Hitting top to bottom

Posted 4/1/09

The Wolverines have no problems sending the ball to the parking lot. And hitting for each other. Through the start of Chaparral High School baseball …

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Hitting top to bottom


The Wolverines have no problems sending the ball to the parking lot. And hitting for each other.

Through the start of Chaparral High School baseball season, it appears any spot in the lineup could eventually send an opposing pitcher back to the dugout.

Led by senior Pat Hirschberg, who recently committed to play ball at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this year’s Wolverines batting lineup continuously books two and three extra-base hits in almost every game, as well as a few over the fence.

A prime example was March 16 against Douglas County in Castle Rock, where the Wolverines’ J.J. Gerkin, who was 2-for-2 on the day with one RBI, and Hirschberg both sent pitches to the parking lot. In the same game, Jacob Nath (2-for-2, 4) connected for a double and a triple, and Kyle Wallace (3-for-4) had a two-base hit as well.

“We’re underestimated, but we’re a strong force to be reckoned with,” said senior Eric Graff, who presently hits in the three hole. “It’s hard to pitch around this lineup.”

Against Thomas Jefferson March 20, Nath (3-for-6, 5), Hirschberg (2-for-3, 2) and Jordan Serena (3-for-5, 2) each had a home run, while the Nebraska-bound senior and Nath also had a double each.

Graff had a double and a triple against Chatfield March 14 in Littleton, where Hirschberg booked another one of his home runs of the season having gone 3-for-3 at the dish. Serena and Dan Petriella also each had a double in that game.

Graff said a big aspect of this year’s lineup is hitters are relaxed and confident through the seven spots.

“That’s a big part of it this year,” Graff said. “It’s like a fun urgency. That’s what makes us so productive.”

This season, the Wolverines have replaced last year’s seniors with a new crop of 12th-graders. The 2008 season was the last under head coach Steve Eaton, who retired from the program. Graff said the Wolverines’ lineup has a lot of give and take this season compared to last.

Anthony Persichina replaced Eaton as the Wolverines head coach this season. He said one of the differences between the seasons was his coaching style when Chaparral goes on offense.

“I have chosen to coach from the dugout this year and speak with every player before they go to the on-deck circle, and even sometimes before they get in the box,” Persichina said. “We discuss multiple things before the players get ready for their at bats.

The coach aspires to have each player approach the plate with a solid mental game, allowing them to feel confident and relaxed. He stresses the importance of being relaxed, self-confident, have a combative intensity, understanding the importance of a team player, positive self-esteem and being accountable, Persichina said.

“Each of my players that goes to the plate carries our teams attitude with them.” he said. “They really want to be the guy that gets it done.”

Graff said the work for a Wolverines batter is big in the cages. Hitting coach Roger Plank analyzes swings and does a play-by-play with each batter, breaking each of them down on what they need to work on.

“If [Plank] sees something wrong, he corrects us and helps us through it,” said Graff, who returns with two years of varsity ball.

Hirschberg, who has three years of varsity under his belt as well as two years of first-team All-Conference and second-team All-State accolades, sits in the fourth hole, where Persichina said he has a strong talent for being able to take control of the lineup. Last year, he batted third.

“He possesses a quiet lion’s leadership. He carries himself in a very confident manner,” the coach said. “He truly wants to get the job done. … The guys in front of him and behind make it hard to pitch around him.

“When Pat is relaxed and just lets his hands fly, he is one of the best hitters that I have coached.”

Hirschberg said his only goal when he steps up to the plate is simply to hit the ball as hard as he can to get on base so the hitters behind him can bring him in. He has hit five home runs on the season as of April 1, which is a higher tally for him than at this point in the year.

“They just happened,” Hirchsberg said. “I’m just trying to hit the ball hard, and I’m just lucky they keep going out.”

In fact, any time the Nebraska-bound senior steps up to the plate, he simply tries not to do too much. However, when he connects, his first thought is to just run hard.

“If it’s in the gap or down the line, I want to get a triple,” he said.

Chaparral batters made the most of their off-season spending a lot of time on hitting, Hirschberg said. In addition, they’ve tried to help each other improve and stay positive the whole year.

“We were a good hitting team last year,” Hirschberg said. “This year, we just wanted to make sure everyone in our lineup could hit. We want to just get better every day and get better than last year.”

Last season, the Wolverines won their post-season district tournament and made their way into the final eight of the Class 5A state championship playoffs.

Being his first year as head coach, Persichina said his main goals are getting players to love each other, love the game, compete with their brains and hearts, and win the next game.

“My players always are telling me that they want to win every game, and I simply tell them let’s just win the next one,” he said. “They're having a hard time understanding that if we win the next game, we will win all of them. I have great players with huge hearts, and they want to leave a positive mark on Chaparral High School.”


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