Youth, speed and pitching aren’t the words usually used to describe most James Monroe baseball teams This isn’t typical squad however.
Longtime Eagles coach Mike Turo jokes that he is going with the babies this year, with just nine seniors to go along with five underclassmen. That doesn’t mean they aren’t read to contribute in a big way.
“The young talented kids have a more mature mind than the other guys,” junior third basemen Jason Pineda said. “It’s pretty good to have a young team. There is no babysitting. The younger guys are putting in work.”
The inexperienced players will have a major safety net in Monroe’s deep and veteran pitching staff anchored by senior ace Francisco Justo, who can throw in the low 90s. He went 5-1 with a razor thin 0.01 ERA. He allowed just three earned runs, tossed four complete game shutouts and struck out 69 batters win 38 innings. Justo, who has worked on improving his pitch selection, is again the clear ace, a role is ready to thrive in again.
“It’s like doing it all over again,” he sad. “I was there once. Why can’t I do it twice?”
There will be plenty of help with Monroe carrying 14 kids who can pitch. Senior Yohn Zapata, Andrew Pena, Wellington Bellin Hernandez and Jonathan Vasquez all expected to see time on the mound. Them doing their jobs would limit negative effect of any growing pains the rest of the roster may go through.
“I can take more chances with the good pitching,” Turo said. “If the pitching keeps the score down and we make some mistakes they will get away with it a little bit.”
Don’t let the talk of youth, inexperience fool you. Monroe still believes it has the talent to win a city championship, after losing in the semifinals to George Washington a year ago. It’s just going to go about it differently than by beating teams with power.
“This is a very fast team,” Turo said. “It is a line drive hitting team. Our key is when you get one out and men on you have to get the big hit.”
The Eagles will have a veteran top of the order with senior outfielder Bryant Ortega and classmate and second baseman Issaka Goita, Freshman Miguelange Toribio, who Turo is very high on, worked his way into the three spot and the powerful Pineda will bat cleanup and be the anchor to the whole thing.
“Pineda, he hits the ball,” Turo said. “He hits the ball hard. He’s just a quiet good kid.”
Super sophomore Harry Vargas will see time in the outfield and in the middle of the order. Freshman Kervin Pichardo, a converted middle infielder will play first base and senior Jerimia Bueno takes over for the graduated Robin Adames behind the plate. Henry Heredia, Jason Ramos and Wilson Nunez are also expected to see playing time.
The mix of young and old has given the team a quiet confidence.
“They are hungry,” Justo said. “They are very talented. They are very quick. We are going to play a lot of small ball this year. Let’s see where this takes us.”