Renegades Elite baseball players benefit from travel tournaments |
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Renegades Elite baseball players benefit from travel tournaments

Ray Fisher
The 2019 Renegades Elite 17U baseball team

Mike Huber is fixated on his senior season with the Thomas Jefferson baseball team.

Even in the summer months.

Huber, a junior first baseman at TJ this past spring, competed recently for the Renegades Elite 17U team, traveling to tournaments in Atlanta, Cincinnati and Columbus.

Along with Huber, the Renegates’ roster included Western Pennsylvania players Daniel Boehm from Seton LaSalle; Eli Shedd, Tyler Berger and Rahul Nathan from Upper St. Clair; John Salvitti (Shady Side Academy); Kevin Kogler (Bethel Park); Matt Stanger (Seneca Valley); Mark Lehman (Peters Township); Skyler Giannetti (Carrick); Colin Dalson (Mt. Lebanon); and Dom Pietro (Central Catholic).

The Elite 17U squad suffered through an injury-ravaged season but wrapped it up with a respectable 13-9 record.

“I have had this core group for a few years now,” coach Chris Peters said, “and we are probably done as a team because our kids will all graduate next year. We started this team three years ago with the main focus being to get these kids college exposure.

“We were focused primarily with Perfect Game, which seems to be a huge recruiting tool for most colleges. Each player created a profile on the Perfect Game website, so any PG tourneys we played in automatically were entered into the profile, including videos, statistics and a lot of good stuff. Besides that, just playing very good competition (was an aim), and for me it was trying to get these kids to understand what it takes to play college baseball.”

Huber played first base for most of the summer for the Renegades. That was his primary position for TJ, coached by Tim Vickers in his first year at the helm.

Huber led Thomas Jefferson in several offensive categories, and was an offensive catalyst for the Renegades.

“My summer baseball just ended,” he said. “Mostly, I played first base, but I did play a couple games in left field because we were short some players.

“We did fairly well this year and gained a lot of exposure in tournaments such as the Perfect Game 400 tournament in Georgia.”

Huber is hoping his summer experience, along with steady conditioning, will provide a springboard to a banner 2020 season. TJ shared the Section 3-4A title with Ringgold this year and finished 13-6 overall.

A former all-conference gridder as a 6-foot, 290-pound lineman, Huber went on a Keto diet and lost 45 pounds during the past school year. His current playing weight is around 245-250, and he already has seen beneficial results from his reduction plan.

“Two years ago, I ran an 8.3 in the 60-yard dash,” Huber said, “but recently at a Pitt camp I ran a 7.35, which is all because how much lighter I am. It has also allowed me to be more flexible at first base and with my swing.

“I’m now lifting and swinging as many days as I can to have my best (high school) year yet. Coach Vickers also has set up a throwing program to strengthen our arms.”

This summer, the Renegades Elite batted .301 and posted a 3.60 ERA as a team. Lehman, Giannetti, Shedd, Berger, Kogler and Salvitti did the bulk of the pitching.

“Unfortunately, we lost four of our 14 players to injury before Game 1,” Peters said, “so it became very difficult to compete the way we expected; it was tough.”

Huber said the small roster actually helped the team achieve one of its targeted goals.

“It was hard managing the pitching but we got it done,” he said. “Everyone pitched when they could. Our most important aspect was making sure we got exposure from colleges, and having a smaller number of players helped give us more time on the field.

“My favorite memories were (made) just being with all my teammates because we don’t see each other all year. But we do make the best of it for the two months, and it’s always fun with that group of guys.”

The Renegades’ season ended with a strong showing at a 90-team tournament in Ohio.

“The highlight was our last tournament in Columbus,” said Peters, who was assisted by John Salvitti Sr. “We had to play seven games in less then 48 hours with nine guys. We lost a tough one in the semifinals (to the GSA Gatorz).”

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

Categories: Sports | Other Local
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