With Hun Baseball Coming Off Banner Campaign, Raiders Looking to Pick Up Where They Left Off
MIGHTY MIKE: Hun School baseball player Mike Chiaravallo takes a swing in action last season. Senior outfielder Chiaravallo led the Raiders in homers with nine last spring as they won the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament crown and cruised to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. Hun opens the 2023 season by hosting Lawrenceville on March 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
With the Hun School baseball team coming off a banner campaign that saw it win the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament crown and cruise to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title, there is a positive vibe around the squad as it looks ahead to this spring.
“There is lot of confidence and a lot of excitement too, there are some guys who are going to get more opportunities to play than they have in the past that are ready for it,” said Hun head coach Tom Monfiletto who guided the Raiders to a 20-4 record in 2022. “There is also a lot of room to grow too, which is exciting for the coaching staff.”
The influence of the senior stars who drove the Raiders to success last spring has impacted the returning players.
“Those guys left a really good foundation of how to really compete and I think that still exists with our guys now,” said Monfiletto, whose team opens the 2023 season by hosting the Lawrenceville School on March 23. “I think they are feeding off the legacy that last year’s seniors left. Obviously, those are big shoes to fill but I think we have enough experience coming back where they can pick up where we left off last year.”
There are certainly some big shoes to fill when it comes to the Hun pitching staff.
“That was the thing that was the biggest question mark, coming in all but five or 10 of innings have graduated between Brody Pasieka, Carson Wehner, Jackson Kraemer, Carson Applegate, and Ryan DiMaggio,” said Monfiletto, whose team did a preseason trip to Florida to sharpen up for the spring. “Those are the guys that got the bulk of our innings, and they all graduated.”
The Raiders boast plenty of arms to fill that void in freshmen Kerrick Shannon and Asher DeLue along with juniors Ryan Greenstein, Gabe Jacknow, Lucas Henderson, and Charlie Batista and seniors Chase Pintimalli, Ryan Murphy, Rohan Sheth, Mike Smith, and Mike Chiaravallo and postgraduate Jackson Bailey.
“I think that is going to wind up as our strength,” said Monfiletto of his mound crew. “Everybody is getting back into the volume of throwing but there is a lot there to be really, really excited about.”
In terms of the Hun batting order, senior star and Bucknell commit Chiaravallo (.381, 9 homers, 32 RBIs in 2022) gives the Raiders an exciting combination of power and speed.
“Mike is either going to be either in the middle or the front of the order,” said Monfiletto. “We had him batting leadoff in Florida and that was nice, it was almost a guaranteed run. It is a lot of what I loved about having Carson [Applegate] battling leadoff, you have no room to breathe to start the game off. He is a phenomenal baserunner. He is fast, he steals bases. A lot of times, he will start off with an extra base hit. He is a catalyst. He hit nine home runs for us last year which I believe is a program record.”
The trio of juniors Tyler Tucker (.397), Deacon Bowne (.244), and Mike Olender (.333) figure to be catalysts at the top of the order.
“We have Tyler and Deacon returning who started for us last year,” said Monfiletto.
“Deacon’s bat looked great in Florida. Tyler looks better than ever — he is in the best shape of his life. He is stronger, he is faster, he looks great. We have Mike Olender who played a huge role in the Mercer Country tournament last year. He has power, he hits for average, and is a very fast runner too.”
Senior returners Mike Jolly (.172), Mike Smith (.308), and Tre Francis (.368) together with a group of newcomers in sophomore Jack Saker, junior E.J. Balewitz, and junior Charlie Batista give Hun punch throughout the order.
“Mike Jolly and Mike Smith are two returning seniors that are savvy veterans,” said Monfiletto. “Tre had some good swings in Florida as well. Jack has some serious power, E.J. has great power from the left side, and Charlie can hit the ball a mile.”
On defense, the Raiders boast three superb catchers to call the shots in Bowne, Saker, and Balewitz.
“Deacon is going to start the season at catcher, he is extremely fun to watch behind the plate,” said Monfiletto. “He takes control of a game, he has got a great arm, and he receives that ball really well. He is everything you could ask for competitively in a catcher. Jack is a transfer from Notre Dame, he is committed to Lehigh. He is a phenomenal, phenomenal talent. E.J has showed a lot of improvement behind the plate. Those other guys showed some great stuff too down in Florida.”
Across the middle of the infield, junior transfer Lucas Henderson, sophomore William Kraemer, and sophomore Nico Amecangelo will hold down the second base and shortstop spots.
“They are both extremely skilled up the middle and they did well offensively too,” added Monfiletto. As for the corner infield positions, Smith, Saker, and Jolly will be seeing action at first base while Tucker and Olender are penciled in at third.
Hun has plenty of depth in the outfield. “Mike Chiaravallo was in center in Florida,” said Monfiletto. “Tre was playing left field pretty much in all of Florida. Mike Jolly and Batista played in right field. Mike Olender can play any position in the outfield.”
As in recent years, the Raiders will be tested by gauntlet of tough foes in a schedule that includes La Salle College High (Pa.), Gloucester Catholic, Seton Hall Prep, Bergen Catholic, Perkiomen School (Pa.), Allentown, and Steinert along with MAPL rivals like Lawrenceville, Blair, and Peddie.
“It is going to be a lot of challenges, a lot of adversity that is sort of baked into the schedule,” said Monfiletto. “Finding ways to continue to fit the pieces together in different situations is going to be the key.”
Monfiletto believes that being patient and diligent in dealing with that adversity will help Hun peak when it matters most.
“They need to be committed to the long haul, we need to be able to play our best baseball in May,” said Monfiletto. “As we learn and grow and get better, we need to have the big picture in mind at all times. As long as they are committed to competing, working really hard, and trusting each other, we will be in a great, great position at the end of the year to play our best baseball.”