Entering his fifth season as baseball coach at Highland Park High School, Mark Blevins looks for daily improvement throughout the Greater Middlesex Conference Gold Division after a 10-9 record in 2014.
The Owls are a very young squad laden with freshmen and sophomores. With the new season beginning the first week in April, Coach Blevins likes to keep things in perspective. “Right now I’m not worried about wins and losses, just trying to improve as we go along in the Gold Division. Our goals are to be focused and be prepared every day. Competition will motivate our young kids and this motivation will help them accomplish their goals and get better.”
One of the team’s more experienced players is senior Mike Kovalchik, the team’s number one starter, who also plays shortstop. According to the coach, Mike is one of the leaders and will be asked to carry a lot of the load. “The key will be to see how he handles when some of the younger players behind him make mistakes.”
Sophomore Ryan O’Shea is the starting shortstop, and when Mike Kovalchik is not on the mound, he is the second starter. Reportedly, Ryan is a hard worker, with a business-like attitude. He leads by example.
Senior outfielder Jose Ruiz is a solid defensive outfielder who loves the game. Junior Josh Rothberg hit the only homer for Highland Park last season and is the squad’s utility player. The offense looks for major production from him.
Other sophomores looking to make their mark include first baseman Sam Murphy, the team’s primary pinch hitter and backup outfielder in Evan Lanaris, and left fielder Liam Roth.
“All three players have shown a good work ethic. We are looking for more consistency defensively and they are all learning how to play the game,” said Coach Blevins.
The squad is very excited and enthusiastic about the season despite the bad weather this winter that has hampered team practices. But Mike Garlatti of the Baseball Warehouse, has been most gracious and generous by letting the team use the facility for free, so the team members could work on the fundamental skills.
The Owls will face some of the stiffest competition in the Gold Division from the likes of South Amboy, East Brunswick Tech and Dunellen. The Owls look to try and handle various situations presented to them through each game as the season runs its course.
“You know that young players are going to make mistakes….But we will look to do the little things needed to win on a consistent basis this season,” said the coach. Tasks at hand will include: the ability to put the ball in play, be more aggressive with base running, field more consistently and have an understanding of defensive placement and functioning – and generally do the little things well, because the little things multiply and just might win the games.