Robert Carselda may only be a sophomore, but the North Arlington shortstop/relief pitcher has already acquired a well-earned reputation as someone who thrives in the big spot. It’s a trait he credits to trying to remain even-keeled from the first pitch to the final out.
“The key is just to stay consistent really and when you come back into the dugout after scoring or striking someone out, you can’t let the emotions get too crazy,” Carselda said. “You gotta keep them under control. You gotta stay consistent throughout the game until it’s over. I don’t like to celebrate until the game is over.”
In recent days, Carselda’s play, especially in the later innings, has been worthy of celebration.
Carselda’s walk-off single against Weehawken on April 19 not only gave the Vikings a much-needed victory, but it served as a springboard for a torrid four-game stretch that saw him go 8-for-14 with seven runs scored. Then, a day later, on April 27, Carselda was summoned from the bullpen to strike out the side to preserve an 8-6 win over perennial Group 1 contender Hoboken and earn his second save of the young season.
Carselda’s big numbers and most importantly, when he got them, is why he has been named The Observer’s Athlete of the Week.
He entered the weekend hitting .371 (13-for-35) with six walks, 12 runs scored, seven RBI and eight stolen bases. On the mound, in five appearances, he had a 2.17 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings.
“Robert wants the ball, he’s not afraid of the big situation on the mound. He wanted to close that game out against Hoboken,” North Arlington head coach Paul Marcantuono said. “He wants the ball hit to him, he wants to be up in the big spot.”
“I just get out and honestly just throw,” said Carselda. “I don’t even think about what I have to do, I just go out there and throw.
“I think it’s better personally not to think (out there). When you think too much, then it’s going to affect the way you hit or the way you pitch. So I just go out there with the mindset of doing what I have to do to the best I can.”
Having that mindset wasn’t easy last year, when he was trying to prove he belonged on varsity as a freshman. Playing in a utility role, he recorded just four hits in 25 at-bats, but offered a glimpse in the final game of the season with two RBI in a state tournament loss to Dayton.
Heading into this year, Carselda gained 10-15 pounds in muscle, while also improving his footwork and quickness to not only earn himself the starting shortstop job, but become the Vikings’ leadoff hitter.
“Last year as a freshman I probably was a little nervous,” said Carselda, who is 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds. “As a freshman, I definitely felt a lot more anxiety out there.
“After the first couple of games (this year), that pressure I felt as a freshman had gone away. I’m feeling more comfortable and without that pressure has made me a better player.”
The comfort that Carselda now shows on the field, whether it’s in the batter’s box, on the mound or at shortstop makes it easy to forget that he’s still a sophomore with plenty of room to grow as a player.
Marcantuono envisioned Carselda eventually becoming this kind of player, just not quite this quickly.
“I knew he had the potential to do something like he’s doing right now, but for him to do it this early and this quickly as a sophomore is pretty tremendous and pretty special. And it seems like he’s getting better and he wants to get better every day,” Marcantuono said. “I always knew it was there for him, it just came really quick. How fast he developed is pretty eye-opening.”
Learn more about the writer ...
Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)