Free of jitters, Washington Township's Alex Gattinelli is stepping up

One day you're a freshman and it's all ahead of you.

The next day, you're a senior and almost everything is behind you.

"It feels weird," said Washington Township's Alex Gattinelli, who has seen his baseball career from both angles. "It feels weird to be that guy. But I like the role and I want to take advantage of it."

Now a senior leader for the red-hot Minutemen, Gattinelli can look at freshmen teammates such as Nick Hammer and Greg Rossi and envision a version of himself, three seasons ago.

But 12th graders know in their bones what ninth graders can only imagine: Time flies and high school careers come with a firm expiration date.

"It went so fast," Gattinelli said. "I'm super motivated. I want to go out with a bang."

By his own admission, the catcher was "pressing a little" early in the season, trying too hard to make the most of his senior year.

He has rediscovered his swing in recent games, going 5 for 8 with six RBIs in Washington Township's last three games, all victories.

Gattinelli with 3 for 3 with two RBIs in a 9-8 victory Monday over Millville in a clash of Top 10 teams and drove in two runs in a 3-2 win over Cherry Hill East on Tuesday that improved the Minutemen's mark in Olympic Conference American Division play to 5-0.

"He's one of the best we've seen," Millville coach Roy Hallenbeck said. "He throws real well and works with his pitchers great. Tough out at the plate. He's a really nice all-around player."

Washington Township coach Bill Alvaro Jr. said Gattinelli was putting too much pressure on himself in the team's first few games.

"We had a little talk," Alvaro said. "We expect Alex to be a leader and he will be a leader for this team. But he doesn't need to try to do too much. He just needs to be himself out there."

Gattinelli is a four-year varsity player who was one of the Olympic Conference's top catchers as a sophomore and junior. He batted .385 in those two seasons, with a combined 57 hits and 33 RBIs.

With 74 career hits, Gattinelli has a chance to become just the fourth player in Washington Township history to reach 100.

"He has great tools," Alvaro said. "And he works tirlessly. He wants to be great, that's the biggest thing."

Gattinelli said he grew up in Washington Township, playing youth baseball and dreaming of representing the Minutemen at the high school level.

He said his varsity experience has been "everything and more" than he imagined.

"I love it and I never want to leave," said Gattinelli, who plans to attend Rowan College at Gloucester County and play baseball for the Roadrunners. "It's the competitiveness of it and just growing up playing with these guys, dreaming of playing high school baseball. It's finally here and we get to play together for this last season."

As do all seniors in the spring, Gattinelli senses the approaching end of his career.

But he said he believes these Minutemen have a chance to make a lasting mark in the Olympic American, in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic and in the Group 4 state tournament.

Washington Township is 6-1 overall, alone in first place in the division standings and No. 6 in the Inquirer top 25.

"I've been playing since freshman year and we've never made it past the South Jersey semis," Gattinelli said. "I want to win a South Jersey championship, a state championship.

"That would be huge for everybody."