Christian Tortorici said he has to be extra sharp behind the plate when he is catching Schalmont pitcher Jerek Hobb.
“He’s a hard pitcher to catch,” Tortorici said of working with his buddy, something he and Hobb have done since they were in seventh grade. “Everything he throws, it moves a lot. It’s a little easier now that I’ve caught him for a while, but it’s still not that easy.”
Tortorici doesn’t mind the pitch-to-pitch challenge because Hobb gets outs at an extraordinary rate for the Sabres. The senior lefty has pitched 26 innings so far this spring, and during that span, he’s averaged just a shade under two strikeouts per frame with a variety of pitches including a fastball that hovers around 90 mph.
“It’s just been a consistent progression for me,” the 17-year-old Hobb said earlier this week after fanning nine in a tough-luck 2-1 loss against rival Mohonasen. “My dad [Michael] had me throwing a ball before I could walk.”
Hobb has been a level above ever since he began throwing no-hitters and perfect games in little league and youth travel ball. By his freshman year in high school, he was displaying his skill as a member of the Schalmont varsity team, when he struck out 59 batters in 32.2 innings. As a junior, he fanned 75 batters in 37 innings.
“You’re confident when he goes out there. In that game, from us coaches to the last player on the team, we believe we have a great shot to win,” Schalmont coach Chris Teta said. “He’ll put the team on his back. We know what to expect.”
That would be fastballs, sliders, changeups, curves and a new sinker he is developing, as well as an even-keeled presence on the mound.
“He has the same body language when he pitches,” Teta said of Hobb, who was selected Schalmont’s team MVP as a junior. “He doesn’t let something good affect him, and he doesn’t let something bad affect him. He’s Cool Hand Luke out there.”
That is, after his first offering.
“I’m always nervous before a game, no matter who we’re playing,” Hobb said. But after the first pitch, I’m OK to go.”
Hobb had a no-hitter going in the fourth inning at Mohonasen Monday, but he hit a batter and then hung a slider on an 0-2 count that Kam Canavally launched for a home run. Hobb pitched hitless ball the rest of the way in that 2-1 setback.
“You keep your head down and keep working,” said Hobb, who is 3-2 this season, which includes wins against Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, Lansingburgh and Cohes as well as a loss to Shawnee of New Jersey. “Sometimes things don’t go your way. You learn from at-bats.”
Hobb fired five hitless innings earlier in the season against La Salle and struck out 13 before reaching the pitch limit in what ended in a 1-0 walkoff win for the Cadets.
“He has a wipeout slider. His changeup and curve are good. What a lot of guys don’t do is hit their spots like him with the fastball,” Tortorici said. “His location is excellent. It’s probably his best pitch.”
Hobb will be playing in the offseason with the All-Stars Academy travel team before heading to Division I Stony Brook to further his baseball career and education. He’ll be following former Schalmont baseball star Chris Hamilton, who moved on to Stony Brook after leading the Sabres to a Section II title and state final four appearance in 2016.
“When I was a sophomore, I went to look at Stony Brook, and he [Hamilton] led us around,” Hobb said. “It’s a good school. It’s far enough from home, but close enough to home. It’s a good area. They’ve got a competitive team and good coaching.”
Stony Brook is getting a young man who has allowed 14 hits, walked 11 and fanned 50 so far in six appearances, and shows a 1.61 earned run average. Teta loves to talk about his stuff that comes from the mound, and also the stuff he provides away from it.
“He’s done a great job as a leader for us. Even when he was a junior, he had a senior mentality,” Teta said of the team captain and honor roll student. “If things went south — not that we’re planning on it — he’d be the one to get them all on the same page.”
Hobb is a humble star who would rather talk about his team’s success instead of something he did to make it happen on the mound, with a bat or with his outfield defense.
“I hope my kid can grow up to be like him, person-wise,” said Teta, the father of 7-year-old Lorenzo. “He’s good in class. Never has a bad word for anyone. He puts everyone before himself. He cares about people. He leads people.”
Teta noted the attention Hobb has spent with freshman backup catcher Logan Mulyca.
“A lot of guys would think there’s no reason to even talk to a ninth-grade catcher, but Jerek has made a point to take him aside and work with him,” Teta said. “He’s done a great job of calming him down and showing him the way. That’s a true leader.”
Stillwater senior Alexis LaFountain became the latest Section II female wrestler to commit to a college program Wednesday when she signed with William Penn University in Iowa. The Division I program competes in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.
LaFountain was a four-year member of the Mechanicville/Stillwater team and posted a 17-5 record this past season. She went 3-0 with two pins and a decision while winning the 102-pound title when Coxsackie-Athens hosted Section II’s first all-girl sanctioned wrestling tournament in January.
Scotia-Glenville graduate Hailey Finn recently completed her senior season with the women’s wrestling program at Life University in Georgia.
School records set by Shenendehowa senior sprint star Carter Cukerstein at last weekend’s New York Relays, with a 10.68 in the 100-meter prelims and a 21.63 in the 200 final. Cuckerstein went on to win the 100 (10.73) final and took second in that 200 final. Cuckerstein joined Tyler Dedrick, Jason Gillan and Michael McElrath for a win in the 400 relay in 42.67, which tops the state leaderboard.
Track and field meet records set at last Saturday’s Niskayuna Warrior Classic, by Zionna Perez-Tucker of Mohonasen (100, 12.22); Daniel Malatesta of Niskayuna (800, 1:57.05); Peter Fulgieri of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (3,000, 8:43.81); Bashir Praileau of Albany Academy (long jump, 22-2 1/2); and Alex Saltsman of Fonda-Fultonville (discus, 177-6).
Pitches thrown by Duanesburg junior Shane Wetherington in a three-strikeout, immaculate inning to close out the Eagles’ 12-3 Western Athletic Conference baseball win over Northville Monday. Wetherington had a perfect day at the plate, too, going 2-for-2 with two home runs and two walks. He drove in three runs and scored three runs.
Points accumulated by Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake senior lacrosse standout Kevin Carney, with six goals and four assists, in Thursday’s 15-6 win over Queensbury. In previous games this spring, the Burnt Hills program’s first US Lacrosse All-American produced 11 points (2-9) against Averill Park, 10 points (6-4) against Shaker, and 10 points (8-2) against Bethlehem. Thursday’s win also improved Burnt Hills to 10-0 on the season.
Strikeouts recorded by Colonie’s Tyler Sausville in his no-hit pitching performance Thursday when the Garnet Raiders blanked Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 4-0 in a Suburban Council game. Sausville worked the first five innings in a combined no-hitter with teammate John Slater earlier this month in a 6-0 win over Troy. Tyler Daus of Fonda-Fultonville has also been a part of two combined no-hitters this season in wins against Cobleskill-Richmondville and Northville.