West Deptford baseball coach John Oehler says the “eyes” of his team always turn to seniors Darren McKeown and Mike Gismondi.
The “ears” are tuned to Gismondi.
“I’m the loud one,” Gismondi said. “Coach is always telling me, ‘Get the dugout loud.’ ”
McKeown and Gismondi might operate at different decibel levels, but they deliver the same message of responsibility and accountability.
The team’s only seniors are productive players. Both are hitting close to .400. Both are top defensive athletes, with Gismondi patrolling the outfield and McKeown serving as the team’s catcher.
But their most valuable contribution, according to Oehler, has been their leadership.
“Neither of them is a superstar,” Oehler said. “They are hardworking players who go about their business the right way. Our guys work off that.
“They are consistently into it. They know every ‘rep’ counts and that’s how they approach every practice, every game.”
Unranked after going 2-2 in its first four games, West Deptford has won 14 of 17 to improve to 16-5 and rise to No. 10 in the Inquirer Top 25.
West Deptford has advanced to the second round of the 45th annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic. The Eagles will play top-ranked Bishop Eustace in the quarterfinals on Saturday at Deptford.
West Deptford can clinch the Colonial Conference Liberty Division with a victory over rival Haddonfield on Thursday. And the Eagles project as the likely No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament when the fields are announced on Thursday.
“We’re just a real scrappy team,” McKeown said. “That’s the big thing. It’s like in football. The big thing is being mentally tough.”
McKeown and Gismondi both were members of West Deptford’s football program and bring some of that team’s tenacity to the diamond.
“We’re going to play as hard as we can, every game,” Gismondi said.
Gismondi was batting .371 through Tuesday. He led the team in runs with 23 and stolen bases with nine.
McKeown was batting .364, with 20 runs and 15 RBIs.
“They both have hit in the middle of our lineup all season,” Oehler said. “They’ve set the tone for our offense. They do whatever we need — get a bunt down, steal a base, take a walk.”
Oehler said the two seniors are leaders in their own way.
“Both lead by example,” Oehler said. “Mike is very vocal on the top step, keeping everyone locked in. Darren is a more subtle leader who is constantly giving advice that can give everyone an edge on the opponent.”
Gismondi spends most of his time in the outfield. But when McKeown takes the mound, Gismondi moves behind the plate.
“That’s special, us two both being catchers,” McKeown said. “At that position, you know the whole team is looking at you to set the example.”
McKeown and Gismondi both said they were surprised to be the team’s only seniors.
“It’s kind of shocking at this school,” McKeown said. “Our AD [Jason Morrell] is always talking about the importance of being a multisport athlete.”
Oehler said the team’s younger players naturally look to McKeown and Gismondi for leadership.
“They’re great seniors to have,” Oehler said. “They both approach things the same way, with the idea that they have to work to get better every day. Our young guys pick up on that.
“The eyes always go to those two guys and they always see them doing the right thing.”
And if they can’t see clearly, they always can hear Gismondi.
“It’s normal for me,” Gismondi said. “I’ve always been the talkative one.”
45th Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic
Gateway at Clearview, 3:45 p.m.
Bishop Eustace vs. West Deptford, noon
St. Augustine vs. Seneca, 2:30 p.m.
At Washington Twp.
Holy Spirit vs. Washington Twp., noon
Eastern vs. Gateway/Clearview winner, 2:30 p.m.
Semifinals at Deptford and Washington Twp., 1 p.m.
Final at Eastern, 5 p.m.