After coming within a victory of a PIAA Class AAA state baseball title and returning seven regulars from that squad, Upper Moreland entered this year with a fair amount of confidence.
"We pretty much brought everybody back," said Charlie Hooker, a senior outfielder and pitcher. "We had the chemistry part down, too."
Despite the imposing lineup, the Golden Bears struggled out of the gate. Monday's 3-0 loss to Cheltenham dropped them to 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the Suburban One League American Conference.
"We have a target on our back, and teams are coming at us as hard as they can," Hooker said. "We have to be ready every game."
The 6-foot-1, 197-pound Hooker is a spark plug for Upper Moreland, which bounced back Wednesday with a 7-4 win over American Conference rival Springfield (Montco), as a leftfielder and hurler.
Before Wednesday, Hooker, who is a four-year varsity contributor, was batting .412 with four RBIs from the No. 3 hole. He was 0-1 on the mound, but had allowed only one run in 14 innings.
Last season, while helping lead the Golden Bears to a 21-5 mark and the American Conference crown, Hooker batted .527 with 27 RBIs and 24 runs.
As a pitcher, Hooker mixes a fastball clocked in the mid-80-m.p.h. range, curveball, change-up, and knuckleball. "I just try to hit my spots, pitch to contact," the 18-year-old said.
Hooker and fellow senior righthander Eddie Decker make up a solid one-two punch. Decker last season went 7-0 with a 0.87 ERA. Tommy Robinson and Dennis Long round out the rotation.
A lack of offensive production played a part in Upper Moreland's slow start. "I fully expect us to erupt at some point," Golden Bears coach Ernie Rehr said.
Two of the squad's losses came against Division I-bound starting pitchers: Plymouth Whitemarsh's Jon Fisher (James Madison) and Upper Dublin's Dan Jacobson (Rhode Island).
Hooker, who quarterbacked the school's football team, said the offensive void left by the graduation of outfielders Matt Kohn and Robert Knox needs to be filled. "Those guys got on base a lot," Hooker said.
In addition to Hooker, the top of Upper Moreland's lineup is made up of catcher Pat Driscoll and shortstop Kyle Irwin. Third baseman Mike Cavanaugh hits cleanup and Hooker's brother, Colton, a junior first baseman, is the No. 5 batter.
Charlie Hooker spent the first eight years of his life in Wellington, Fla. An avid hunter and fisherman, his baseball career will continue at Alderson Broaddus, a Division II program in Philippi, West Virginia.
"They stayed in regular contact with me, made me feel like I was part of the program even before committing to them," he said.
Rehr can easily picture Hooker in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. "He's a real country boy at heart," the coach said.
Extra bases. Penn Charter senior righthander T.J. Pagan has committed to play at Delaware . ... La Salle has been led on offense by Nick Dermo (.500), Dom Cuoci (.500), Ryan Coonahan (.486), and Brad Schneider (.457). The Explorers' John Scheffey, a senior lefty, is 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA and 22 K's in 23 1/3 innings. ... Germantown Academy's Ryan Elefante and John Aiello are batting .429 and .400, respectively. ... Cardinal O'Hara has a trio of .400-plus hitters in Will Latcham (.455), Dan Dwyer (.435), and John Banes (.433). ... Downingtown East shortstop Nick Amicon is batting .452 with eight RBIs. ... Before Wednesday, Neshaminy's Cole Creighton, a Stony Brook commit, was batting .688 with seven runs and six RBIs. ...North Penn's Jared Melone was hitting .522 with seven RBIs. Teammates Mason Nadeau and Brandon Heggan were each batting .400. ... Roman Catholic junior third baseman Connor McKenna is hitting .438 with eight RBIs ... Archbishop Wood junior catcher Nick Lafferty was batting .440 with a .560 sluggin percentage. ... Hatboro-Horsham junior southpaw Eric Lane is 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA. ... Methacton's Austin Bregman is batting .457 with seven doubles. ... In five appearances, Haverford School senior righthander Connor Burke is 3-0 with a 1.03 ERA and 25 K's in 20 1/3 innings. Temmate Kevin McGowan, a junior second baseman, is hitting .488 with 19 RBIs and 10 runs. ... For Pope John Paul II, senior shortstop James Bleming and senior outfielder Joey Pedorenko are batting .471 and .410, respectively. The Golden Panthers' top hurlers are senior righthander Josh Lafferty (4-1, 2.53 ERA) and senior lefty Dan Zurowski (2-0, 1.42). ... Central Bucks East second baseman and leadoff man Patrick Reilly is planning a visit to Texas A&M.