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A season to forget: Cadets shake off long summer

With their roster ransacked by injuries, the Metro Cadets staggered to a 9-31 finish of their regular season Tuesday, an ailing pitching staff in tow. While their staff was depleted of many of its arms, the attrition allowed for two pitchers who would have been relegated to the back end of the rotation or long relief to step in and shine.

Keith Haack, originally slated as the team’s fifth pitcher, was bumped up to the top of the rotation in the absence of the team’s top four starters, and performed admirably. The righthander from Queens College led the league with 60 strikeouts in 51 innings while compiling a 2-5 record with a 2.06 era.

Anthony Paolillo, a crafty lefthander who will be a sophomore at Fordham in the fall, emerged from the bullpen to competently fill in the second slot in the team’s rotation, going 3-3 with a 3.14 era and three complete games.

“Haack and Paolillo were outstanding for us this summer,” said Cadets assistant coach Charlie Papetti. “They weren’t just good. Haack kept us in every game he pitched. In all likelihood he should have went 7-0. But it’s hard to win games when you’re only getting one run of support per start.

“Paolillo went from being a guy who was our eighth pitcher to somebody who had a really good season,” the coach added.

During a summer that saw the team’s record sag because of injuries, player defections and players filling in at positions where they were uncomfortable, the unselfishness and work ethic of the core group of the players retained was something that went largely unnoticed.

“This summer was very disappointing with respect to injuries,” Papetti said, “but very rewarding with respect to the amount of effort the guys put out. We had 15 college players playing out of position to make things work. That’s not reflected in the team’s record. There were a lot of positives.”

Among those positives was the play of Jimmy McCurdy, who was originally added to the team as an extra player. McCurdy wound up stepping into the line-up at second base, helping to shore up the middle infield defensively while wreaking havoc on the basepaths when he reached.

“McCurdy was our rock at second base,” said Papetti of the Molloy alum, who led the team with 12 stolen bases. “He only committed three errors the whole summer. And whenever he got on the bases, he was a force to reckon with.”

Catcher Eddie Kull was a steadying influence behind the plate. The Stony Brook sophomore and former Molloy standout emerged as one of the team’s top run producers, knocking in 10 runs.

“Kull is the best defensive catcher in the league,” Papetti said. “He’s got the mechanics behind the plate and a strong arm. He’s improved steadily.”

“I love catching,” said Kull. “There isn’t any other position I want to play. I take a lot of pride in calling the game, catching the pitchers and moving people around. I also take a lot of pride in providing leadership.”

But the Cadet who shined brightest during the summer stint was Haack. The wiry righthander showed good velocity and command over his pitches throughout the summer and no doubt opened the eyes of some scouts with his toughness and savvy.

“I think the summer went well,” Haack said. “As a team, we didn’t have the greatest summer, but hopefully we can improve upon that next year. I was able to get a lot of exposure this summer, which is something I’m happy about. A lot of scouts came out to the games.”

Other standout performers included New York Tech first basemen Tom Merkle, who paced the team with 35 hits, and St. John’s shortstop Jason Fischette, who pitched in with 16 hits while logging a sub 1.00 era on the mound. Other notables included St. John’s outfielder Charlie Bilezikjian, who swiped five stolen bases before being hobbled by a foot injury late in the season, and Briarcliffe third baseman Tirzon Nunez, whose glovework and pop out of the clean-up spot gave the squad a lift.

Looking toward next summer, the team loses Bilezikjian, Merkle, and injured pitcher Marc Goldberg, all of whom will be seniors in college this fall.

The Cadets return a strong core of players, however, in Kull, McCurdy, Haack, and Paolillo and — health permitting — will look to build upon this summer’s performance.

Reach contributing writer Brian Towey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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