The more I watch Fairfield Warde centerfielder Mike Foley, the more I realize why Mustangs head coach Mark Caron loves having him.
Even though his box score shows he was 1 for 3, Foley did it all Wednesday night in the Mustangs' 8-2 win over their crosstown rival, Ludlowe. He scored runs, stole bases, put pressure on Ludlowe's defense, made plays in the outfield, he even threw out a runner on the bases in the first inning.
He even tacked on a bunt single in the sixth for good measure. Foley stole four bases, and earned two others on Ludlowe throwing errors.
"The kid is a natural on the bases," Caron said. "And he puts the bat on the ball."
And yet, the sophomore outfielder was nothing more than a junior varsity player until senior Devon Lofton suffered a nagging leg injury.
But since Foley's seized the opportunity since it was offered, and has made Warde a demonstratively better team. He forced three Ludlowe errors, leading to six Warde unearned runs.
Foley's biggest contribution came in the fourth when, with two outs and Warde ahead 3-2, he walked putting runners on the corners. Mustangs second baseman Taylor Carelli hit a bouncer to shortstop that Ludlowe's Tyler Bulkley, knowing Foley's speed, rushed, bobbled, and ultimately misplayed.
Foley reached second, Warde catcher Aaron Marks scored and Dario Pugliano doubled, scoring Foley and Carelli. By the end of the inning, Warde was up 7-2. Without Foley's speed, the game's outcome still would have been in doubt.
"We needed a spark," Foley said. "Putting pressure on the defense helps us win."
I wrote a column two weeks ago about Warde's speed being the difference in its season. Foley's spearheading that quickness. Warde has not lost two straight games this year, and on the heels of a 9-0 shellacking against Brien McMahon, has scored 27 runs.
Sure, it didn't hurt that Warde starting pitcher Dan Warren mowed down 11 in a complete-game, four-hit effort.
But if not for the unearned runs Foley caused, Ludlowe and Warde are tied at 2.
What's best for Caron, too, is Foley's just a sophomore. Yet he plays and acts like a senior. He's good at picking spots to steal, bunt and swing away, but still is raw and seems teachable enough to learn how to play the game better.
"I just want to steal bases and score runs," Foley said. "Runs are what wins games, not average."
Plus, having a player who hustles and is fast for three years on varsity is valuable for a program.
Caron preaches defense, speed and pressure on the defense, and Foley's the face of that mentality.
"He's just the prototypical leadoff guy," Caron said. "You couldn't ask for anything more."
No wonder the two get along so great.