Malverne bats have too often left the bases loaded or stranded men in scoring positions, validating head coach Joe Dunn’s preseason concerns about his offense.
“It’s almost like we’re right there and we just need to turn the corner,” Dunn said about his 2-6 team at midseason. “Hopefully, we’ll get better in producing those runs as the season moves along.”
A sign the Mules can make that turn came when junior shortstop and pitcher Alex Berry smacked a game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth inning against Conference BC rival Carle Place on April 10.
“That’s a hit we probably wouldn’t get last year,” Dunn said about Berry’s tiebreaking shot in the 4-3 win.
An All-League player last year, Berry pitched an economical 1-2-3 inning in relief in a 6-0 win against East Rockaway on April 5. But in his next start three days later an elbow pain that shut him down last year reappeared. Dunn hopes Berry’s tendinitis subsides enough to allow him to return to the mound later this season.
Even without Berry, Malverne’s arms are still the strength of the team. Senior starter Alex Rodriguez had 28 strikeouts and a 0.82 ERA after giving up eight hits and two earned runs in 17 innings. Rodriguez, an All-Conference selection last year, has two wins after three starts thanks in part to a fastball that climbs into the mid-80s.
“Alex is probably one of the best pitchers in the conference,” Dunn said of Rodriguez.
Sophomore starter Timmy Bosques has relinquished eight earned runs and posted a 3.5 ERA. A third baseman on his non-pitching days, he leads the team in stolen bases with 10.
In the extra-innings win against Carle Place, Bosques led off with a single, stole second on the next pitch and scored the winning run on Berry’s hit.
“Whenever he gets on base he’s going to second,” Dunn said. “And he hasn’t been caught stealing yet.”
Malverne’s offense has leaned on senior designated hitter Luke Burroughs and his .467 average, and junior left fielder Mike Warshaw, who leads the Mules with eight RBIs and has several clutch two-out hits batting in the sixth or seventh spot.
“When the guys at the top of the order are getting on base, Mike is hitting them in,” Dunn said.
Defensively, freshman Josh Hilel, the team’s leadoff hitter, has shined in centerfield, sophomore Brandan Saunders has been a solid everyday right fielder, and senior catcher Joe Granados calls and plays a great game behind the plate.
Malverne has three-game series against Conference BC rivals Friends Academy, Wheatley and Oyster Bay, which the Mules lost to in a tight series in the first round of the playoffs last year. Dunn believes his team matches up well with Oyster Bay and Wheatley and can possible turn the season around against them.
“I definitely can see us competing just because of our pitching,” he said. “If Berry’s arm gets healthy, we can definitely finish over .500 this year.”