A modest Brock Podgurski tries to downplay the source of his power. And, so does the Steinert roster, which lists the senior shortstop at a mere 5-7, 155 pounds.
But two things Podgurski is having a hard time containing are the barrel chest that threatens to pop every button on his jersey and the compact, explosive swing that is putting the barrel of his bat on the ball with surprisingly mighty long-ball rewards.
For the third time in as many games, Podgurski, who subscribed to an off-season workout regimen that is paying off rather nicely, unloaded a home run, but none so far carried more meaning than the most recent blast.
His majestic two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth off Hamilton starter Shane Finley, who had been cruising along to that point, punctuated a somewhat stunning change of events that lifted host Steinert, No. 14 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15, to a 2-1 triumph on Saturday in a crisply-played matchup in Hamilton.
Finley (1-1) was particularly sharp over the first five innings. The senior right-hander filled the strike zone behind a hard fastball that he complemented with his slider and curveball. He was touched for two infield singles, both coming in the third, and one walk through five while recording seven strikeouts.
But, with one out in the bottom of the sixth, James Locklear worked a rare walk off Finley and Podgurski jumped on the next offering, a slightly-elevated fastball and sent a towering shot that landed on the roof of the press box at the adjacent soccer field, some 25 feet beyond the left-field fence.
“The first two at bats, I felt like I was swinging a little bit too hard,” admitted Podgurski, who ground out in the first and struck out in the third. “I realized I just had to relax and enjoy the moment and the big-time atmosphere. That’s exactly what I did. I got a first-pitch fastball that was over the middle and, maybe a little high, and happened to get good metal on it.”
More like heavy metal. Podgurski has been one of the loudest contributors for Steinert (3-0) thus far, collecting eight hits, including two doubles to go with his three home runs, eight RBI and 10 runs scored.
“He’s got some crazy power for a little guy,” Steinert coach Brian Giallella said of Podgurski. “He has that short swing.”
While Podgurski supplied the offensive theatrics, senior right-hander Carston Raab was handling his business on the mound in an effort to match the performance of Finley. Raab was touched for an unearned run in the fourth when David Osanto reached on a one-out error and Vinnie Sorrentino followed with a long double into the right-center field gap that scored hustling courtesy runner Bobby Radice from first for a 1-0 lead.
Raab was unfazed. He retired the next six straight and exited the contest in the top of the seventh with out one and runners on first and second. Junior righty Chris Geraci came on to close and picked up the save with a strikeout and ground out to foil Hamilton’s late bid.
This showdown between neighboring rivals that features players on both sides well acquainted with their day’s opponent, was dominated by two sterling pitching performances.
Raab, who constantly changed the line of vision for Hamilton batters through his commanding location, ran his mark to 2-0 by tossing 6-plus innings of four-hit ball that featured four strikeouts and two walks.
“I had good stuff and didn’t look back after the beginning. I kept hitting my spots where I wanted,’’ said the 6-2, 215-pound Raab, who yielded a leadoff double to Dan Garcia in the top of the first before settling in and setting down the next 10 in a row. “It’s fun when both pitchers are in it and we’re both dueling.”
Finley (1-1) went the route on a three-hitter that included seven strikeouts and three walks, two of which came in the sixth.
“He pitched his butt off,” first-year Hamilton coach Mark Piencak said. “He had his good stuff going. If he can go out and compete against a team like Steinert, because he’s going to get all the big games, we feel pretty good about that (going forward).”
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner