Hughes helps Shaler baseball team competethis season
In a season that may not have opened up with high expectations for the Shaler varsity baseball team, but it ended with a vision of a bright season ahead.
The Titans were deemed young and inexperienced and were not expected to compete this season.
Little by little and inch by inch, the team started knocking off section opponents. By season's end, it had earned a share of the section title. A playoff berth followed, and although the Titans didn't advance, the foundation of the team is solid and experienced moving forward.
First baseman Jim Hughes was a junior on the Shaler team, and although he has been on the varsity team, a large and skilled senior class dominated the lineup prior to this year.
“We were excited about this season and happy about the playoffs … we were definitely excited about the section title,” Hughes said. “I think we surprised a lot of people.”
Hughes said the team broke things down to a one-pitch-at-a-time mentality.
“We took a deep breath and slowed the game down,” Hughes said. “We were able to flush out errors that can effect you later, and we were able to regroup, play our game and do it with a cool mind and win some games.”
Hughes figures the expectations will be high for next year, but he and the team welcome the challenge.
The first baseman's hitting improved along the way this season. Seeing many different pitchers helped him polish his game, and although things were not always perfect, he helped the team win.
Hughes helped a great deal in the field, as well. He started out at first, moved to third for a bit then moved back.
“I like the corner infield positions,” Hughes said. “I have always played there, and I expect to be back there next season. I am a big target (which is good for first), and I think that is the best place for me to help the team win.”
Hughes said coach Brian Junker is the type of skipper who focuses on making the players better people, which translates to baseball and the routine of doing things the correct way.
“He teaches us how to move on from plays and stay mentally focused,” Hughes said. “You can't let a mistake you made in the first inning haunt you later in the game … move on from plays and play with energy.”
Hughes will play summer ball with the Shaler Senior American Legion team before he enters his last hurrah as a high school baseball player.
“I am looking forward to it,” Hughes said. “I would like to get back to the playoffs and make a deep run.”
Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.