March 27, 2024

While PHS Baseball Doesn’t Boast Strength in Numbers, Tigers Feature Quality Performers All Over the Diamond

HAMMER TIME: Princeton High baseball player Chase Hamerschlag takes a big swing in a 2023 game. Sophomore Hamerschlag figures to be a key performer for the Tigers this spring. PHS plays at Ewing on April 1 to start its 2024 season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton High baseball team may not boast strength in numbers this spring, Dom Capuano believes his squad possesses plenty of quality.

“We only have 13 varsity guys but I think we have a good nucleus,” said PHS head coach Capuano, who guided the Tigers to a 6-16 record last year. “The one positive of only having a small group is they can grow together and be closer. That definitely showed yesterday in the scrimmage (against Montgomery on March 21). I was happy about it, we just need to continue forward.”

It will be nearly all hands on deck when it comes to the PHS pitching staff as it starts its 2024 season by playing at Ewing on April 1.

“I think out of 13 guys, eight are going to pitch,” said Capuano, who will be looking for sophomore Chase Hamerschlag, junior James Schiavone, junior Travis Petrone, and junior Jai Justice to lead the mound crew with senior Michael Prete, junior Nano Sarceno, junior Eric Wheeler, and junior Nathan Nydick also figuring to get some innings.

“Chase pitched a lot for us last year. I am interested to see how he grows. James was hurt all last year so I am interested to see how he performs the rest of the preseason. I think those two will battle it out hopefully for 1A and 1B. Travis is going to be our jack of all trades. I know he has the experience so if we need him in relief especially early in the season, we can rely on him. You can rely on him to be that third starter when you need him. He is going to be someone we can look for in whatever spot we need. Jai is most likely going to do a lot of relief for us.”

Senior star outfielder Alex Winters should be the catalyst for the Tiger batting order from the leadoff spot.

“Having him at the top of the lineup is definitely a luxury to say the least,” said Capuano. “I fully expect him to be flirting with hitting .500 this year. He should steal anywhere from 30-40 bases, if not more. He hit .385 last year and he went one for his last 19. He is going to do a lot for us.”

Capuano believes his batting order should have a lot of punch.

“I don’t think it is going to be a team where we have to manufacture runs, I think the top half of our lineup is really going to produce,” said Capuano. “We have to always rely on our seniors, [Ben]Walden and Prete are going to be big time. Chase looked good in the scrimmage yesterday. Travis, Nano, James, Wheeler, and Dylan Newman should be in the top half along with Alex.”

The Tiger defense will be mix and match. “It is going change game to game based on who is pitching and who is hitting,” said Capuano. “Going into where we are right now, I have a lot of confidence no matter what those combinations are. We have the guys who can do that.”

Those combinations will showcase the squad’s versatility. “Matt Akey will be at catcher, Wheeler and Chase are going to be the two primary shortstops,” said Capuano. “Ben will be at second base most likely and Jai might have to float over the second. Wheeler could be at third and Schiavone could also be at third base. First base right now is mainly Nano and Nate Nydick with Mike Prete maybe sliding in there. The outfield is mainly Mike, Travis, Alex, and Roman Howe.”

With PHS struggling down the stretch in 2023, losing eight of its last 10 games, Capuano believes this year’s group can make a jump as long as it is fundamentally sound.

“We need to throw strikes, we don’t want to walk 130 guys again this year,” said Capuano. “I think staying together as a group and being confident in each other is a key. If we are playing like they should, we will be OK. I think we can definitely be a very competitive this year. We can’t spiral like we did last year.”