Baseball preview: New Rochelle
Follow the full baseball season in the Hudson Valley on Twitter: @MSGVarsityKDJ
New Rochelle (Pete Annunziata, 11th Year)
Last Season: (15-7)
Projected Starting Lineup:
RF: Jared Wiesel
C: Daniel Dasgupta
SS: John Valente
CF: Malik Burts
1B: Phil DiBuono
LF: P.J. Bruno
2B: Chris Elefante
DH: Jayson Gray
3B: Louis Micelli
Top Pitchers: Andrew Zigmont, John Valente, B.J. Giordano
Coach’s Outlook: “We should be good at base running, good at the fundamentals or small ball, I think that will be our style. The main contributors will be the pitching staff. The style of this team is definitely going to be steal bases, move guys over, manufacture runs and play good baseball. That’s got to be the way that these guys play and we’ll do it all behind our big returning pitchers”
New Rochelle enters with high expectations
Expectations are high this year for New Rochelle after a 15-7 2011 season that ended in a loss to eventual Section 1 Class AA champion RC Ketchum in the second round of the sectionals. The Huguenots return a core group of players, including their staff ace in Johns Hopkins-bound lefty Andrew Zigmont who went 7-0 last year with a 1.10 ERA, and flash some new talent with the likes of junior slugger Jayson Gray who tore it up last season in JV.
New Rochelle expects to be a team that is solid on the fundamentals. They will emphasize pitching and defense with the idea being to manufacture runs with heads up base running on offense while limiting errors and forcing opponents to defeat a solid starting rotation.
“Last year we had a pretty successful season so the bar has been raised pretty high,” Coach Pete Annunziata said. “We expect a lot. We have a lot of good, young, athletic returning baseball players.”
One sizable hole that will need to be filled is the one created by the absence of departed star shortstop Matt Duran, who hit .580 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI last year. Duran was selected in the fourth round of the MLB Draft by the New York Yankees and left the Huguenots wondering how to replace the sheer offensive output of the four-year varsity player.
“I have the ability to just get real excited about this year’s team,” Annunziata said. “So as much as it had been for the last four years to have Matt Duran in the program, and it was so much fun, last year was an absolute thrill ride for us, now he’s moved on to bigger and better things and it’s just time to focus on this team.”
Though it is unreasonable to suggest a player of Duran’s caliber can simply be replaced, New Rochelle is fortunate to have options. Junior John Valente will step into the void and look to do his part to fill the gaps in the stat sheet.
Valente is the Huguenots best offensive player, hitting .447 as a sophomore, and will start at shortstop and closer while eventually working his way into the two-spot in the starting rotation. The righty has hit as high as 85mph on the radar gun and possesses a nasty curve.
New Rochelle will play a packed schedule this year with games against rival and league powerhouse Mamaroneck and one intriguing non-league matchup with John Jay-Cross River.
The Huguenots knocked John Jay out in the first round of the playoffs last year after departed graduate Vernon Martin hit a game-tying three-run home run with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning and then won the game when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in extra innings.
New Rochelle has the look of a team that will play disciplined ball and force opposing teams to be perfect in order to win. They are balanced and blessed with strong pitching and that combination has them poised to make another playoff run.