Throughout his high school career, Will Smith considered himself primarily a defensive player. He started at shortstop for four straight years at Collegiate. But when he arrived at Kenyon College, he made an important discovery about getting playing time.
“All I really wanted to do was play every day,” Smith said. “I realized that in college if you can hit, you can play.”
He ended up doing plenty of both. By the time he graduated earlier this year, he owned the all-time Kenyon batting-average record with a .410 mark and on-base percentage (OBP) at a .506 rate. During his senior season, he also set the single-season RBI record by knocking in 48 runs while starting all 45 games and leading the squad with a .418 batting average and .508 on-base percentage. He was twice named to the All-North Coast Athletic Conference First Team and also earned an All-Region nod in 2008 when he was the team’s MVP. And his defense didn’t suffer either; he finished tied for fifth in the record books with a .979 fielding percentage.
According to Smith, his hitting abilities developed when he first arrived at Kenyon and was introduced to the weight room.
“That was when I started lifting weights,” he said. “I got pretty into that, hitting the weights and working on my swing, and good things happened. I never thought I’d have as much success as I did. I guess I just put the work in.”
Smith has moved back to New York City, and though he doesn’t know how baseball fits into his long-term plans, he played this summer in the Westchester Rockland Wood Bat League, a competitive association filled with former college and minor league players. No surprise: he led his team in most major offensive categories.
Three other locals played with Smith at Kenyon last spring. Andy Hoffman (Beacon) appeared in four games and struck out seven batters. Outfielder Jamie Keyte (Trinity) started 18 games, batting .237 with a .375 OBP, two homers and eight RBI. Fellow Trinity alumnus Pat Gunn started 30 games and recorded a .296 batting average, .375 OBP and 22 RBI.
At New York colleges, Jorge Rosado (Martin Luther King) stood out for his efforts at Baruch. The senior shortstop was named City University of New York Athletic Conference Player of the Year. He started 34 games, batted .465, slugged .806, stole 34 bases, batted in 36 runs and hit 18 doubles, four triples and six homers with a .594 OBP. He led his league in batting, slugging OBP, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, walks and steals.
Lehman’s Jose Santiago (Food and Finance) started 14 games and batted .261 with three RBI and a .370 OBP. At Long Island-Brooklyn, Paul Lopez (Beacon) made 18 appearances in relief and went 1-2 with a 7.17 ERA and 20 strikeouts. Jacob Tobin (Dalton) of St. Joseph’s Brooklyn appeared in eight games and had two hits and three walks.
Two other players wrapped up their collegiate careers at Fordham. John Kahn (Trinity) played in 34 games as an outfielder, batting .301 with 17 RBI and five steals. Jake Rabinowitz (Beacon) made 22 appearances and five starts, finishing with a 3-7 record, 7.80 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 42.2 innings.
Farther upstate, Difre Reyes (Beacon) started 46 games at Concordia and batted .218 with two homers, 23 RBI and seven steals. At Alfred State, Berto Vargas (Norman Thomas) put together a memorable senior season, for which he was named All-Region, All-Western New York Athletic Conference and the school’s Senior Athlete of the Year. He led Alfred with a .407 batting average, 11 doubles, six home runs and 49 RBI. He also added a .667 slugging percentage and 19 steals.
Four locals got playing time in the Ivy League, three of them Regis graduates. Harvard’s Tom Zollo appeared in 10 games and reached base four times. At Cornell, Jerry Vitiello played in 13 games, batting .222. Andrew Bakowski made 14 relief appearances at Brown, finishing 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 25 innings. Finally, Princeton’s Stephen Elmore (Horace Mann) made one appearance as a freshman pitcher, surrendering three hits and three earned runs in one inning.
In the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), a pair of Trinity graduates made a mark at Bowdoin. Dan Hicks played in 31 games and batted .357 with a .438 OBP, .620 slugging percentage, five homers and 13 RBI. Adam Marquit appeared in 35 games and had a .264 batting average, .319 OBP, 21 RBI and seven steals. Hamilton’s Jeremy Brenner (Collegiate) played 22 games and batted .235 with a .300 OBP. Fellow Collegiate alum Martin Green appeared in 16 games at Williams and put up a .227 batting average and .320 OBP. He was also named to the NESCAC All-Academic Team, as was Mike Neff (Dalton) of Amherst. Neff played in 22 games and batted .273 with a .342 OBP and 10 RBI.
At Brandeis, John McGrath (Trevor Day) made 14 appearances as a pitcher, going 0-2 with an 11.48 ERA and seven strikeouts in 13.1 innings. Teammate Julian Cavin (Beacon) played 16 games and was third on the team with a .340 batting average. Will Perry, another Trevor Day product, made two appearances and threw three innings for Dickinson, striking out three and surrendering three hits and six earned runs. Two other freshmen got more significant playing time. Jake Chaplin (Fieldston) started 27 games at first base for Haverford, batting .210 with two homers, 15 RBI, a .325 OBP and ten steals. Fairfield’s Mark Skrapits (Regis) started all 47 games at shortstop and recorded a .281 batting average, .356 OBP and 23 RBI.
Jason Friedman (Browning) played 28 games at Macalester and hit .167 with three RBI.
Finally, two locals helped Pomona-Pitzer go 37-7 last spring. James Brunswick (Collegiate) made eight starts and appeared in 15 games, earning a 5-1 record and 4.73 ERA. He struck out 38 batters in 59 innings. James Klingensmith (Riverdale) saw action twice and earned a walk.
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