NYC preseason baseball: No. 9 Horace Mann
Neil Berniker saw many positives in his first year as Horace Mann baseball coach. The Lions were competitive in 2011, finishing fourth in a tough Ivy League conference against the likes of Poly Prep, Riverdale and Fieldston.
The Lions are a younger squad as they prepare for their first Ivy League game against Rye Country Day on April 2. The second-year coach remains optimistic that Horace Mann is going in the right direction, and will take the steps necessary on the field to make a go of it in a competitive division.
“We’re looking for some success to move up in the Ivy League and play with the elite,” Berniker said. “We got bounced out of the first round (in the NYSAISAA tournament to Fieldston) but felt like we turned a corner and got motivated to improve on last year.”
Only four seniors return from last year’s squad, but Pittsburgh-bound centerfielder Harrison Bader is one of those seniors who will provide leadership, as well as a lot of punch in the middle of the lineup. Bader is a speedster who can spray the ball to all fields and is a consistent run producer and Berniker says he continued to develop last summer and is trying to get his power numbers up.
“He hit a ton last year. Stays consistent, growing, has skill, and is an outstanding ballplayer,” Berniker said.
The infield will be steady with senior second baseman Michael Reiss displaying a steady glove. Glen Brickman moves from the outfield to shortstop, and former junior varsity player Danny Baudoin could make some contributions at either first or third base. Berniker says the corner outfield spots are up for grabs.
Berinker is excited with the emergence of 6-foot-2 right-handed pitcher Jesse Roth, who will be the co-ace of the staff alongside senior hurler Elias Wacht.
The hard-throwing Roth got stronger last summer, while improving his velocity and command of pitches with the New York Futures travel team. He when he finishes high school. Berniker says Roth, who verbally committed to play at the University of Virginia, is not a player who will rest on his laurels.
“He’s a power pitcher, growing physically, stronger,” Berniker added. “He expects to get a lot out of himself. He’s a confident pitcher.”
Wacht is a crafty pitcher who will throw strikes and has good control. He will play at third base when he isn’t pitching. Berniker hopes sophomore Ricardo Fernandez, who is recovering for an early season shoulder injury, will throw some innings once he is declared healthy. Ryan Phier, a junior, is currently recovering from off–season surgery, and may get the green light soon to resume throwing.
“We want to compete with them [teams within the Ivy League],” Berniker said. “If the pitching holds up and we replace the seniors, and get the pieces to fall, we’ll make some noise. We’re looking to be very competitive.”