Despite a youth-laden pitching staff, Devon Prep again is battling for a Bicentennial Athletic League baseball championship.
Crucial behind the squad's continued success, according to Tide coach Mark Aquilante, has been John LaPrise's leadership and steadying presence.
Also, since many opponents opt to pitch around him, the senior shortstop's patience at the plate has been important.
"I try to wait for the best pitch I see," LaPrise said. "If I don't get anything to hit and end up being walked, I have confidence that my teammates will get it done. And that's happened a lot this season."
In 16 games, the 6-foot-2, 170-pound LaPrise, a four-year starter and Virginia recruit, is batting .476 (20 for 42) with 20 runs, 14 RBIs, and five home runs.
Said Aquilante: "If he doesn't get any good pitches, he's willing to take a walk and pass it to the next guy. He has a team-first approach."
On Tuesday, LaPrise, a righthanded thrower and lefty batter, went 2 for 3 with a pair of stolen bases in a 7-0 blanking of BAL rival Christopher Dock.
At shortstop, the 18-year-old has committed just three errors.
"His defense has improved greatly over the last year," Aquilante said. "He's gotten bigger and stronger."
LaPrise, of Exton, trains with Aquilante's father, Con, at Devon Prep and a facility in Hatboro. He also plays for the Blazing Angels, a showcase team coached by the elder Aquilante.
In the middle of his junior year, LaPrise took a break from playing basketball to attend a baseball camp at Virginia. His performance prompted Cavaliers assistant Kevin McMullan to take a closer look and, later, offer a scholarship.
"My dad [David] drove me down there for the camp," the erstwhile hoops and soccer player said. "It was kind of a random thing. While I was there, I fell in love with the campus and all the people."
LaPrise, a No. 3 hitter for the Tide, will be joined at Virginia by Conestoga's Scott Williams. LaPrise crossed paths with the talented backstop, who is sidelined this year with an injury, last summer while playing for the Angels.
"We text a lot and talk sometimes," LaPrise said. "He's always upbeat, very positive about things. The plan is for us to be roommates at Virginia."
Devon Prep's other senior contributors include second baseman Andy Walsh, catcher-leftfielder Rich Gallo, centerfielder Matt Burke, and catcher-pitcher Paul Kubat.
Walsh, a cleanup man who will play at Grove City College, is batting .365 with 27 RBIs and 12 runs; Gallo is hitting .400 with 13 runs; and junior rightfielder Ben Jonik is batting .416 with 15 runs.
Another key senior, LaPrise noted, is team manager Spencer Latran. "He's Mr. Enthusiasm," he said. "He's our biggest fan."
Repeat champs. Malvern Prep clinched its second straight Inter-Academic League title with Tuesday's 11-1 romp over Episcopal Academy.
With two league games remaining, the top-ranked Friars are 8-0 in league play. Penn Charter and Germantown Academy are 5-3.
Malvern Prep's offense has been spurred by third baseman Joe Poduslenko, rightfielder Matt Greskoff, second baseman Drew Hayes (Navy recruit), centerfielder Nick Bateman (Winthrop), and first baseman-pitcher Joe Ravert (La Salle).
Extra bases. For Garnet Valley, senior shortstop and Georgia recruit Joe DeCarlo is batting .472 with 22 runs and nine RBIs. The Jaguars pitching staff is headed by Dalton Mayberry (5-1, 1.05 ERA, 49 strikeouts in 41 innings) and Ryan Dorosh (6-2, 1.02 ERA, 77 K's in 49 innings). . . . Cheltenham's offense is led by juniors Rafael Fernandez (.415) and Matt Meyers (.375). . . . Archbishop Ryan's Bob Romano, a sophomore second baseman, is hitting .375 with 12 RBIs and three homers. He has 15 stolen bases. . . . Frankford senior shortstop Ricky Alvarez will continue his career at DeSales. . . . Upper Moreland senior righthander Mike Janas, out this season with a torn labrum, is bound for the University of the Sciences. . . . Lower Moreland senior reliever Jay Fisher is 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 172/3 innings. . . . Archbishop Wood junior outfielder Joe Santospago is batting .396 with 17 RBIs and 17 runs.