LANCASTER, PA – The public address announcer was busy on June 7. La Salle coach Kyle Werman was making change after change in an attempt to provide his players more playing time than usual.
In the third inning, a booming message blaring from the loudspeaker communicated that Hunter McGarvey had replaced Andrew Cossetti at catcher. Normally that’s not a big deal, but for McGarvey, it was a rare chance to replace the first-team, All-Catholic Offensive Player of the Year behind the plate.
Such are the advantages when your Explorers race to an incredible 9-0 lead in the first inning en route to a 13-0, PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal victory over thoroughly overmatched Red Lion at Manheim Township High School. On Tuesday, La Salle will meet District 1 champ Bensalem in a Class 6A semifinal 4:00 at Neumann University.
La Salle College High School senior catcher, Hunter McGarvey - PSD Photo by John Knebels
“It’s always great when a lot of players have a chance to play, especially in a state playoff game like this,” said Werman. “We had a lot of good at-bats and everyone contributed.”
McGarvey played three strong innings and grounded a single into shallow left field in his only at bat. At just about any other school, McGarvey would be on the opposite side of the equation – giving away his at bats to a backup.
But because Cossetti is ahead of him as one of the area’s best catchers, McGarvey has done everything possible to benefit the Catholic League champion Explorers, either as a reliable second-string catcher, third baseman, relief pitcher, or pinch hitter.
“It’s super important,” said McGarvey, referring to playing multiple roles. “Ever since I’ve been little I’ve been playing every position that I can. I feel like if I can keep improving in every position, it’ll just help coach get me in any spot that I need to be in – anyway I can help the team, really.”
McGarvey is among an exclusive list of high school players who don’t start, yet have been awarded a scholarship to play at a Division I school. McGarvey will play at the University of Richmond next year.
In his initial season at La Salle four years ago, Werman was awestruck by a plethora of talented catchers.
“You had Hunter McGarvey, you had Brian Schaub, you had Andrew Cossetti,” said Werman. “Joe Rossi was a catcher in that group. We had four really good catchers that just happened to show up. We found ways to get these kids versatile.”
In the win over Red Lion, La Salle scored its nine first-inning runs with two outs. Five conventional runs were sandwiched inside a two-run homer by aforementioned clean-up first baseman Brian Schaub – also a Richmond recruit – that opened the scoring and another two-run blast off the scoreboard by aforementioned catcher Andrew Cossetti – his seventh of the season – that increased the mark to 9-0 and established a PIAA tournament record for most runs in the first inning by a single squad.
While senior starting pitcher Gavin Moretski was having no problems holding down Red Lion, senior Eric Marasheski would add to the carnage in the third inning when he drilled yet another two-run dinger that put the 10-run mercy rule into effect. It was, indeed, a merciful contribution because this was a game in which the Explorers banged out 14 hits in only four at bats and could have scored at will.
Hence the opportunity for players like McGarvey to take full advantage of playing time.
“I really just try to look at it as if I’m already in college and the situation that it’s gonna be like there,” said McGarvey. “I may or may not get time whatever the situation may be, but I’ll be ready for any of it. So I’m just trying to stay focused and get better myself and help my team any way that I can.
“I try to simplify everything so every time I get on the field, I just try and focus on one pitch at a time. So I really try to block out the score, block out the situation in the game, and just work on catching or whatever it may be.”
Werman is convinced McGarvey will flourish down south.
“I’ve talked to him about this,” said Werman. “I said, ‘You’re gonna really be successful there. And it’s because you’re gonna step in and you’re going to outwork people.’ And he has the ability. He’s going to get bigger and stronger like everybody does at the next level.”
That work ethic has been a constant. So too has McGarvey’s positive attitude.
“Hunter came in from day one super mature, competitive,” said Werman. “He’s a bulldog on the field. Hunter can really catch and throw, and he can hit, too. We got stuck in a position where there’s other really impactful bats that are gonna continue to hit in college that happen to take some of those opportunities at the positions he plays.
(Video Interviews by John Knebels)
“It’s disappointing when you’re not ‘the guy’ that he could be in any other program. But again, he’s a team guy. I couldn’t be prouder of how Hunter has handled some of that adversity.”
Andrew Cossetti confirmed that McGarvey has exuded other-centeredness.
“Hunter is an outstanding athlete and he works hard in the weight room and on the field,” said Cossetti. “Unfortunately we have an unusual situation at La Salle where it’s tough to fit him in the lineup at times. Credit to him that when he gets in, he makes the most of it whether it’s on the mound, at third base, or behind the plate. He’s a great player and he’s going to go on to do great things in college. Most importantly he’s an integral part of this team.”
Regardless of a player’s level of success, said Werman, players learn important lessons from sacrifice.
“This experience prepares them for life,” said Werman. “Baseball is the ultimate sport that way. Most talented players at the high school level don’t face that adversity (of not starting). They’re just better than their teammates and they play. La Salle is unique because of how many talented players we happen to get that kids face that adversity at La Salle earlier than kids might in the baseball world.
“Hunter is always there for his teammates and he’s got a ton of respect from his teammates, myself, and the staff.”
Although he enjoyed playing in half of the game against Red Lion, McGarvey downplayed his individual significance and spoke about the Explorers as a whole.
“Chemistry on this team is incredible,” he said. “It’s like nothing I have ever seen. We started in the winter working out 6 AM at La Salle just getting the team together. Now everyone wants to win the state championship. Everyone has been working this entire season to achieve this goal and that’s what’s so special – that everyone’s pulling in the same direction.
“Very rarely do you ever see that with a whole team, especially a team this big. So it’s very impressive and I’m excited to see what we can do.”
McGarvey emphasized the plural. That says all one needs to know about the individual.
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)