On April 6, Stepinac pitcher and White Plains resident James Decker started and pitched against some of his friends on the White Plains High School baseball team.
It was more than a rivalry game for Decker, but the senior was undeterred by the pressure and pitched six innings, giving up just two earned runs and six hits as Stepinac defeated White Plains 5-4.
"I had to calm myself down because there's a lot of emotions out there," said Decker, the Con Edison Athlete of the Week. "We needed that win, because we lost a couple of tough extra-inning games before that. They got out to a quick lead and then we had a nice big inning. I was able to just keep us in the game. It was definitely a game I'll never forget. Definitely a really special win."
Decker's arsenal of pitches includes a fastball, curveball and changeup. He said his curveball has improved since last year and has become his out pitch.
"The coaches emphasize first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of hitters," Decker said. "I'm just going to focus on throwing as much strikes as I can. I think we have a lot of potential. We have a lot of returning seniors and a lot of talent."
Decker also contributed to the Stepinac basketball team's success as the Crusaders made the CHSAA AA semifinals. Decker said he used to be primarily a 3-point shooter but improved his all-around game and presence on the boards.
"One of the best parts of the season was the crowds," Decker said. "We had one of the best student sections I've played in front of, and it made most of our home games so much fun to play in."
Decker, a student reporter at The Crusader Newspaper, wrote an article about Stepinac honoring the memories of Tyler Rush and Joe O'Grady. Rush, who was a former player, died in a motorcycle accident last spring. O'Grady, who was a former JV baseball coach, passed away in July 2010. Decker has also volunteered at Stepinac baseball and basketball camps for children.
During his sophomore year, Decker volunteered for HeroBox, which put him in contact with a soldier in Afghanistan.
"They make a list for you to send (a care package) to Afghanistan once a month," Decker said. "You also e-mail back and forth. That was a really good experience to be in contact with a soldier. They're the real heroes out there."
Decker will attend Fordham University on an academic scholarship. He said he will major in communications and is considering an attempt to be a walk-on for baseball or basketball.