Huskies’ Long picks Air Force
Updated: August 30, 2011 6:42PM
Bursting onto the scene as a sophomore at Naperville North by hitting .351 and driving in 18 runs, it was pretty evident to anyone watching Mariano Long that big things were ahead for him.
Contributing to a 30-win team as a sophomore in 2010, a year he personally culminated with a solo homer off former Naperville Central left-hander Shane Conlon in a Class 4A Plainfield South sectional semifinal showed some of that promise.
A spring removed from that memorable blast off Conlon, Long committed Tuesday to the Air Force Academy, shortly after returning home from taking an official visit.
“I loved it. Every aspect of the school is top notch,” Long said of the Academy, based in Colorado Springs, Colo. “It’s just something I couldn’t pass up.”
Part of the pull for him to join the Falcons’ baseball program, which went 19-36 overall and 4-19 in the Mountain West Conference in 2011, is the prospect of playing right away as a freshman.
“(The coaching staff) told me I’m gonna be an impact player for them in the Mountain West,” Long said. “That’s their goal for me as a freshman.”
Long, named to the 2011 Naperville Sun All-Area Baseball Team, said he’ll move from center field to right field in college.
Anticipating a potential move to the outfield at the next level, Huskies’ coach Carl Hunckler shifted him from third base, where he played as a sophomore, to center field this past spring as the Huskies prepared to fill the void left by Charlie White, who’s currently at Maryland.
Despite the team only winning 11 games in 2011, Long flourished by hitting .434 with two homers and 23 RBI.
While his exploits with the bat are well-known, he also took on the mantle of staff ace for a young Naperville North team this past spring by going 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60 innings.
“He’s a very dedicated young man and getting involved in serving the country doesn’t surprise me because it’s really what his personality has been about,” Hunckler said. “He’s very much involved in helping others. There’s certainly a reality to the choice he has made.”