On a sparkling mid-May afternoon, Ewing High baseball coach Dave Angebranndt was preparing for practice and needed two players to put the batting practice mat at home plate. One that was quick to volunteer was junior Dominic Yarson, who was the Blue Devils’ leading hitter and pitcher through their 4-9 start.
According to Angebranndt, that little moment said as much about Yarson as any of his statistics. “As a junior he doesn’t have to go do that but, he’s that lead-by-example type kid,” the coach said. “The kids look up to him, he’s supportive, he’s energetic, he’s positive, he always wants to get kids better and he’s a great kid to have on the team.”
He’s also darn good. As of May 19, Yarson led the Blue Devils in hits (14), average (.387) and RBIs (7), and also had four doubles and nine runs scored. On the mound he had two wins and led in innings pitched (29.1) and strikeouts (16) with an ERA of 3.82.
But Yarson doesn’t pay much attention to those numbers.
“It’s a team sport, you can’t really look too hard at it individually,” he said. “One person doesn’t make a team. I can pitch or hit as good as I want but it takes nine players to win.”
OK, what about the team?
“I’m happy we have great camaraderie right now,” Yarson continued. “We’re still missing a few pieces to our puzzle but we’re coming along pretty good.”
And although Yarson doesn’t worry about his individual numbers, he is happy with his performance at the plate and on the mound.
“I feel like I’m seeing the ball well and putting the ball in play,” he said of his offense. “I’m trying not to strike out too much because good things happen when you put it in play. You never know what can happen so you gotta put the pressure on them. That’s basically what I’ve been doing.”
Yarson started the season in the middle of the lineup but when Angebranndt needed production at the top, he moved his pitcher/second baseman to leadoff.
“I moved him up, he didn’t skip a beat,” the coach said. “He’s not a leadoff guy but he was getting on base so I might as well try it. He’s a contact guy, he’s aggressive and he’s been hitting well.”
The same could be said for Yarson’s effort on the mound. A lifelong pitcher who started in the Ewing Little League, moved to Hopewell-Ewing Babe Ruth and now plays for the Diamond Jacks in Flemington, Yarson could probably have more wins this year but lost a few due to some defensive lapses or blown saves.
But, according to Angebranndt, he never takes it out on his teammates.
“We struggle a little defensively when he’s on the mound but he’s a short-term memory guy,” the coach said. “Something will happen, he’ll get frustrated, and all of a sudden he gets back on the mound. That’s so important at all levels but in high school you gotta be able to have a short term memory because not all the routine plays are gonna get made.”
Yarson’s arsenal is basically a fastball, change-up and curveball that will sometimes work as a slider. He doesn’t use the change too often, but picks the right time to spring it on batters and get them way out in front of the pitch.
“I’d say my stuff is definitely coming together,” Yarson said one day after beating West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North. “There are still things to work on. Giving up hits with two strikes is never something I like doing, or the nose of pitching, like giving up leadoff walks and other things such as that, I have to get my command down. But I’m happy with how things are going and I have to give my team to the best chance to get a W.”
Two years ago, Yarson got a few at-bats and a few innings on the mound and was being counted on heavily as a sophomore. One day in practice last March, Angebranndt approached him with what Yarson thought was good news, but it turned bad quickly.
“He pulled me aside and said ‘Hey we don’t have school tomorrow,’” Yarson said. “We all thought ‘Hey, that’s a good thing. No school! That’s great!’ And then I didn’t come back to school for seven moths so that was very frustrating. Very disappointing.”
Now that he’s back, Yarson isn’t just learning from teachers, but serving as a teacher himself.
“He’s taken some kids under his wing,” Angebranndt said. “I’ve got a second baseman right now that he’s kind of mentoring a little bit. When we do infield and stuff like that he’ll make sure he sits there and talks to the kid about where he’s gotta go. He’ll work stuff, make sure we’re working our feeds to second correctly on double plays. So it’s nice as a coach to have him and (Ryan) Leary at shortstop, who’s doing the same thing.
“It’s nice when I can start hitting ground balls and not have to stop hitting them because I have to tell the kid when to move, when to saddle. It’s nice to have those type of guys. Yarson’s been doing that for years. I think it’s the way he was raised. His parents are great people. They expect a lot out of him and he expects a lot out of himself. But he’s reasonable. He’s not expecting too much but is expecting enough that it’s seen by a lot of people who want to emulate the stuff that he does.”
They include the littlest of things, like bringing the batting practice mat to home plate before practice.