Returning to Baseball after Six-Year Hiatus, Okoye Starring For Post 218 Legion Squad
By Bill Alden
Zachary Okoye had a busy day for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team as it battled Hopewell Post 339 last Friday evening.
Okoye smacked a double off the left field fence in the first inning. In the second, he moved from his third base spot to take the mound and ended up pitching 5 1/3 innings, yielding just one run, to finish off the game in an 8-2 loss for Post 218.
With his uniform caked with dirt and soaked with sweat, a tired but upbeat Okoye enjoyed contributing with the bat and his arm.
“I just went up there and I decided to take in the nerves that I had and take in the confidence that I had and use both to rip one up the gap,” said Okoye, reflecting on his double.
“I wanted to pitch. I was whispering to myself put me in coach. I haven’t pitched since tryouts, it went well. I hadn’t gotten a chance to pitch, so my approach was to go out there and prove it and go out and pitch.”
In reflecting on his gritty mound effort, Okoye focused on mixing his pitches in order to keep the Hopewell batters off balance.
“My slider was working best, I think my slider was making them roll over,” added Okoye.
“I had a few fastballs that got in there. James [Petrone] was helping me out 100 percent at catcher, he made some nice picks.”
For Okoye, this summer has been a nice bonus as he is back on the diamond after taking a six-year hiatus from the sport.
“I had an injury so I quit,” said Okoye, a rising senior at Princeton High who played for the school’s JV baseball team this past spring to get back into the game.
“I stopped playing Fortnite. You know what, I was going to get my life together and go out there and play. I love baseball, I missed it for real.”
Post 218 has been playing better baseball after getting off to a 1-6 start, going 3-1 in its next four games before a tough stretch last weekend which saw the squad lose 12-8 to Broad Street Park Post 313 on Saturday and fall 5-0 to Hamilton Post 31 and 10-6 to Allentown on Sunday to move to 4-12.
“We got more chemistry and we picked it up a little bit,” said Okoye.
“We started cheering more and keeping the energy up, it helps at that at-bat. You just have to stay hungry no matter what, win or lose, or you are going to fall back.”
With regular season play ending this week, Okoye is looking for Princeton to play hard to the final out.
“I want to get the team together here, I want us to win and to be on the same page,” said Okoye.
“We need to stay hungry, stay energetic because we all have it in us. We all have got to want it. Everybody has to want it at the plate, everyone has to want it in the field.”