By Mike smith
After a 19-3 season in 2013, a veteran-laden Tuckahoe High School baseball team is eyeing their return to the diamond with big plans this spring.
With six returning starters, a handful of younger players making big strides and a fortuitous transfer, the reigning league champion Tigers seem once again poised to hunt for a section title.
With the heart of the lineup returning to action, Tuckahoe boasts a number of bats that will likely drive pitchers crazy this year.
There are few hitters in the section more feared than senior Mike Arborn, who is coming off a 2013 campaign that saw him hit .638 and drive in 15 runs, primarily from the leadoff spot.
Although Arborn, might not be built like a leadoff hitter—head coach John D’Arco said Arborn’s body type is more fitting of a middle-of-the-lineup slugger where he is slated to hit this year—the senior’s eye and ability to get on base makes him a tough out. Last season, Arborn drew a whopping 20 walks.
“He did a great job last year turning the lineup over,” D’Arco said. “He’s a student of the game, had such a great on-base percentage. We knew he was either going to walk or get a hit.”
Leadoff duties will likely fall to shortstop Justin Sachinelli who hit .456 last year and tallied 18 RBIs, while 6’2”, 220 pounder John McGrath is expected to give the team some pop in the middle of the lineup after hitting .477 and driving in 27 runs last year.
“Those three guys are really going to be the heart of the lineup for us,” D’Arco said.
Tuckahoe is also looking solid on the mound as they will rely heavily on senior transfer Mario Forgione, who is joining them from Iona Prep, and sophomore Austin Pope, who has shown marked improvement after working tirelessly since last spring.
“[Pope] pitched a little bit for us last year, but he’s played summer ball, worked in the offseason,” D’Arco said. “He did some work with [Iona grad and former Major Leaguer] BJ Slocum, he’s worked out, gotten in good shape and he’ll be our number one or two.”
Although D’Arco knows his squad has the talent to claim a section crown this year, he said the team is focusing more on the day-to-day challenges, which includes regaining their title as league champs.
To help prepare the squad for postseason play, the Tigers have increased the difficulty of their non-league games and will be taking on larger schools such as Eastchester, Walter Panas and Hastings in non-conference games.
“You don’t want to look too far ahead,” the head coach said. “But we did beef up our non-league schedule, so hopefully that will help us. We definitely have some good tests.”
The Tigers are slated to open the season on March 28, at 4:30 p.m. at Hastings High School.