Baseball seniors step up to the plate amid loss of last season’s seniors

This season, the PHS baseball team plans on pushing itself past its limits to improve upon previous performances. Coming from a record of 9–14 in the 2014 season, the group hopes to once again reach the state tournament and win over half of its games. Although athletes such as Ben Gross ’14 and Jeffrey Gleason ’14 have both departed for college, the players are counting on new senior leadership and a committed group of freshmen to make new strides for PHS.

The team considers one of the most important factors in achieving its goals to be the overall cooperation and happiness of the players. “Team dynamic is really important in baseball,” said Paul Cooke ’18, who plays as an outfielder, pitcher, and first baseman. “It’s really important to have good chemistry, so that you can work together in the field. So far, it looks like we have really good chemistry with each other, which is really good for the season.”

Another critical part of the group’s teamwork is its recognition of players of all ages. “Paul Cooke’s a freshman—he has potential. Our junior, Joaquin Hernandez-Burt, is injured right now but he should be ready mid-season. He’s our top pitcher,” said Hayden Reyes ’16, a shortstop.
Since there are only 29 players on both the varsity and JV teams this season, the athletes are beginning to rely on the promising group of freshmen to make an impact in years to come. “[The freshmen are] coachable [and] they’re pretty much listening to everything that the staff has to say, from the small suggestions to the big suggestions,” said Head Coach David Roberts. “We’ve got 11 freshmen, and that’s a nice number to have. So far, I think that just by their sheer attitude and willingness to work, they’re doing a good job.”

Graphic: Caroline Smith

The significant decrease in athletes means that this year’s players will have to work extra hard to make up the difference. “Our numbers are down,” Roberts said. “We’re at 29 right now, so we’ll only field two teams. Last year we were about 40. We’re a school of 1,500 kids, so having only 29 kids out for baseball is ridiculous, but we just work with what we get.”

Correspondingly, Co-Captains John Reid ’15 and Ben Danis ’15 have been keeping the team together through encouragement and relatability to the other players. “Ben Danis and John Reid have really taken a lot of responsibility and I think that’s huge for us to have really good senior leadership this year,” Cooke said. “We still have a lot of seniors on the team, and I think that’s really going to work in our favor.”

Despite scheduling difficulties, Danis has made an effort to make sure all of the athletes feel involved and are aware of any group announcements. “Ben Danis has … stepped up into that leadership role,” Roberts said. “He’s putting out the Facebook alerts through our Princeton High School baseball Facebook group page on practice times [and scheduling] changes. He’s been taking care of all that. He organized some preseason … weightlifting sessions, so he [has] kind of taken the lead there.”

In terms of season goals, the team veterans remember qualifying for the NJSIAA state tournament for Central Jersey in 2014 and hope to repeat the feat once again this year. “Last year we qualified for a state game, and that was our first time since 2001, so our expectations are higher this year,” Reyes said.

“We’ve won nine games in back-to-back years, and we want to win at least nine again this year if not more,” Roberts confirmed. “A goal we’ve always set is [to] win a Mercer County Tournament game. Last year we qualified for states, and that would be a goal too.”
Though the baseball team still has the majority of its games left to play, the group looks forward to grappling with old records and setting new standards for seasons to come.

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