Gloucester Catholic has won two consecutive NJSIAA state baseball championships, and while there are many reasons for the success, the bottom of the order might be a good place to start.
During the previous two seasons, senior shortstop Rob Alessandrine has batted in the No. 9 hole, but he hasn't been the customary easy out that his place in the order might suggest.
Far from it.
Last season, Alessandrine batted .451 with 13 doubles and 10 stolen bases.
"I put him down there because he's like a second leadoff hitter," Gloucester Catholic coach Dennis Barth said. "He's got good speed and gets on base a lot."
For his part, Alessandrine doesn't care where he hits.
"As long as I help the team, that's what matters," Alessandrine said.
Barth concedes that, this season, he is thinking of moving Alessandrine to the No. 2 spot, where he also would serve as a second leadoff hitter, only in reverse order.
Either way, Barth realizes what a major contribution Alessandrine has already made, a trend that should surely continue.
"He has hit over .400 two years in a row, makes all the plays in the field, is a really good shortstop, and is very clutch," Barth said. "He gets hits when it really counts."
Alessandrine has been told since he has been participating in sports that he might be on the small side to compete. He stands 5-foot-6 and weighs 148 pounds, yet pound-for-pound, he is among the strongest players on the team.
"It has always given me motivation when people tell me that I was too small to compete," he said.
And even in a big man's game, Alessandrine stood tall.
He was the starting point guard for the basketball team - he will play in Sunday's South Jersey All-Star Game at Rutgers-Camden - and a natural leader.
He's an active leader, as well.
Alessandrine was a starting shortstop last summer for Brooklawn's Senior American Legion team, which won a state and regional title and was among eight teams that earned berths in the American Legion World Series.
He also batted No. 9 for Brooklawn, serving again as a de facto second leadoff hitter.
Brooklawn won its first World Series game before being eliminated when it lost its next two games.
"That was such a great experience," Alessandrine said. "It was a great stadium and you couldn't beat the atmosphere, with great crowds."
The World Series was played in Shelby, N.C., at Keeler Stadium. In Brooklawn's final game, a 14-10 loss to Las Vegas, the attendance was 5,747.
Brooklawn finished 45-6. That came on the heels of Gloucester Catholic's 31-2 record. For those counting, that is 84 games from April 1 through Aug. 14. Yet Alessandrine couldn't get enough baseball.
"You know when you play for Gloucester Catholic and Brooklawn you are playing just about every day, either games or practice," he said.
It shows how much he loves the game.
Unlike Brooklawn, which is expected to return almost its entire team intact this summer, Gloucester Catholic has some holes to fill, especially on the mound.
Still, the Rams, who were The Inquirer's No. 1 South Jersey team last year, are going to be difficult to budge from that position this season.
And Alessandrine will be a stabilizing force on defense and a catalyst on offense, regardless of where he bats.
So far, he has been a bottom-of-the-order hitter with top-of-the-order production.
Alessandrine has accepted a partial baseball scholarship to Monmouth University. He called the school a "perfect fit."
A Deptford resident, Alessandrine has come a long way from when he became a starter for Gloucester Catholic as a sophomore.
"I was scared as a sophomore because of the tradition of the program - it was pretty intimidating," he said.
But Alessandrine comfortably settled in his role. This season, the role could change if he moves up in the order, but no matter where he is slated to bat, Alessandrine will battle, scrap and, most importantly, win, which has been the true defining measure so far of his high school career.