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Hand Baseball Showed Fight with Hot Second Half

Published 06/25/2014 12:00 AM
Updated 06/25/2014 09:38 AM

By John Lecardo
The Source

It didn't win any titles during the course of its season, but Hand baseball still displayed a ton of character and even more resiliency.

After a 2-1 start, the Tigers took six losses in seven decisions to find themselves 3-7 halfway through the spring. However, Head Coach Travis LaPointe's ball club responded to go on a 7-3 second-half tear to return to the Class L State Tournament, where 21st-seeded Hand fell to No. 12 Windsor 10-7 in the first round.

"Our main goal at the beginning of the season was to play our best baseball towards the end of the season. I really felt like we were able to do that," said LaPointe, whose team finished 10-11 overall. "I think we were playing our best baseball right as we were heading into the postseason. I did feel like we underachieved in the first half of the season, but our pitching and defense really improved a great deal in the second half. We were a 3-7 team at the halfway point; we went 7-3 during the second half of the year."

Throughout the campaign, the Tigers were led by a pair of seniors in the outfield with All-SCC and All-State selection Scott Braren (also team Offensive MVP) in center and Josh Demartino in right. This duo helped slug out the hits and made a major influence in the dugout.

"Scott batted over .500 and was selected as an All-State player," said LaPointe. "Josh was injured for the majority of the season, but led us in the dugout and was a major factor in developing positive team chemistry."

Fellow seniors were Dan Gardner (All-SCC Team) manning leftfield, Reed Smith (co-Coaches' Award winner) pitching and playing short, second baseman Sean Scoopo (co-Coaches' Award winner), hurler Andrew Card, Blake Egan (team Defensive MVP) behind the dish, and Jack Pancak (All-SCC Team; Most Improved Player) at first. Sophomore third baseman Ray Miklos was also named to the All-SCC Team.

Speaking to the crowning achievement of the spring, Coach LaPointe felt it was how the team responded to the struggles and adversity of the opening half of the slate. According to him, the Tigers acted like a group that was undefeated at the time.

"As we were 3-7, our entire team stayed together. There was never any negativity or a belief that we wouldn't turn things around. We kept fighting, understanding that we could turn things around," said LaPointe. "Our team chemistry was incredible. Coming to the field everyday was so much fun. I was happy to see the guys play better in the second half of the year."

Looking ahead, Hand returns three pitchers with varsity experience in juniors Joe Hill and Brian Anderson, along with sophomore Drew Harmon. While the Tigers graduate a good amount of their lumber at the plate, Miklos, junior Jack Kallinich, and Harmon will form the middle of the lineup.

"We are going to have a nice pitching staff next season. We are returning three guys who have lots of varsity innings. Joe Hill and Brian Anderson will be seniors, and Drew Harmon will be a junior. All three of those guys can pitch at a high level and I am hopeful that pitching can be our strength next season," said LaPointe. "We need to replace lots of offense. We are losing our No. 1, 3, 4, and 5 hitters [Gardner, Braren, Smith, and Pancak]. That is a lot of offense to replace. We need other guys to replace the seniors. We also need to replace our starting catcher. [Juniors] Nick Ursini, Kyle Freiman, Bobby Lanza, [freshman] Kyle Kuhn, and [sophomore] Andrew Fitzgerald are a few of the guys that will compete to replace this year's seniors."

In closing, LaPointe praises his boys for not only coming to the ball park and competing every day, but for additionally representing their school and town in the best possible fashion.

"I just wanted to thank everyone in the community for being so supportive of our baseball program. The ultimate goal is to use baseball to help develop strong, young men with integrity and to become an integral fabric of the community," said LaPointe, who was assisted in the dugout by Travis Gulick, Bill Daunais, Jake Ryder, and Paul Coppola. "We are working really hard to do things the right way and to have a baseball team Madison can be proud of. Our 2014 roster did an incredible job of continuing that process. All of the players were great role models and helped generate lots of interest in our baseball program."

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