For Luke Schartner, it all starts in the cage.
The Bayport-Blue Point senior doesn’t take anything for granted when he steps in for practice swings. Every swing has a purpose, every hack has a home in the senior’s grand plan.
And that grand plan is? Get better every day.
Safe to say it worked to perfection this season. Schartner hit .509 with four home runs, 27 RBIs, seven doubles, two triples, a .562 on-base percentage, and a .912 slugging percentage. Those eye-popping numbers earned him the Blue Chip Prospect’s Silver Slugger Award, given to Suffolk’s best hitter.
"We do four rounds of batting practice and each round is different," said Schartner, a SUNY Cortland commit. "My whole first round, I’m just trying to hit line drives to the right side of the field. Once it keeps on going, I work my way up to the middle, then go gap-to-gap."
The work in the cage has made Schartner a better hitter and has prevented prolonged slumps. In a short high school season — this year, even shorter in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the schedule changes that followed — a bad week or two can derail a season. Schartner, as his numbers indicate, didn’t have too many bad games, let alone weeks.
"He was our best player, he was the only guy who was returning with any varsity experience, and he never carried himself that way," said Bayport-Blue Point coach Jim Moccio. "He carried himself like, ‘I know what I have to do every day in practice to make sure that I’m going to put my best swings in game situations.' "
Schartner said he had a better eye at the plate this season, laying off pitches that he might have swung at during his sophomore season.
"I didn’t really swing out of the zone," he said. "When I was in tenth grade, I was used to batting leadoff and getting first pitch fastballs. This season, I was getting a lot of first pitch breaking balls and had to wait for a good pitch later in the count. So, I learned to become patient."
It didn’t take long for Schartner to put Suffolk on notice that a good season was coming. He cracked three home runs in an early May game against Port Jefferson. It was only the second game of the season and he had already matched his sophomore season dinger count.
"I’m never trying to hit home runs," he said. "I’m more of a ‘hit a ball hard’ [guy] and home runs are accidents."
With all that work in the cage this season, nothing was by accident.