DURHAM - After last season, then Oyster River sophomore John Federico knew exactly what areas he wanted to improve and work on during the off-season leading up to the current high school baseball campaign.
"For me it was getting stronger, really developing and putting on weight," said Federico during a break in Thursday's indoor practice. "As far as that, just continue to get my reps in with fielding and hitting, and doing what I've been doing."
Federico knew he would have to take on more of a responsibility on the team this year, and immediately went to work in preparation for Oyster River's Division II season.
Federico, who also plays in the infield and was a reliever last year with the Bobcats, mentioned his time training at 603 EVO in Exeter with St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Carson Cross and Winnacunnet pitching coach Logan Carmen as helping him with his off-season training.
"They sort of mentored me with pitching, helped aided me with the pitches I throw and how I throw them," Federico said.
Now a full-time starter in the Bobcats rotation, the hard work has paid off in every aspect - pitching, defense and in the batter's box.
"I feel as though I've been playing well, everything has been clicking for me as of late," Federico said. "The team is really gelling and we're really playing well together. There's a lot of people who have stepped up and baseball is very much a team sport. It takes everyone to win a game, and I think we've been doing that."
Federico, to date, has struck out 28 batters in 25 innings, and has a 1.68 ERA to go with his 2-1 record. The Bobcats are currently at 9-4 in the Division II standings, leaving them in seventh place in the 20-team field.
The Bobcats end the regular season with three games this week. Oyster River will visit Kingswood (8-5) on Monday, travel to Stevens (5-9) on Wednesday, and will host Sanborn (3-10) on Friday.
Oyster River head coach Cam Calato said Federico is at the point where he can call his own game, and the coaching staff has full trust in him doing so.
"It didn't take long to be like 'you know what you're doing, you're the one who knows best on the mound, go take it'," Calato said. "Which is really ultimately how you want the game to be called, especially at the high school level. He thinks the game through and he uses what he has."
Senior co-captain Andy Carlson remembered the first time he met Federico, which was Carlson's sophomore year.
"(Federico) was on our summer league team which was basically the high school team, and he was just a freshman," Carlson said. "He maybe pitched every few days, but didn't really talk, he was really quiet and just kind of observed."
Carlson could tell that Federico, who was sporting a smaller frame then, had the potential to be good. Last year Federico did well as a reliever and that showed Carlson the true potential of his teammate.
"This year we expected him to be a really good pitcher because of what he did last year," Carlson said. "I know he puts in a ton of work as much as anyone else, if not the most. I was expecting him to have a dominant year which he's already had."
Federico focused on multiple areas of his game and physical nature in the off-season., Along with the work showing dividends on the mound, it's also showing in other areas, particularly in the batter's box which has impressed Carlson the most.
"The thing for me is he's really become a great hitter," Carlson added. "At the beginning of the year he was kind of slumping and I wasn't sure what to expect, but he's heated up the past few games."
Federico has three triples, three doubles, nine runs scored, 13 RBIs and a .514 slugging percentage this season.
"One thing I really improved was my bat speed, and I worked with those guys at 603 EVO," Federico said. "That was one thing that helped me increase my power and I'm able to drive the ball better. Taking that knowledge that I learned and applying that in the batter's box without thinking has really gone a huge way."
Federico said it was very important to become a versatile player for the Bobcats.
"(Versatility) is what you need in your program to kind of elevate your program," Calato said. "It changes the team basically when you have one kid who can impact pitching, defense and hitting to that level."
Federico certainly did both in Oyster River's recent Division II 1-0 win over St. Thomas Aquinas. He allowed three hits and struck out seven in the complete-game win; he also drove in the game's only run.
"That was a statement game for (Federico)," Calato said. "Going the whole seven innings, keeping the shutout and he had the only RBI. That's literally putting the team on your back, that was huge. That's the difference between a win and a loss."
Sophomore catcher Collin Klein said the connection he has with Federico is amazing and mentioned the St. Thomas game as Federico's coming-out party.
"That was just a big game for us, and he absolutely shined for us," Klein said. "That was I think where he became the pitcher we know he can be."
Klein said playing and learning from Federico has helped his own game out a ton over the course of the season.
"John is just a really great guy to watch," Klein said. "Hitting wise, he has the best hitting form and is the best hitter on the team I think."
Senior first baseman Jack Poitras said the main difference in Federico from last year to this year is his demeanor.
"(Federico) came in this year with pretty high expectations for himself I'd say, and is probably one of, if not, our best pitcher and obviously a staple in the top of our lineup," Poitras said.
Playing mostly at first base, Poitras has a great view of Federico just dominating opposing batters.
"Very often," Poitras answered of how often he sees batters confused at the plate. "He throws pretty hard, but what he does a really good job of is hiding his arm as he's throwing so it's hard for kids to pick up the pitches."
Along with constantly getting better, Federico's top goal is helping the Bobcats bring a state championship to Durham. Oyster River has won five consecutive games after 4-4 start.
TOP PERFORMERS OF THE WEEK FOR MAY 9-14
Josh Scamman, Spaulding
Scamman put together a complete-game win in the Red Raiders' 3-0 Division I shutout win over Exeter. Scamman went seven innings, allowed eights hits and struck out eight.
Andrew Berthiaume, Newmarket
In a 10-0 Division IV win over Portsmouth Christian Academy, Berthiaume hit a pair of three-run home runs, totaling six RBIs for the Mules. Berthiaume added a hit, RBI and a run in an 11-1 win over Farmington.
Hayden Henriksen, York
In a 12-0 win over Lake Region, Henriksen pitched four scoreless innings, allowed two hits and struck out six batters, earning the win.
Honorable Mentions: Elliot Miles, Portsmouth (hit, two runs, two steals in win over Trinity), Ethan Nowak, Winnacunnet (five innings, two hits, three strikeouts over Nashua South), Sam Grondin, St. Thomas Aquinas (two hits, three RBIs, three runs over Sanborn), Graham Willerer, Newmarket (five hits, one hit, 10 strikeouts over Portsmouth Christian Academy; two hits, three runs in win over Farmington ), Cam Moran, Newmarket (two hits, four runs, RBI over Portsmouth Christian Academy; two hits, two RBIs, run), Alex Hussey, Marshwood (two hits, two RBIs in loss to Cheverus), Owen Bateman, Winnacunnet (triple, three RBIs in win over Londonderry), Frank Krupp, Portsmouth (three hits, HR in win over Memorial), Jason Pinsonnault, Winnacunnet (seven innings, seven hits, five strikeouts in win over Merrimack), Cam Sengenberger, St. Thomas Aquinas (four hits, five RBIs; three innings pitched)
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Oyster River baseball pitcher John Federico has excelled on the mound and at the plate