Commack centerfielder Tim McHugh hits bombs.
The 6-5, 210-pound junior has been a power hitter since his Little League days. His ability to go deep caught the attention of college coaches around the country, and he verbally committed to TCU.
“When the ball hits his bat, it’s going somewhere far, fast,” Commack coach Bryan Bonin said.
Expectations for McHugh were lofty this year, but the slugger went hitless in his first nine at-bats as Commack, the eventual Suffolk League II champion, struggled to a 1-2 record.
But McHugh found the rhythm in his stroke in the seventh inning of the Cougars’ fourth game. Trailing 3-2 at league rival Connetquot, McHugh launched a grand slam about 400 feet to give Commack a 6-3 win.
“I can’t say it surprised me,” Bonin said. “He’s got such raw power for a 16-year-old.”
Sparked by the slam, Commack won seven straight and 18 of its next 19. McHugh went 24-for-40 during the streak, finishing the season with a .490 batting average, five home runs, 27 RBIs, 22 runs, eight doubles, three triples and 12 stolen bases on 12 attempts.
“He was the most powerful bat in every game, on both sides,” Bonin said. “But if you came to watch him play, you wouldn’t notice if he was 0-for-his-last-10 or 10-for-his-last-10. He’s the fastest kid on the field, has the best arm, and has the attitude of a professional.”
McHugh is the second consecutive Commack player to win the Silver Slugger award, following Peter Theodorellis. As a senior leader on the 2017 county champions, Theodorellis nursed McHugh through a slump. He was striking out often, so Theodorellis set up a paper strike zone near the sophomore’s locker to help familiarize him with pitch locations, preaching “know your zone.”
It worked. With Theodorellis gone, McHugh transitioned from an underclassman trying to prove himself to a junior leader. Commack (20-6) fell to West Islip in the county semifinals, but McHugh has another year to accomplish his ultimate goal.
“It doesn’t matter if he bats a thousand or zero,” Bonin said. “All he really wants to do is win a state championship.”