Matt Hand's two-way talents have played a huge role in Council Rock North's continued success on the diamond.
A righthanded hurler with terrific command, he is 7-0 with a 0.78 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 36 innings. He has yielded only five walks and four earned runs.
Doubling as a shortstop for the 14-1 Indians, Hand is batting .347 (17 for 49) with 10 RBIs, eight runs, four doubles, a triple, and a home run. The cleanup man has a .429 on-base percentage.
With Hand leading the way, C.R. North, which sits atop the Suburban One League National Conference with an 8-1 mark, is bidding for its second consecutive PIAA District 1 Class 4A title.
"He really works his tail off as a pitcher and shortstop," Indians manager Matt Schram said. "He's a great athlete."
On the mound, Hand, who is ticketed for Lehigh, mixes a fastball clocked in the mid-80-mph range, curveball and cutter. "That late break on the ball seems to be confusing hitters," Hand said of his cutter.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior says C.R. North assistants Dan Krapf, a 30-year coach, and Jon Haldis, a former Council Rock South standout and minor-league pitcher for the Dodgers, have played a big part in his development.
"More than velocity, our coaches focus on hitting spots," Hand said. "That's a major emphasis in practice."
Hand fired a six-inning three-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 2-0 blanking of National Conference rival Pennsbury last month. "I was able to get ahead of the hitters that day, especially the first time through the order," he said.
The Indians have flourished despite losing multipurpose star Brandon McIlwain, outfielder Cole German, and third baseman J.R. Hicks to graduation. McIlwain graduated in January to get an early start on playing baseball and football at South Carolina.
"That Brandon could be part of this team, it's definitely something we think about," Hand said. "We could have been crazy-good. But we've had a bunch of younger players step up and fill that void."
The pitching rotation also features C.R. South transfer and senior C.J. Kilgariff (2-0 with a 1.67 ERA) and sophomore Gavin Ferrandino (3-0, 2.19). Fellow righthander Joe Preciado, a junior, is likewise in the mix.
Senior catcher Jared Schram, the coach's son, is batting .458 with 25 RBIs, 15 runs, four doubles, a .542 slugging percentage, and a .509 on-base percentage.
Third baseman Tyler Nowmos is next in line with a .444 average, 13 RBIs, and 11 runs. Fellow senior Seth Leuz, an outfielder and lefty pitcher, is hitting .419 with 16 runs and 11 RBIs.
Hand also excels in the classroom. He has a 4.23 grade-point average on a weighted scale and takes advanced-placement courses in calculus and environmental science.
The 18-year-old from Newtown could end up a two-way player at Lehigh. "I just want to get on the field and contribute as soon as possible," he said.
Upper Moreland's Joe Bates is 4-0 with a 0.69 ERA. The Golden Bears are led at the plate by Randy Meehl (.405 average), Jon Searles (.387), and Nick DeLucas (.355). . . . West Chester Henderson outfielder Zach Roberts is batting .432 with 15 RBIs and 13 runs. . . . Harriton sophomore Jonah Frankel is 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 30 Ks in 36 innings. . . . Roman Catholic has been spurred at the plate by Marquise Wood (.478), Greg Grandelli (.472), Kevin Glynn (.424) and Noah Clement (.421). . . . Archbishop Wood's Joey Lancellotti is batting .529 with 18 runs, 12 RBIs and three homers. . . . Olney Charter infielders Giovanni Ortega (15 RBIs) and Bryan Maria are batting .630 and .529, respectively. Cesar Loya is 3-0 with 1.40 ERA in Public League action for the 9-2 Trojans.
Holy Ghost Prep's Nolan Jones is hitting .571 with 19 runs, 14 RBIs, 15 walks, and three homers. . . . Malvern Prep's Shane Muntz is batting .465 with a .657 on-base percentage. Teammate Billy Corcoran is 2-0 with a 0.33 ERA and 24 Ks in 211/3 innings. He is 5 for 5 in save opportunities. . . . Bonner-Prendergast's Steve Furman is hitting .419. Ryan George (.394), Evan Raiburn (.393), and Tim Dougherty (.385) are next in line for the Friars. . . . Central's Sam Greene is batting .419 with seven doubles. . . . St. Joseph's Prep infielder John Coppola is hitting .422 with 13 runs and six doubles. . . . Franklin Learning Center's Joe Pagan is 4-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 44 K's in 27 innings. . . . Perkiomen School's Levi Stoudt is 3-1-1 with 33 Ks in 29 innings. Teammate Marlon Lindsey is batting .455 with a .571 on-base percentage, 18 RBIs, and six doubles. . . . Franklin Towne Charter's Matt Schlernitzauer is hitting .326 with a .715 on-base plus slugging percentage.