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Experienced Hun baseball off to nearly perfect start

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The Hun School baseball team came into the season brimming with confidence.

Now 13 games into the season, the Raiders are finding that confidence was certainly warranted.

Hun improved to 12-1 with a 12-0 victory over Hill on Wednesday. The victory also lifted the Raiders’ record to 8-0 in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League, clinching a share of the league’s title. 

“I think everybody was pretty confident coming into the year because of the seniors we had coming back, not only because of their experience, but also their work ethic and leadership,” Hun coach Tom Monfiletto said. “A few took a leadership role last year as juniors and that carried over to this year. You could tell this would be the sort of year where we would at least get close to reaching our full potential. This group has done that so far this year.”

Andy Blake, a postgraduate from Hopewell who has made a huge impact with the team, pitched five scoreless inning in the decision over Hill. Blake also had two hits and drove in two runs, as did Jake Sloss. Blaney Soper contributed two hits and scored three times.

The senior group that Monfiletto has felt so good about includes Jack Erbeck, Dan Melnick, McGwire Tuffy, Soper, Dylan Galgano and Shaan Patel. 

“Danny Melnick played last year and caught some as a sophomore,” Monfiletto said. “Jack has been a starting pitcher for us since he was sophomore. McGwire has started for us since he was a freshman. Blaney Soper was a starter last year. Even Jake (Sloss) and Anthony Bencardino, two juniors, had a lot of experience coming into the season.”

The experience and depth of the roster has resulted in a near-perfect start to the season. The Raiders only loss was a 2-1, eight-inning setback against Immaculata. The pitching has been outstanding all season as the staff has allowed more than three runs just twice in 13 games.

“Our pitching has been outstanding and we can’t take that for granted,” Monfiletto said. “All of our starters have been excellent this year. Even some of the guys who have not pitched a lot if innings can contribute for us and we will need everyone. It will be all hands on deck at the end of the season when we start playing the (Mercer) county and prep tournaments. 

“Jack has been excellent. Andy Blake has been incredible. He has brought a different element that has been fantastic for us. Playing at Hopewell for four year and the success that he had, everyone has gravitated towards him and he has been a great leader.”

Blake and Jack Erbeck have been the leaders at the top of the rotation, but the pitching staff has also gotten solid contributions from Rickey Erbeck, Ryan DiMaggio and Sloss. 

The lineup, which figured to be potent already, received a boost with the emergence of freshman Carson Applegate as the leadoff hitter. He is batting over .500 and has scored 17 runs.  

“Carson Applegate has been a catalyst in the leadoff spot and playing center field,” Monfiletti said. “He has been incredible. Being able to put him in the leadoff spot, he can steal bases and get extra base hits. He’s an incredible athlete and is so fast. Having him there and McGwire in the three hole has bolstered the lineup. Ryan DiMaggio is another freshman who has helped us on the mound. Shaan Patel and Dylan Galgano are seniors who have have contributed in big ways for us, too.  

“The lineup has been so deep. Cole Palmeri had big double against Middletown South. Ben Petrone has played at second base for us all year. We have had a lot of guys contribute.”

At the top of it all is Tuffy, who has been a key to the lineup on and off the field for four years.

“McGwire has been there for all four years,” Monfiletto said. “He is everything a coach could ever want. He has put up numbers this year he has never put up before.  He’s the toughest kid I have coached in any sport.”

The Raiders will look to finish off a perfect MAPL season with games against Blair on Saturday and Peddie on Tuesday. There are also games against Somerville, Seton Hall Prep and Steinert on the schedule as the team gets set for play in the MCT and state Prep A tournament.

“Somerville was the Group 3 state champ last year and will be a good test,” Monfiletto said. “Blair is here for Alumni Weekend and later we play Seton Hall Prep (on May 3) and we get to play Steinert under the lights (May 4 at Veterans Park). Then we’ll start the county tournament. So it is an exciting time for us.”

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