BY JOHN THEALL Sports writer

SWEET STROKE — Oriskany senior Noah Lupini follows through on a swing during an at-bat in last week’s game against Rome Catholic. Lupini is 10-for-23 with a .435 batting average and leads the team with four doubles and 15 RBIs. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

QUICK TOSS — Oriskany senior Noah Lupini makes a stop in the field and fires down to first base during a game against Center State Conference Division IV foe Rome Catholic last week. Lupini leads the team with 15 RBIs and four doubles with a .435 batting average, and also has 17 assists, nine putouts and a 96 percent fielding percentage. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

ORISKANY — For as long as he can remember, Noah Lupini has loved playing baseball.

He recalls the first time that he stepped up to the plate and clubbed his first hit during a tee ball game when he was 5.

Several years have since gone by, but nothing has changed for Lupini. He still steps up to the plate with the same intensity and passion for the game, now as a standout player on Oriskany’s baseball team.

"There are a lot of positions that I like to play in the field, but I love to hit the ball," he said. "I like the pressure of having everything riding on me and then trying to help the team out with one swing of the bat," Lupini added.

The offense might be the most thrilling part of the game for Lupini, but he knows that it’s been the team’s defense that has guided the Redskins to a 2-0 record in the Center State Conference Division IV standings and a 7-1 overall mark so far this spring. It is the same defense that could carry the team to a league title or more.

"Defense means a lot to us. We take a lot of pride in it, and constantly trying to perfect it. We’ll sacrifice our bodies to do anything for the team," Lupini said.

One of the team goals for the Redskins this season is to commit two or less errors in the field per game. So far through eight games, the squad has committed only 12 errors as a team.

Lupini, mostly manning second base, has one errors against his credit and has tallied 17 assists with nine putouts for a 96 percent fielding percentage.

He didn’t always start out solidifying the middle of the infield for the Redskins.

Lupini came onto the varsity scene for the Redskins as a freshman, and he started out at pitcher before he tore a ligament in his right elbow two years ago this summer, ending his pitching career. Lupini played last season and still had a solid season before finally having surgery on the aggravated elbow injury last summer.

He recounted the grueling process of rehabilitation over the next several months before the doctors cleared him of all baseball activities back in January, just in time to get ready for the start of the upcoming baseball season.

"It was pretty traumatic," Lupini said about having the surgery. "I just remember all the physical therapy afterwards, all the work that I had to put in just to try and get my arm back in shape for baseball. Finally I was cleared about three months ago, and it was such a relief," he added.

Longtime Oriskany coach and Rome Free Academy graduate Tom Meiss said it is a tribute to Lupini’s work ethic how he has gotten himself back into playing shape for his final high school season.

"He’s really dedicated himself to the sport of baseball. He loves the game, and you can tell with everything that he has gone through with his arm and his elbow to get himself into shape this season and ready to play. He’s done a great job for us so far, and we’re glad to have him with us for all four years. We’re expecting big things out of him this year in his senior year," Meiss said.

Last year, Lupini received the team’s most valuable player award. Meiss said it is rare for a junior to receive the honor, but the numbers that Lupini put up couldn’t go unnoticed: He led the team with a .385 batting average, scored 21 runs, and drove in a team-high 22 RBIs while batting from the No. 3 slot in the lineup for a team that finished 14-7 overall and fell in the Section III Class C-2 semifinals to West Canada Valley.

Still batting in the 3-hole this season, Lupini is 10-for-23 for a .435 batting average with two triples and team-highs in doubles with four, and RBIs with 15. He has also scored seven times.

"Noah seems to excel under pressure. He loves coming to the plate with runners in scoring position," said Meiss. "As a coach, when Noah approaches the plate with runners on the base paths, I always know something positive is going to happen. He is a great situational hitter and really understands the game. Anytime you have a kid like that coming back, you’re excited for the upcoming season," he added.

The son of Tricia and Scott Lupini of Whitesboro, the senior said he plans on attending Mohawk Valley Community College in the fall and hopes to earn a spot on the Hawks’ baseball team. Lupini said he plans on taking general studies courses with a concentration in criminal justice.

Lupini, who grew up a huge fan of the New York Yankees and Derek Jeter, has also competed for the Oriskany cross country team, and also played ice hockey and soccer as a kid growing up.

Meiss said that Lupini has been a great team leader over his time with the club. "He puts the work in, and the kids respect that. He’s that guy with the best sense of humor on the team, he keeps it light, and never lets anybody take themselves too seriously, and it really helps with the team’s chemistry," Meiss said.

"Since he started as a freshman, our coach-to-player relationship has grown stronger and stronger. He’s a fun kid to be around, and he’s a vital asset to our team," added Meiss.

Oriskany is no stranger to postseason play. Before losing in the Class C-2 semis last year, in 2010 the Redskins fell to Copenhagen in the Class D finals. In 2009, they lost to Hamilton in the Class D semis.

Lupini is hoping to be a part of the third sectional championship team under the direction of Meiss, who is in his seventh season at the helm.

"We have high hopes and goals for this team this season," said Lupini.

"The whole team has a lot of heart out there. We all want to win, and we all want to do well for each other.

"Before I leave Oriskany I just want to be remembered as a good teammate, and a person that did his best and always kept his head up," added Lupini.