Austin Filiere had a pretty solid junior season for the Hamilton Huskies. The shortstop’s 10 extra-base hits showed he had a little pop in his bat, and he got on base at a very solid .422 clip.
Again, a pretty good season for a high school shortstop, albeit one that wouldn’t portend the absolutely dominant senior season the Tribune’s baseball player of the year completed right around a month ago.
The saying that “the numbers speak for themselves” fits Filiere’s statistical compilation extremely well. His batting average alone was .044 points higher than his on-base percentage from his junior season, which helped bump up his senior season’s OBP to .545. Adding to the rise in OBP is the increase in walks from the prior season, and he actually walked more times than he struck out this season.
His power, too, increased exponentially, with 18 doubles, six homers and a triple to give him a slugging percentage of .834 and an OPS, or on-base plus slugging, percentage of 1.380.
“He didn’t have hot streaks or cold streaks; he was reliable all year round,” said head coach Mike Woods.
Woods also credited Filiere for his strong defense at shortstop, which combined created a well-rounded player at a position that generally lacks it. Despite the recent glut of powerful shortstops, the history of the position has emphasized defense over hitting, meaning players like Brendan Ryan and Adam Everett were far more common to find on rosters than Nomar Garciaparra or Derek Jeter.
So what led to the outstanding offensive outburst that earned Filiere the Tribune’s recognition as well as the Arizona Baseball Coaches Association’s Division I Player of the Year recognition? The MIT-bound baseball player attributed it to the typical offseason training players undergo when baseball season ends, as well as high levels of preparation.
The other tweak he made between seasons was in his swing, as he watched batting clips of Major League Baseball stars like Chase Utley, Joey Votto and Troy Tulowitzki. He also found a copy of Ted Williams’ legendary and influential “The Science of Hitting,” which he read prior to a game against Greenway on March 20. Reading it made Filiere so confident he told his dad he would have a great game because of it.
The proclamation proved prophetic. Filiere recorded one of just two hits Hamilton had against star Greenway pitcher Tyler Frost — a solo home run in the sixth inning that gave the Huskies a tough 1-0 victory.
It wasn’t the only time Filiere succeeded in tight situations; rather, Woods said his former shortstop had a knack for getting big hits during important moments.
“Whenever we needed a big hit, he was the guy to do it,” he said.
Filiere never minded being placed in that situation; rather, he said he quite enjoyed being the man in the batter’s box during the most important moments.
“It’s more like staying in yourself and slowing down within yourself,” he said.
Filiere’s metamorphosis from a good player to a great player coincided with Hamilton’s change from a playoff team to a nationally ranked squad.
The 2013 version of the Huskies ended the year with 21 wins and a disappointing first-round playoff loss to Corona del Sol, which Filiere said incentivized Hamilton’s players to end the following season on a stronger note.
Few teams could do much better than Hamilton did in 2014. The team ended the season with 30 wins, the No. 2 ranking in the country, according to MaxPreps, and, most importantly, an 8-4 victory against Mesquite in the Division I championship game.
“That’s definitely the best moment of my life,” Filiere said.