Mustangs have a lot on the ball

April 17, 1994|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Sun Staff Writer

Over the span of a 24-year coaching career, Jim Miller has become convinced it's the smart ones who will get it done right.

If that's the case, his current C. Milton Wright baseball team is in position to have an outstanding season.

Led by catcher/designated hitter Dan Angelini (4.0+) and pitcher Jeff Schwartz (3.95), the team's overall academic grade average is around 3.5.

The Mustangs also have the baseball experience to go with their classroom numbers. Seven of the regular starters and the top three pitchers are seniors, and most of them are veterans of regional playoff teams the past two seasons.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Wright is now 6-0 after pounding North Harford on Friday, 23-5.

Miller said, "The nice thing is you only have to tell them something once. We teach them to be prepared mentally, ready to execute. Most players react to a situation when it arises, but these kids think ahead more than the average, so they're ready when a play develops."

Three seniors who fit this mold are three-year starters Schwartz and team captains Brian Taylor and Tommy Walsh. For `f practices, the squad is split between pitchers-catchers and infielders-outfielders, with catcher-first baseman Taylor and Walsh directing the groups.

"When we started this, I was afraid they might wind up as two separate groups, but they are such great kids that when we put the two together, they work as a unit," Miller said.

Taylor says: "The separation helps us get more work on individual things, but we play well as a team. Really, I am pleased to see how well we get along together. We have much better team chemistry than a year ago [an 11-7 record].

"For one thing, we're more serious this year. Sure, we like to joke around, but it doesn't get past that ridiculous point."

Walsh, a defensive standout who is working on being a more consistent hitter, said the team is more focused on a winning attitude, and the outlook is a lot better.

"As for being a smart team, the smart ones cut down on the mental errors. That's what can lose games for you," he said.

Many of the players have played with and against each other through recreation programs. Schwartz, Taylor and Walsh played for the Fallston Cubs.

"Jeff and I have played together for five years, and with Shaun Crouch and Geoff Hilyard [two more senior pitchers], that's a lot of experience," said Taylor.

"We've seen the other players in the county so often, we know their hitting patterns. And I believe having experienced senior pitchers gives us more of an advantage."

C. Milton Wright and two of the other teams expected to challenge for the county title should have a better idea where they stand by Wednesday. The three are in the midst of playing each other in the first of two-game sets.

By beating North Harford Friday, Schwartz, a 6-foot-2 right-hander who was 4-2 last season, ran his record to 4-0 with an earned run average of 1.65. He also has one home run.

Taylor has fully recovered from a right shoulder injury of a year ago. It kept him from a regular role, but he hit .474 as a designated hitter, fourth in the county. He had three home runs, 15 runs batted in and nine stolen bases. This spring, he's hitting above .500 with a county-high 13 hits. He had 10 RBIs against North Harford.

"In the beginning of the season, there was a little bit of pain in the shoulder, but it just needed to get worked out, and I'm fine," he said.

Angelini has eight hits and a .350 average, and pitcher Geoff Hilyard has allowed no earned runs in nine innings.

From the start, the pitching and defense were expected to be HTC fine, but question marks were raised about the hitting. Still, in a 9-2 win over Bel Air, four straight first-inning hits got it going, and later there were six hits in a five-run inning. Against North Harford, they had a season-high 16 hits.

"We've had it in a groove a couple of times, so we know we can do it," Miller said. "We just need to be more consistent."

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