Last summer, Hudson Catholic head baseball coach Alberto Vasquez added a new line to his professional resume. He became a Jersey City police officer.
So while Vasquez is armed as he patrols the streets of his hometown, his baseball team is equally armed with quality pitchers.
The Hawks have four stellar right-handers that Vasquez can call upon, as the third-year head coach looks to improve on the 13-14 mark they posted a year ago.
Junior Brandon Pilovsky is the main pitcher to watch. Pilovsky, a transfer from Seton Hall Prep, has impressed Vasquez with his approach.
“He throws strikes,” Vasquez said of Pilovsky. “He has a very good mound presence about him. He knows how to pitch.”
Sophomore Chris Garcia has also impressed the coach, who was a standout catcher during his days at Hudson Catholic and later Rutgers and knows pitching well.
“He throws the crap out of the ball,” Vasquez said. “He’s absolutely a hard thrower.”
Senior Nick Swift is another stellar arm.
“He throws strikes,” Vasquez said. “He mixes things up to throw off batters.”
The final of the right-handed quartet is senior Rory Carvajal.
“He wants the ball,” said Vasquez of Carvajal, who will more than likely serve as the team’s closer. “I’m very comfortable with our pitching staff.”
What Vasquez isn’t happy with is the team’s inability to win close games a year ago.
“We lost eight games by one run,” Vasquez said. “It came down to getting timely hitting and not making the play when we needed to. I think that came with inexperience. But we have a huge difference this year. We are ready to improve and need to improve. We know what’s expected. Those losses stick. I would much rather get blown own than have losses like that. It was terrible.”
Added Vasquez, “But we have a majority of kids back from last year and they are reminded about last year every chance I can get.”
Catching the quality pitchers is senior Steve Price, who was the starter behind the plate a year ago.
“Steve’s a very good defensive catcher,” Vasquez said. “He’s a left-handed hitter who seems to be ready to put it all together.”
The first base duties are being shared by pitchers Swift and Carvajal, depending upon which one is pitching.
Junior Matt Falotico, who earned the starting role at second base midway through last season, has earned the starting slot at second again this season.
Senior Eberl Suarez is the Hawks’ starter at shortstop. He got considerable playing time a year ago.
The third baseman is the multi-talented Garcia, who has the looks and the makeup of being a very special player.
“He’s a very good hitter and a good player,” Vasquez said. “He really needs to show more.”
Vasquez obviously has high hopes and expectations for Garcia.
Left field duties are being shared by a pair of juniors in Matt Bolger and Ralph Mena.
Junior Mike Simone is the Hawks’ starter in centerfield. Simone, who also played for the Hawks’ football team in the fall, is a fine all-around athlete.
“He can really run,” Vasquez said. “He’s going to give us production in the lower half of the batting order. He also has a good strong arm and can go and get the ball.”
Junior Victor Guzman is the starter in right field.
“Victor really hits the ball well,” Vasquez said.
Sophomore Jose Marte is going to see plenty of playing time in the infield, primarily third base when Garcia pitches.
“It’s still basically a young team, but they have been working together for a while,” Vasquez said. “They know what’s expected and they know what they have to do. Honestly, they’re ready to go. Absolutely, I think we can contend.”
Vasquez said that the team’s pre-season trip to Florida really helped the Hawks prepare for the coming season.
“I think it helped tremendously,” Vasquez said. “We were able to practice there and play for two straight days. With our arms, everyone got a chance to throw in Florida and it helped out overall.”
Now, the Hawks have to prove it on the fields of Hudson County.
“The kids know that they can contend,” Vasquez said. “They expect it of themselves. We can’t bemoan what happened last year too much, but there are reminders.”
The constant reminders come directly from the man with the badge. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.