Gateway's Dom DePasquale realized at the end of last baseball season that he had to walk that difficult line between cutting back on his aggression and altering his competitive spirit.
His season ended last year when Gateway lost, 3-2, in the South Jersey Group 2 semifinal, and DePasquale was given the boot during the game. He was overheard berating himself for making an out the previous inning and ejected.
After that game, Gateway coach Frank Alloway talked to DePasquale, saying he had to change his ways.
To his credit, DePasquale worked on controlling his emotions, and the results have made him a champion.
The champion part took place yesterday when the senior righthander went the distance in Gateway's 4-3 victory over Pitman in the South Jersey Group 1 championship game.
DePasquale had not abandoned his trademark intensity, developed from his days an all-conference fullback-linebacker. He realized that what works in football does not necessary translate to the baseball diamond.
"When you get angry in football, you can hit somebody, but it's different in baseball," said DePasquale, now 8-1. "Before in baseball I was so hard on myself, but that wasn't always the best thing."
For somebody like DePasquale, who has also enjoyed an outstanding year at third base, turning down the intensity, even slightly, was a difficult task.
"It has really been hard, but I have cooled off a lot," he said. "It's still tough after losses."
This year he has not experienced that feeling too much because Gateway is 17-5. There are obviously times when DePasquale wants to revert to his football mentality, but he knew a change was best for himself and the team.
And this year he has done whatever the team needed - as he had in the past.
Alloway had penciled him in as a second or third starter and a closer, but he got a start, won the game, and has been winning ever since.
"He has done whatever we asked him, and now he has become our go-to guy," Alloway said.
One other thing that DePasquale hasn't abandoned is his toughness. Yesterday he pitched with a thumb so sore that it made it difficult to grip the baseball. The injury occurred last week when he was hitting.
During yesterday's game Alloway realized that DePasquale was in pain and gave him the option to stop pitching. DePasquale politely declined.
"There is some pain, but I didn't want to come out," DePasquale said. "I thought I could help the team."
This year he has helped the team in every imaginable way. Even though he has a different mind-set this season, DePasquale does not want to give the impression that he has mellowed.
"Oh, no, I wouldn't say I've mellowed," he said, laughing. "I am still very intense."
Yet he is harnessing that intensity in a different way. DePasquale, who will play football and might also compete in baseball at Widener, realized he was being too hard on himself.
This year, he has been much harder on the opponents, which is a major reason why Gateway finds itself two wins away from winning a state championship.