Deep Bullpen Has Varsity Baseball Hopeful

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Pitcher Luke Tenuta winding up to deliver a strike against Waynesboro. (Photo: Eric Wallace)

A bullpen stacked with four strong pitchers has WAHS varsity baseball head coach Skip Hudgins excited about prospects. “We returned most of our better pitchers and while we did lose a great player in Sam Hearn, we’ve brought up some excellent young throwing talent as well. We’re really looking to hang our hat on that,” said Hudgins. “With a bullpen like we have, it’s going to be tough to score on us.”

For Hudgins, after going 11-11 last year, the excitement is welcome. “We got a tough start last season, but came on strong at the end and played really well,” he said. After securing a berth to the regional tournament, the Warriors advanced to the semifinals where they lost to Rustburg, which ultimately won the state championship.

Anchoring the team was three-time All State outfielder Henry Kreinbaum, who is now playing at James Madison University. “It’s hard to replace him because he was one of those special ones that you just know is a legitimate Division 1 level athlete. That’s a pretty rare thing,” said Hudgins. “But we start thinking about replacing players long before they’re gone and encourage upperclassmen to mentor the younger guys so that, when it’s time, they’re ready to step in.”

One such player is Derek Domecq, a junior lefthander who’s been a starter since he joined the team. “He learned and picked up a lot from the other guys and has just been a workhorse on the mound these past three years,” said Hudgins. “He’s a bulldog out there and consistently throws strikes. He has three great pitches—a fastball, curve and a changeup—that he uses to strike out a lot of batters. At this point, with so much experience under his belt, we’re looking to him to be a great leader for this team and do big things.”

Rounding out the pitching staff are Luke Tenuta, a junior righty; Jack Masloff, a sophomore lefty; and Garret Payne, a freshman righthander. “We have very high hopes for Garret,” said Hudgins. “Watch him on the mound and the way he throws the ball and dominates. We think he’s got a chance to be really, really good.”

Hudgins was reticent about making projections for offense. “I’m hoping some of the players will emerge as reliable hitters and put some runs on the board for us,” he said. “Right now, I’m not exactly sure what to expect.”

Topping the list of candidates is senior catcher Ryan Sukovitch. “He hit about .270 for us last year and really came on at the end of the year,” said Hudgins. “We’re hoping that momentum and fire at the plate will carry over into this season.”

In the team’s favor this preseason was an unexpected ally: the February and early-March weather allowed the squad to get on the field earlier than usual. “We had a string of 60 to 70 degree days that let us run our first eight or nine practices on the full-field,” said Hudgins. “So, we felt blessed by the weather and great about knocking off the rust of the offseason. It allowed players to get acclimated as a unit—especially when you have guys stepping into new positions.”

Considering the strength of district competition, Hudgins is wary of making predictions. However, starting the season with a 3-1 record has him feeling noticeably confident. “Domecq opened the season pitching extremely well and, assuming the other guys follow his lead, it looks like our pitching staff is going to give us a consistent chance to win. However, it takes scoring runs to win games.”

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