Jefferson sophomore third baseman Justin Maggerise crushes a two-run double that gave the Raiders a 3-1 lead over the Decatur Golden Gators on April 11. JEROD YOUNG, the Mirror

Maggerise collecting ‘nuggets’ as he prepares for greatness

Thomas Jefferson sophomore third baseman Justin Maggerise was itching for another fastball.

On a 3-1 count, he finally got the belt-high fastball he’d been hoping for all day from Decatur starting pitcher Michael Fitzpatrick, which he crushed to deep center field.

Maggerise missed a home run by mere inches, but the double was more than enough as it brought home the two runs his Raiders needed. The fifth-inning blast gave the Raiders a two-run lead and helped propel Jefferson to a 5-3 road win over Decatur Tuesday.

The win was the Raiders (5-7, 4-5) first against the young Gators (2-9, 2-7) this season.

“It was a 3-1 count, so I was just thinking about the fastball,” Maggerise said. “I found it, and I was able to just kill it. [I] saw a lot of fastballs from [Fitzpatrick] and just waited for the one I liked.”

Prior to the season, Jefferson manager Joseph Townsend was concerned about Maggerise. He was worried his young infielder was taking on too much unnecessary pressure.

Townsend said Maggerise came into the season under the impression he needed to “be elite” for the Raiders. Townsend has worked with Maggerise every day since to get the sophomore to realize he just has to do his job, not put the team on his back and carry them the whole season.

Knowing Maggerise often feels a great deal of pressure, whether on the mound or in the batter’s box, the two have grown close.

So far this season, Maggerise is struggling from the plate, hitting just .219. So, Townsend decided it was time for them to have a heart-to-heart talk Monday.

The two met privately and the conversation was about Maggerise’s approach at the plate.

“Before high school, he was able to out-physical people, have his way with them and do whatever he wanted to do at the plate,” Townsend said. “We talked about how, at this level, he’s got to have a strategy, a plan for his at-bats, and he’s got to be able to attack that plan each time.”

In this meeting Monday, the two discussed creating a plan for Maggerise’s at-bats going forward. The blueprint was due for the game against the Gators.

During the meeting, Townsend only gave Maggerise the tools and advice on how to create a plan. He made Maggerise go home and form his own strategy for four anticipated at-bats against Fitzpatrick. Townsend was pleased with Maggerise’s homework. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

“It was good,” Maggerise said of the meeting. “It really made me think and helped me focus on pitch-by-pitch at bats.”

Townsend said Maggerise’s early struggles at the plate are a good thing. For Townsend, it means his sophomore has plenty of room to grow and become an even better hitter.

Maggerise is already a strong pitcher.

He attended a January pitching camp in Glendale, Arizona, where only the country’s top prospects are invited.

The experience helped Maggerise improve his fastball from 82 miles per hour in 2016, to 85 miles per hour.

Now, 12 games into the season, Maggerise’s bat is becoming just as special.

When the two spoke Monday, Townsend said he aimed to give Maggerise “one new nugget,” with the hope he will ask for and seek out more.

Given the success of the first meeting, Townsend said the two could possibly continue to meet regularly for the foreseeable future.

He said he hopes the conversations between the two will morph into casual baseball talk instead of instructional.

Townsend’s ultimate hope is that Maggerise will collect enough nuggets so he will no longer have to hope for a fastball because he had already planned for it.

“It’s good for him to experience failure at the plate,” Townsend said. “We get to see him come out every day with the same mentality and watch him apply those nuggets on his own to become better. He’s getting there because it showed in this one.”

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