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Estrada, Raiders proud of improved season

Ryan Estrada contributed with his bat and arm this year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Adam Estrada had a memorable senior year.

But it certainly wasn’t the way he expected it to go.

Estrada entered the spring season a feared hitter on the Archbishop Ryan High School baseball team. And even though last year he was on the pitching staff, he never got on the mound. Instead, he just raked at the plate and made First-Team All-Catholic for his monster offensive numbers.

But those numbers did little to help the Raiders. They finished 2-10 and when the playoffs started, they were watching.

“I worked out with the pitchers, but I didn’t get to throw at all,” said Estrada, who lives in Frankford. “Even when the games weren’t going well, they wouldn’t put me in, they would put in a starter. I wasn’t really a pitcher, I just was on the staff. I was there if they needed someone. Just really an extra arm.”

This year, the Raiders had a much different team, and the arms weren’t as plentiful, so Estrada became a closer.

And he was quite good at it, too.

Working mostly out of the pen, Estrada went 2-0 with a 1.21 earned run average and a save for the Raiders. Not bad for a guy who was just an extra arm.

“I didn’t like pitching, I actually loved it,” said Estrada, who started at first base. “I just worked on it a lot. I didn’t work on it too much during the offseason because I was bowling, but I think that really helped me. I was throwing a 15-pound ball all winter, so that made my arm stronger.

“I started out throwing about 78 (mph) and I ended up hitting 84. That was just from getting my arm stronger. And I was never a strikeout pitcher, I was just throw it and let the defense take care of it, but I had 21 strikeouts in 14 innings. That was better than I thought. I didn’t expect to have those kinds of numbers, it just happened. I didn’t think I’d be a good pitcher, but it just worked out.”

His arm was one of the reasons the Raiders had a strong season, but he’s quick to point out he was far from alone.

Together, the team reached heights few expected it to when the season began.

Ryan went 7-6 in Catholic League play, good enough for eighth place. The Raiders then went on to play Neumann-Goretti in the first round of the playoffs, and defeated the Saints 1-0 on Saturday in the first half of a doubleheader at La Salle. The Explorers were waiting for the winners, and the defending Catholic League champions, who finished in first place during the season, defeated Ryan 3-0 in a quarterfinal. The loss ended Ryan’s season, and while he’s disappointed the season came to an end, Estrada couldn’t be happier with the way his boys went out.

“This was probably a better year than anyone expected,” Estrada said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been around a team like this. We weren’t a team, we were brothers. We all had each other’s back, completely.

“This wasn’t a good year for me, at least at the plate. I didn’t expect to have the kind of season I did. It wasn’t a good one for me. Last year, I was much better. But when I was down, my teammates picked me up. They helped me by encouraging me and they helped by hitting. We had a lot of guys hit great this year. It was a team. It wasn’t one or two guys.”

That couldn’t have worked out better for Estrada, even if he didn’t enjoy the same type of season he had a year ago. Last year, he hit better than .400. This year, he hit .341, and instead of making First-Team All-Catholic, he was a Third-Team selection.

No problem.

“I said at the beginning of the season, I would rather sit the bench on a winning team than win the MVP on a bad team,” Estrada said. “I started out really bad, I just didn’t attack the ball like I need to. Then they moved me to leadoff, and I saw better pitches. The coaches knew me, but they pitched me different (at the third spot) than at leadoff. That helped me, and I started to hit better.

“This year, we all played better, and that’s all I cared about. Last year, I was better, but the team wasn’t. We had problems. This year, we were all playing for the same goal and we ended up having a great season.”

Estrada will always be a Raider, but he’s set to put on a new uniform next year when he attends the University of the Sciences on a combo baseball and academic scholarship.

There, he plans on majoring in health sciences and if everything goes as planned, he’ll work in sports when he gets out.

“I’ve never been hurt too bad, but I’ve been hurt before,” Estrada said. “I want to be able to help people who are hurt. I know how bad it feels when you can’t play. They’ll want to get better and get back on the field. That keeps you in sports, but it’s a good job and you can make a lot of money. It’s perfect.”

He also hopes to continue to play well on the diamond. He’ll likely play first base, but if needed, he’ll be ready to pitch.

He won’t, however, pick up strikes of the other kind. His bowling days, at least for a school, are over.

“I’ll always do it,” said Estrada, who rolled a 289 during the season. “I think I’ll be pretty busy with school and baseball. I know school will be hard and so will playing college baseball. But I’m ready. I’ll miss Ryan a lot, but I’m excited.”

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