pitchers, if they throw strikes, we should be fine," said McQuade, whose club had trouble last spring on days when Garrison wasn't on the mound. "I feel much more confident about our pitching staff than I did last year."

Hun's pitchers will be in good hands with junior catcher Brian Scanlon handling things behind the plate.

"Brian is the heart and soul of the team," said McQuade, whose team opens its 2005 regular season by playing at archrival Lawrenceville on April 1 and then hosting Princeton High on April 5. "He's the guy who really talks on the field. He'll tell you when you do something good and when you do something bad. He's really gung-ho."

McQuade is gung-ho about his team's offensive potential. "The seniors have to be productive," said McQuade, referring to Garrison, who plays outfield when he isn't pitching, Pavitt, a first baseman when not on the mound, and outfielder/third baseman Wellington Talkpa.

"Scanlon and Shane Davis (sophomore outfielder) also have to step up. We have the potential to be a strong hitting team. We have some guys who can really pop the ball. I think we can score more runs than we did last year."

Hun's Achilles heel could be its play in the field. "If I have one concern, it's our defense and making the routine play," said McQuade, acknowledging that his team had some defensive lapses at inopportune times last spring.

"The ability is there but the focus also needs to be there. If we struggle defensively, we will be in trouble. We can't afford to give teams like Lawrenceville, Peddie, and Steinert extra runs. That just kills you."

McQuade said he is still working on finalizing his line-up, particularly in the middle infield. As it stands now, seniors Pete Diorio and Grico together with junior Steve Diverio and sophomores Andrew Baxter and Ryan Breen are battling it out for the second base and shortstop positions. Pavitt and Munley should see time at first with Talkpa and junior Mark Chiarello getting action at third.

Things are a bit more settled in the outfield with senior co-captains Jon D'Angelo, Talkpa, and Garrison getting a lot of innings together with senior Robert Livingston and Davis.

While there are question marks heading into the spring, McQuade is confident that his team will come up with the right answers.

"I can't wait for the season to start," asserted McQuade. "Ever since the end of last year, I've been looking forward to this spring."

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