Ryan Mostrangeli hits like the rest of us wake up. It just happens—a natural process of life.
Just look at the stats. As of mid-April this year, the Steinert High senior had a .493 career batting average and his consistency has been nothing short of remarkable.
As a sophomore, during which he was bothered by a shoulder problem, he hit .492 with 29 hits, seven doubles and one triple. As a junior, he hit .492 with 27 hits, seven doubles and a triple. The only difference was in improvement, as he went from zero home runs to two, and from 11 RBI to 23.
This year in Steinert’s 7-1 start, Mostrangeli was hitting .480 (12-for-25) with three doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI. He was dropped from third to leadoff after two games and never missed a beat.
“He’s that guy that just goes out and plays,” Spartans coach Brian Giallella said. “He’s a leader, he’s one of our captains, a three-year player. There’s not much more to say other than he’s just a solid player. He just packs his bag, comes to the game and is ready to play.”
Mostrangeli has been hitting ever since he was a kid in Sunnybrae Little League, when he and current Steinert teammate Jake Beyer helped SLL’s 11-year-olds to the Section 3 championship—the first sectional title in the league’s then-52-year history.
Mostrangeli went on to star for Hamilton Babe Ruth before he and Beyer both earned starting spots for Steinert in 10th grade.
But for Mostrangeli, it was not just an adjustment from JV to varsity. He also needed to learn a new position. An infielder all his life, he was moved to center field. He hasn’t looked back since.
“I love it,” he said. “I adjusted to it well. I played infield all my life but now I feel like I’ve been playing outfield my whole life out there.”
“As a sophomore, you look at the players you have, and you decide,” Giallella said. “We needed some outfielders, he was so athletic, so hey, we move him to the outfield, and I think it’s worked for us.”
Mostrangeli has, indeed, made himself into a solid outfielder. But it was more than just adjustments. It was hard work.
“He worked with Stinger (assistant Mike Hastings) on defense and worked to understand how to read the balls,” Giallella said. “The biggest thing as an outfielder is to get balls off the bats live, to understand how to take routes to the ball.”
Mostrangeli had a head start, being blessed with natural tools.
“Obviously, he had speed, he’s got a tremendous arm, so those two things helped him right away,” Giallella said. “Then it just becomes the reading of the ball and understanding how to play certain balls. That comes with experience and in three years, obviously he’s understood the position.”
Through it all, Mostrangeli’s bat never suffered. As a sophomore, he came out of the chute hitting like a mad man before a shoulder injury shelved him for a few games. When he returned, he could not play outfield but was still able to serve as designated hitter. The time away barely affected Mostrangeli as he continued to lash out line drives.
“That’s just about the mindset and really something as simple as ‘see the ball and hit it’,” Giallella said.
Mostrangeli did a good job of spinning the injury into something good.
“I took all positive things from that season,” he said. “I knew I had to bounce back, get stronger, really get things going from where I was. I just made sure my shoulder was 100 percent, focused on that for the majority of the off-season, and I hit the weight room heavy. I made sure I got stronger and got ready for my junior year.”
His junior campaign brought a different challenge. Mostrangeli went from batting second to third, and pitchers were aware of him. He was no longer getting those juicy fastballs to nail.
“As a sophomore, he had a great year, so as a junior, they started pitching him a little differently,” Giallella said. “He had to understand that, and I think he did, and has understood certain pitch counts and things like that. He’s learning how to hit.”
He learned well enough to be named All-State last year.
“I definitely saw a lot more off-speed last year and that threw me off a little bit,” he said. “I tried to adjust. It wasn’t just like hopping on fastballs like my sophomore year. I had to focus on hitting the off-speed and adjusting to every pitch.”
Mostrangeli got his senior campaign off to a rousing start when he hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat against Hightstown, and finished a 4-for-4, five-RBI day with a solo homer in his final at-bat.
“I’m expecting big things from him,” Giallella said.
As is junior shortstop Joey Sacco, also a three-year varsity player.
“Pitchers fear him, absolutely,” Sacco said. “He’s a guy who, day in and day out is gonna drive gaps. He’s consistent all during the year, and he can hit the long ball obviously.”
Mostrangeli credits his improved power hitting to Post 31 assistant coach Rich Giallella (Brian’s father).
“We had a talk about my stance a little bit,” Mostrangeli said. “We straightened up my stance, fixed my hands, and it’s been working ever since. It helped me get a better angle on the ball, kept my vision straighter and then you can bear right to the ball. There’s no movement in my shoulder.”
Mostrangeli is one of the few veterans left on a team that got hit pretty hard by graduation. Giallella terms him a leader by example, saying “He does have that aura about him, and a swagger. People follow that kind of confidence.”
Mostrangeli, who will play for Mercer County Community College next year, is trying to take more of a leadership role in his own way.
“It’s a whole different team from last year, we’ve got all younger guys,” he said. “I’m really trying to show them how we do it here at Steinert, how we play. We always play with a chip on our shoulders. Making sure they’re always staying in the game, the intensity, and showing them the most important thing is to win.”
Mostrangeli noted that the team goals this year are to repeat as Mercer County Tournament champion and try to make a deep run in the state tournament after two disappointing early exits. On a personal level, he is setting no numerical objectives, saying, “I just want to keep the same approach at the plate, and keep doing what I do best.”
When it comes to hitting, there are few better.