Baseball player of the year: Alu left a lasting mark on Princeton Day program

By Bob Nuse Sports Editor
Ray O’Brien looks beyond the numbers when he measures the contributions Jake Alu made to the Princeton Day School baseball program.
“He is probably one of the most versatile and talented kids to come through in the 10 years I have been here,” said O’Brien, the PDS head coach. “He broke the school record for hits for four years and J.P. (Radvany, another Panther senior) was third. They were both over 100 for their careers. Jake had 109 and J.P. had 103. Those guys came in as freshmen with Cole (McManimon) and started right away and played all four years.”
A four-year starter, Alu saved his best season for last with the Panthers. He batted .523 with 45 hits in 86 at bats. He finished the season with three home runs, three triples, 10 doubles, 18 runs batted in, scored 38 runs and added nine stolen bases.
“He had a great year, especially when you consider the schedule we play,” O’Brien said. “We play one of the toughest schedules in Mercer County. There were no easy games. He was consistent at the plate and had a great year at shortstop. He has been great at short for us for four years and the good thing is he is going to Boston College and they see him as a middle infielder for them.”
Jake Alu is the Princeton Packet Baseball Player of the Year.
“I was pretty pleased with the season that we had this year,” said Alu, a Hamilton resident. “Coming off four wins the previous year to get 10 wins this year was a lot better and more than double what we had last year. I think overall you always want to win a championship, especially since we were going into the Prep tournament with a lot of momentum.
“Every single game we played in the middle of the season that we lost was close. We battled to the end and fought every inning. We were in a little team slump for a while but we found the bats at the end of the season.”
The Panthers finished 10-14, with eight of the 14 losses coming by one run. They reached the semifinals of the state Prep B tournament, where they dropped a heart-breaking 8-7 decision to Gill-St. Bernard’s, allowing five runs in the bottom of the seventh.
“This year, with Cole having some injury problems he could not pitch as much as we hoped,” O’Brien said. “We lost eight one-run games and five in walk-off fashion. I can’t remember a baseball team with the baseball gods that much against one team. In the semis we had two chances where we were one strike away from winning. Some of the stuff that happened to this team you can’t make up.”
But for whatever bad might have happened there was also plenty of good. Right at the top of the list was the performance of Alu, who came to PDS from tradition-rich Hamilton and made an immediate impact on the program along with Radvany and McManimon.
“We all started freshman year,” Alu said. “Cole and I have played together and known each other since Little League. He played on Sunnybrea and I played for Nottingham and we played together for the Burlington Blades travel team right before high school. I have been with him for a good seven or eight years and we just played our last game together.
“Coming to PDS was a big thing for me. I stepped outside the norm from Hamilton guys. A lot of the guys I knew growing up, they all went to Steinert. I came here and met James (Radvany) and already knew Cole. The first day we were here we were already looking to the baseball season. It was good to be part of the program and they have a bright future.”
Alu will play next at Boston College after spending the summer playing in a league for college players in Massachusetts. As he moves on with his career he will always cherish his time with the Panthers.
“The friendships we had together on this team were great,” Alu said. “What stood out the most to me was how close this team was and how we picked each other up. In previous years if we were down three or four runs we didn’t show much fight. But this year we played to the last out every time. That is what we preached to the younger guys, that we wanted to battle and play every pitch.
“I am excited about BC. As soon as we met all the guys and got together on our official visit we all connected. We are a pretty close bunch. We talk all the time and we’re excited to get on campus.”
Alu will get to play in the ACC, which is perhaps the top league in all of college baseball.
“That is actually a reason why I chose the school,” he said. “To play in that type of an environment will be great. And they are building a new field. When I get up there they want me to play middle infield. All of the guys they have recruited are athletic guys whoever can hit the ball. I don’t know where I will be playing but they like me as a middle infielder.”
Boston College will be getting a player who knows the game and became one of the best to ever play for the Panthers.
“It’s not often you get a kid that comes in as a freshman and plays right away,” O’Brien said. “We put him at shortstop and he hit one or two all four years. He also pitched some for us and stole bases. He did everything. He’s a Division One kid going to an ACC team. That doesn’t happen very often.
“He has really developed and worked hard got himself strong. He has a tremendous arm and pop in his bat. Hopefully he goes on to college and gets on the field and shows what he can do.”
Alu, Radvany and McManimon will leave PDS having made an impact on the program.
“You just don’t get a group like those three together very often,” O’Brien said. “You don’t get a class like that, especially when you only have 150 or so boys in the school to choose from. They all contributed and had nice high school careers. Cole developed as we went along and when he goes to Lehigh, if he stays healthy and progresses, he is the kind of kid that could eventually get drafted.”
For all three it was a special four years that Alu won’t soon forget.
“I was pleased with the way it all went,” he said. “At the end of the season I was just looking to find the barrel of the bat. In the off-season I worked on my swing and wanted to hit the ball hard and stay toward the middle. I felt like I did that most of the season.”