McGwire Tuffy saw his Hun School baseball career end the same way it started--with a state Prep A tournament championship.
Tuffy and the Raiders captured their fourth straight Prep A title with a 12-0 victory over the Peddie School on May 19 in Hightstown.
The result capped three straight victories in the double-elimination tournament, during which they outscored the opposition, 28-1.
“When my grade came in my freshman year, Coach (Tom) Monfiletto and the other coaches built in this philosophy that we wanted to be known as one of the best teams in the state,” said Tuffy, who was a four-year starter for the Raiders. “It’s not something that just happens in one year. We dedicated ourselves every day, day in and day out, and four years later we’re four-time champs. There is nothing better right now.”
Hun came into the tournament off of its toughest loss of the season. The Raiders were the No. 1 seed in the Mercer County Tournament and dropped a 4-0 decision to Hopewell Valley Central High School in the semifinals. But they bounced back with three impressive victories and finished the season with a 22-2 record.
“I was concerned about that,” Monfiletto said of bouncing back from the loss to Hopwell. “I spent all day sulking on Sunday. I think a lot of our guys spent all day sulking on Sunday. But what we said was we’ll take one day and we’ll flush it out of our system and then we come back and it is a brand new season. That’s the cool thing about this tournament, that you can treat it as a new season.
“We were able to give opportunities to guys to step up that might not have had a bigger role this year like Shaan Patel and Dylon Galgano. They had a huge role in this tournament. Shaan started all three games for us in right field. And it was good to have all the seniors play.”
Hun opened the state tournament with an 11-1 victory over Lawrenceville School when Rickey Erbeck allowed just one run over five innings and struck out seven.
Andy Blake tossed a four-hitter and struck out 12 in a 5-0 triumph over Peddie, before Jack Erbeck tossed a masterpiece in the clincher, allowing just one hit and striking out 12 before leaving the game with two outs in the seventh inning. Jake Sloss came on to record the final out.
Jack Erbeck added a three-run home run in his final at-bat, while Blake and Blaney Soper each drove in two runs.
“It feels unbelievable to finish my Hun career with that home run and a great performance on the mound,” Jack Erbeck said. “Our senior class, with the leadership that we had and mentoring the underclassmen in the weight room. I think the hard work we were through and the hangouts we had out of school.
“I think there is more to come from this team. The potential is amazing.”
Tuffy saw the writing on the wall for success right from the start when he joined the program. He, Soper and Dan Melnick are the three seniors who played on all four championship teams. Each one had success, but this one was special.
“This group of kids is just different,” Tuffy said. “The vibes and the atmosphere, we just knew coming into this year it was going to be different. The hard work we put in this offseason was just a testament to every kid on the roster put in. It was a fun year and a great year.
“It’s a whole process and luckily every kid on this roster was buying into this mindset and we just clicked from day one.”
The Raiders hit and pitched their way to the title, excelling in both facets of the game in their three Prep A state victories.
“Andy and Jack just pitched the heck out of it,” Tuffy said. “Everybody contributed. We put up 12 runs today. It’s a contagious atmosphere and we have been doing it all year long. I’m just proud of these guys.”
For Monfiletto, the title makes three straight since taking over for long-time head coach Bill McQuade, who won a title in his final season. Monfiletto, a former Hun player and an assistant coaching before taking over the had job, has been around plenty of Hun baseball teams. And this year’s team had a work ethic that rivaled any team.
“It starts with the seniors and it stems from the seniors, Monfiletto said. “I have never been a part of a team where kids take as much ownership as they have in this whole process. It makes it really easy to coach when you have that and they work as hard as they work and they have as much confidence as they have. I think a lot of it has to do with how close they are.
“The cool thing about it is they have kind of laid the groundwork for years to come. Obviously, we’re going to miss them. But they sort of set the standard for what is expected out of our program in terms of off-season stuff and how to support one another and all of that stuff has now been set in stone. Next year is going to be a different year. It’s a different group. But that’s the great part about it. It’s the challenge.”
And the challenge next year will be to make it five straight Prep A titles.