Veteran St. Peter’s Prep head baseball coach Pat Laguerre really doesn’t know what to make of the 2021 season. Sure, the Marauders have been perennially one of Hudson County’s finest teams.
In fact, let’s take it one step further. It’s safe to say that Laguerre’s squad has been the best Hudson County could offer in four of the last seven seasons, winning tourney titles in 2018, 2016, 2015 and 2013. Two of those years (2014 and 2019), the Marauders came up on the short end of a one-run setback in the Hudson County Tournament finale.
Last year in 2020, there was no county tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when no spring sports were played nationwide.
So it’s safe to say that the Marauders have been the cream of the crop locally for the better part of the last decade.
However, with no season a year ago, Laguerre really had no idea what to make of his team this year. Still, he scheduled some of the top teams in northern New Jersey, like Gill St. Bernard’s, Ramapo, Millburn, Northern Valley/Old Tappan, St. Joseph of Montvale, Pope John of Sparta, Randolph and most recently Don Bosco Prep. It’s a “Murderers Row” of New Jersey baseball schedules. The Marauders went an ungodly 3-6 in those games.
“Looking back now, it probably wasn’t the smartest move scheduling all those games,” said Laguerre, whose team has lost seven of their last nine games to drop to an unthinkable 10-8 overall. “We responded well when we played five games in six days, but we haven’t responded well at all lately. But when I put together the schedule, I was reminded that we lost all of last year due to COVID. There was always the threat of COVID shutting down this season, so we just didn’t want to have 10 games for the whole spring. We felt like we needed to give the kids every chance to play as many games as possible. Maybe now we could have done things a little bit differently. It was definitely a learning experience for all of us.”
Another unforeseen obstacle was the injury bug, especially senior right-hander Teague Mulcahy, the University of Hartford signee who has been battling shoulder tendinitis and has yet to throw a single pitch this season.
“For the last six months or so, he’s been battling the shoulder problems,” Laguerre said. “He feels great now and we think he may be back for the playoffs [beginning May 22].”
So it’s an unfamiliar position for Laguerre and the Marauders.
“I didn’t think we’d be as down as we are,” Laguerre said. “I told the kids that it’s not over unless you think it’s over. That’s our mantra right now. We can have two seasons, the regular season and the playoffs. All we need them to do is be good for a week.”
A healthy Mulcahy, whose brother Paul is a current college basketball standout at Rutgers and whose father Paul, Sr. was a football star on the first-ever Prep state championship team in 1989, would really mean the world for the Marauders and give them more than a puncher’s chance of winning the Hudson County Tourney.
In Mulcahy’s absence, junior right-hander Matt Scepkowski has stepped up and been the impromptu ace for the Marauders, coming up big recently.
“Matt has been one of our most consistent starters,” Laguerre said. “He’s been solid.”
Junior right-hander Nick Rappa has been another solid starter, as has surprising freshman Macai Moore.
“He throws the ball well,” Laguerre said of Moore, who leads the Marauder pitching staff in strikeouts with 20.
Tall junior Ryan Rzepinski, all 6-foot-7 of him, has been serving as a pitcher and designated hitter. He’s driven in 11 runs with a homer and has won three games on the mound.
“He’s probably our most consistent pitcher,” Laguerre said.
Seniors Connor McElroy-Barker and Jack Daly and junior Raul Cortinas all have added depth to the Marauders’ pitching staff.
The team has been going with three catchers, namely seniors Ian Wilson and Owen Fletcher, but freshman Joe Haines has been getting most of the action lately because of his potent bat.
“I think he’s a little ahead of his time,” Laguerre said of his freshman backstop. “He handles the bat well.”
Sophomore Matt Corwin, whose father Dennis was a fine player for the Marauders during his high school days in the 1980s, has been the most pleasant surprise for the Marauders at the plate. Corwin leads the Marauders in home runs with three and RBI with 18.
“He’s probably been our best player,” Laguerre said of Corwin. “He’s a very good hitter and solidified the picture at first base. He has a very good future.”
Junior John O’Donnell has been the starter at second base and fellow junior Ulisses Ferraz is the team’s shortstop. O’Donnell has drawn the most walks on the team and has scored 20 runs. Ferraz is a steady force at short.
Third base duties have been shared by senior Ryan King and sophomore Massimo Infante-Meehan. King is the team’s leading batter with a .447 average with two homers and 15 RBI.
The two also share left field responsibilities with junior Ellis Reid, who also has two homers.
Junior R.J. Fiore, whose father Ray was a part of the famed Hoboken Ambassadors team that went to Russia to play in the late 1980s, is the Marauders’ centerfielder, with senior Landon Paradine in right field.
It’s been an up and down campaign for Laguerre and the Marauders, having reeled off seven straight wins at one point, then falling in seven of their last nine before knocking off North Bergen Friday afternoon.
“It’s been crazy,” Laguerre said. “But a good week in the playoffs could change a lot of things. That’s what I keep telling them.”
Maybe the Marauders will heed their coach’s words real soon.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com, follow Jim on Twitter @ogsmar and listen to the Hudson County Sports Podcast, brought to you weekly by Stan’s Sports Center, 528 Washington Street in Hoboken, on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Listen to this week’s guest, aforementioned St. Peter’s Prep head baseball coach Pat Laguerre. Technical difficulties have prevented Coach Laguerre’s podcast from being posted thus far, but it will be remedied and posted sometime this week. Laguerre has a fascinating background from his days as a basketball player at Jacksonville University to becoming a respected baseball coach. Check it out.