Friday, April 24, 2009

Beginner's luck working for 'Burgh's McLaughlin

Lansingburgh junior pitcher T.J. McLaughlin (above) is in his first year of organized baseball and pitched a gem on Friday against Watervliet High in a key Colonial Council contest. McLaughlin allowed seven hits but did not walk a single batter in six-plus innings, leading the Knights to a 5-2 victory. (All photos by J.S. Carras)

In 28 innings pitched this season, McLaughlin, who served as the Knights quarterback on the gridiron in 2008, has allowed only three walks. It's a tremendous statistic not only for a player that has not spent hundreds of hours on the diamond but for any high school pitcher at any level. McLaughlin wasn't overpowering - he finished with four strikeouts - but he gives him team a chance to win by working fast, which keeps the defense behind him on its toes, and throwing strikes.

"This is my first year of organized ball," McLaughlin said. "Everybody just kind of talked me into it."
The adjustment from the gridiron to the diamond has been relatively seamless as he has applied the mechanics from tossing a football to his hurried education as a pitcher.
"I just grabbed a baseball and actually started throwing it," McLaughlin said, "and tried to get used to it."

"T.J. is a tough kid mentally and things don’t get to him," said Lansingburgh's first year head coach Joe Henkel. "Obviously we had a big decision of whether to go with him on Wednesday against Cobleskill, who probably might not be having the year Watervliet has, and Watervliet is a big rivalry for us. But it also gives T.J. another vote of confidence from us and the coaching staff and the team that he can do it. We know Jordan (Zareski) can and it leaves Jordan against Watervliet in a later matchup."

Watervliet's Justin LeGault (20) is tagged out at home plate by Lansingburgh catcher Jon Yetto (left) to end the second inning of Friday's Colonial Council game at Watervliet High School. LeGault was trying to score from first on Ray Brown's double, but a strong relay throw from Lansingburgh shortstop Scott Fane caught up with LeGault before he could touch the dish.

Lansingburgh's Jared Teta (5) beats out an infield single in the third inning of Friday's game. Watervliet first baseman Wayne Haput anticipates the throw from pitcher Caleb Gleason.

It's been an adventure for the Knights, ranked No. 6 in the initial New York State Sportswriters Association Class A poll, who feature many underclassmen.
Sophomore third baseman Mark Tracey made a pair of poor throws across the diamond early in the game but fired a strike to end the Watervliet threat in the fourth and also turned a nifty double play in the fifth.
Freshman left fielder Ryan McGrath doubled and singled and can also pitch for the Knights.
Jake Shaw closed the door in the seventh and already has a pair of wins and three saves in 2009.

Lansingburgh (5-0, 8-1) looks like the cream of the crop so far in the Colonial but Watervliet (4-3, 5-4) was never out of the game and if LeGault scores in the second, perhaps it's a different ballgame. The Cannoneers, however, walked five batters, which helped Lansingburgh score the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.

"I was pleased with our defense today, but our pitchers had too many walks," Watervliet head coach Peter Strand said. "Walks are very difficult to defend and that is something we harp on every day."

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