Pat Laguerre didn’t mind that his St. Mary’s High School baseball roster is filled with freshmen and sophomores. The veteran coach actually embraces the fact that the Ramblers are a young bunch; a scrappy, hard-working collection of eager kids who just love playing the game of baseball.
“It’s fun to coach them,” Laguerre said. “We have a bunch of kids who come from a small school on Third Street who like to compete and play. That’s what we are. That’s what we’ve been and probably what we’ll always be.”
While other small Parochial schools are dropping like flies in the area, St. Mary’s somehow manages to keep going strong.
And after losing six key players to graduation from last year’s team that won 18 games and lost to Hoboken in the HCIAA Seglio Division championship game, one might think that the Ramblers would have to totally rebuild and take a little step back before they could compete once again.
After defeating Hoboken, 13-9, Monday afternoon, gaining a little revenge for the loss in the county title game a year ago, the Ramblers are an impressive 6-0 and makes people wonder how they can do it, year after year.
“We’ve been lucky to get good players,” Laguerre said. “That’s big. We’re also able to put young kids in key situations and enable them to grow into their positions and believe in the things we do.”
So while some people might have their eyebrows raised a bit concerning a team that features three freshmen and four sophomores and only two key players from a year ago, Laguerre is one who is not surprised at all.
“I think we’re where I thought we would be,” Laguerre said. “I thought maybe we would have a loss by now. They might be young, but they’ve been together for a while. And they’re a good team. Inexperience might catch up to us. There should be an adjustment period and there still might be one. You never know. But we have a good group of kids who listen. What they lack in experience, they make up in enthusiasm and hard work.”
Incredibly, the Ramblers are undefeated at press time and they’re not playing at 100 percent capacity. They have some nagging injuries that have thrown the pitching rotation a little out of kilter. And they are awaiting a key transfer to become eligible to play during the first week of May.
“We’re still not healthy,” Laguerre said. “We’re not all there. When that happens, then we’ll see what happens. I think that will tell us where we’re at.”
Just like any other successful baseball team, pitching is the key to the Ramblers’ success. Even though projected ace Cesar Storm has been out of action, nursing an elbow injury, other Rambler hurlers have stepped up to lead the way.
Freshman Mark Peralta has been a pleasant surprise. He already has a 3-0 record thus far. Sophomore left-hander Jordan Caban has a 2-0 mark thus far. Freshman Danny Mirabel, the starting third baseman, is also ready to pitch when called upon. Laguerre thinks Mirabel has “a tremendous arm.”
The best of the bunch might be sophomore lefty Angel Paulino, who has unlimited potential.
However, there is a trend there. Storm, Paulino and Caban are all sophomores. Peralta and Mirabel are just freshmen. This is a pitching staff comprised of babies with untapped and enormous potential.
“They’re doing a very good job,” Laguerre said. “They’re an aggressive, good, young staff.”
Young is the understatement of the day. There is not an upperclassman in the bunch.
The catcher is junior Andre Sanchez, who just recently returned to action after suffering a shoulder injury. Sanchez is one of only three returning starters from a year ago. Freshman Daniel Wilson was filling in admirably at catcher in Sanchez’ absence.
Caban and Paulino share first base duties. When one is pitching, the other mans first base and vice versa.
Second baseman Fernando Souffront also returns from last year. The junior Souffront can play any infield position. Sophomore Brandon Torres is the shortstop. He started at third last year as a freshman. Mirabel is the third baseman. He’s a player to watch.
Sophomore Miguel Aviles, who also has a world of talent, is in centerfield. He played first base last year. Junior Henry Rodriguez is in right field, with Wilson now moving to left field, where he’s joined by junior Mike Addison.
Notice there’s one word not associated with the Ramblers right this minute. It’s a senior. The team currently does not have a single senior on its roster.
However, that changes May 1, when Alvin Carrasco, a transfer from University Charter Academy, becomes eligible to play.
“He’s sacrificed a lot to come here as a senior, missing a good portion of his senior year,” Laguerre said of Carrasco, who will bolster the lineup when he becomes eligible.
So the St. Mary’s baseball team just keeps ramblin’ along, winning game after game with the youngest roster in Hudson County baseball. The Ramblers have to be considered one of the favorites to win the final HCIAA Seglio Division title, although there’s another undefeated team in County Prep that might have a say in that.
“With this group, we need some leadership,” Laguerre said. “The few older ones are holding the younger ones together. But I feel pretty positive about this team. We are who we are. We’ve won our first six games, so that’s been a big confidence builder for them.”
And there’s nothing better to help a young and budding team than a few wins. Six in a row to start the season? Well, that can go a very long way. q
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.