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Shortstop McHugh, Thomas Jefferson striving for banner 2014 campaign

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Ken Eber Photography | for the south hills record
TJ senior shorstop Joe McHugh

When Thomas Jefferson shortstop Joe McHugh talks about goals for his senior season, it's pretty simple: win it all.

“Personal goals, I haven't really set any,” McHugh said. “My No. 1 goal is to win a state championship as a team.”

Coming off a season that ended with a loss in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals, Thomas Jefferson returns a core of seniors that can push the Jaguars to the top of Section 4-AAA.

“It's pretty crazy when you look at how many guys have been involved with the program,” said Gregg Fouts, Thomas Jefferson's first-year head coach. “A lot of these guys played AAU and travel ball together and know each other real well.”

Along with McHugh, seniors David Stover (P/1B), Jake Benack (2B), Jonathan Fouts (C/OF), Eric Fairman (P) and Steve Kunzman (3B/DH) make up the nucleus from which everything stems.

McHugh, a University of Pittsburgh commit, thinks focus and leadership shouldn't be an issue since all the seniors know what's at stake, and try to convey that to the underclassman.

“I don't see leadership being a problem,” McHugh said. “When you look around and you just see senior after senior after senior, these guys all understand that this is our last shot. The other thing we try to do is to instill that in the younger guys.”

Coach Fouts says McHugh's dedication and passion for the game is contagious.

“Just his enjoyment of the game is fun to watch,” Fouts said. “He's not the kind of kid that brags or anything. He's just a delight to be on the field. Even in practice, he just loves being around the game.”

McHugh says signing with the Panthers and having the opportunity to play Division I baseball in such a competitive conference like the ACC is what he has been aiming to do for quite awhile.

“I've been working my whole life that maybe I might be a D-I player,” McHugh said. “This summer, the recruiting process and everything was a dream come true.”

Still, McHugh is quick to bring the focus back to more pressing matters.

“I don't want to talk too much about things I think I'll do because this team is going to be something special,” he said.

The Jaguars will travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C. this week for the Ripken tournament.

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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