BY ALBERT ROMAN
The Maspeth High School varsity baseball team is facing its toughest challenge prior to throwing the first pitch of the season.
After finishing the 2015-16 regular season 15-0, baseball commissioner Robert Pertsas suggested that the team move up from Division A to Division AA.
The Argonauts opened the season with a 5-4 victory over Richmond Hill. Senior Derian Puente led the way, going 2-2 with two RBIs. Three straight losses followed and led to a 1-3 record to begin the season. First year head coach Justin Lacoff said he believes that it’s an adjustment period for the team in the early stages of the year.
“It’s a learning curve. We came in 15-0 and expected to walk through teams like last year,” Lacoff said. “We won our first game and lost our next three and it was a reality check. To me, it’s not about you winning games and how good you are— it’s how you rebound and how you respond. That is what makes a good baseball team.”
The Maspeth baseball program is still developing as it has only been around for a few years.
“It’s in about its fourth year,” Lacoff said. “It’s a huge transition. As a relatively new program, we’re going up against schools that have built a 20 to 25 year program. It’s definitely a testament to our athletes. They’re committed and that’s what it takes to build a winning program.”
Being in a new division means tougher competition. Division rivals Academy of American Studies and Flushing Campus are both 6-0. The Maspeth team would need to lean towards its biggest strength— leadership. The team has eight seniors.
“Anytime you have the seniors who have been with us for the last three to four years, it’s important that they understand what we’re trying to preach to the kids and they understand the way we want to run things,” Lacoff said. “They can teach it to the younger players and we want the older guys to lead by example.”
The coach praised seniors Nicholas Regan, Nathaniel Nickel and Derian Puente for their contributions to the team.
“They’re an extension to the coaches,” he said. “Anytime we need anything from them, they’re the first three guys we look to.
They’re the first three guys the team looks to.”
Throughout the season, there are two things that Lacoff said he wants to instill into the team culture and mentality— respect and building confidence.
“We’re just as talented as any team we’ve played thus far,” the coach said. “The guys have to believe in it and that’s really what it comes down to— whether or not these guys believe that they aren’t only as good as, but better than, these teams and I think that’s something that, throughout the season, we’re going to preach to them, but it also has to come from them.”
The Argonauts’ 2015-2016 season came to an end after the team lost 7-5 to KIPP NYC in the Public School Athletic League Championship Semi-Finals. The game was played with unusual circumstances— it began on Sunday, but was postponed in the second inning due to rain. The game continued the following day.
Last season, Nickel posted an impressive offense. He led the league in homeruns (five), finished second in batting average (0.674), third in on-base percentage (0.736) and fourth in runs (27).
Teammate Puente led the league in runs (31) and tied for the lead in steals (36).
Despite the team’s earlier struggles, there is a long season ahead for the Argonauts. Being in a new division raises many new challenges and requires modifications.
“It’s the little things that are going to make or break a team,” Lacoff said. “You make one or two mistakes. Last year, we could have gotten away with it. This year, we aren’t going to be able to.”