Weekly Feature



2018-04-11 / Sports

Baseball’s defending AA champs hoping to retool for 2018 effort

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter

As is typically the case more often than not with Clarence’s baseball team, the start of a new season means a number of new faces will be dotting the lineup, since the Red Devils generally fill their lineup with a healthy number of seniors from year to year.

The 2018 campaign won’t deviate from the plan too much, as the defending Section VI Class AA champions are looking to fill six starting roles left vacant by players not back from the squad that finished 18-6 overall last spring. But, as is always the case, hope springs eternal for coach Dave Smith and his players.

“I think we’ve definitely got some guys who can step in and fill those openings in the starting lineup, and I think we’re going to find out pretty quickly one way or the other,” Smith said. “I think having the ability and opportunity to repeat with an almost entirely new group of guys is exciting. They’re look forward to getting their chance to step up and get the team where we want to go. For us, it’s a three-month-long journey to hopefully be playing in the sectional final, because anything can happen if you get there.”

Just one senior, ECIC I Honorable Mention all-star outfielder Mike O’Brien, is Clarence baseball coach Dave Smith is hopeful that senior Mike O’Brien, the lone returning senior starter from last year’s Class AA title-winning team, will be able to turn in consistently strong performances from the mound this spring after the Red Devils lost the vast majority of their hurlers from that squad that finished 18-6 overall. File photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Clarence baseball coach Dave Smith is hopeful that senior Mike O’Brien, the lone returning senior starter from last year’s Class AA title-winning team, will be able to turn in consistently strong performances from the mound this spring after the Red Devils lost the vast majority of their hurlers from that squad that finished 18-6 overall. File photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com in that group of three returning starters from last season because – in a rare twist – Clarence brings back a pair of juniors, ECIC I Second Team all-star shortstop Isaiah Corry and ECIC I Honorable Mention all-star third baseman Jack Putney, who both started last spring. Smith noted that it’s the first time in his tenure with the club that he’s got two returning starting infielders back who are only going to be juniors, which has him excited to get the season underway.

“Mike is going to have to step up on the mound for us this year after we pretty much graduated all of our innings from last year,” Smith said. “He threw sparingly for us last year but did relatively well when he did, holding the opposition – including some really good teams like McQuaid and Cicero-North Syracuse – to a .227 average. He definitely has a greater opportunity to do some good work for us this year.”

Seniors who are back and looking to step up their contributions this time around include Nicholas Sykas, Alex Croff, Derek Andrews, Colin Arndt and Noah Corry. Sykas, who worked his way into a starting designated hitter’s role during the sectional final and Far West Regional games last season, will more than likely be locking down one of the outfielder spots this time around. Croff and Andrews, both of whom are first basemen and designated hitters, will also help fill some of the void in the pitching rotation, while Arndt and Noah Corry will vie for time behind the plate.

“Nicholas really progressed at the plate at the end of last season thanks to all the hard work he put in, and we’re hoping he can pick right up where he left off at the end of last season, since that’s the type of performance we need from him,” Smith said. “And Alex and Derek, they’re just going to have to step up on the mound for us.”

Other players with smatterings of varsity experience whom Smith is hoping can 
Members of Clarence’s baseball program are once again ready to produce a successful season. Members of each team are, from left: varsity team, first row - head coach David Smith, Colin Arndt, Alex Croff, Devin Dzierba, Michael O’Brien, Noah Corry, Derek Andrews, Jake Ferger, Nicholas Sykas, assistant coach Matt Darlak; varsity team, second row - Will Hurwitz, Brendan Toole, Mason Davis, Steven Case, Aiden Wallace, Matthew Brown, Ryan Culhane, Jonathan White, Isiah Corry, Chris Kiener, Jon Stevens, Ethan Yang, Jack Putney; JV team, third row - Jason Berchou, Eli Biddlecom, Hunter Brainard, James Brooks, Justin Cange, Jake Chenevert, Zach Ciraolo, Kyle Fetter; JV team, fourth row - coach Scott Beebe, Austin Hank, Ben Jennings, Ron Kiener, Juan Santiago, Matt Sausen, Jacob Scherer, Andrew Schlabach, Justin Tighe; freshman team, fifth row - Sean Andrews, Alec Atwater, Justin Barnes, Joe Blujus, Kyle Corcoran, Adam Croff, Parker Esch, Colin Hand, Andrew Hill, Jack Hutchison; freshman team, sixth row - Dan Krzywicki, Anthony Ludwig, Jeff Newman, Jake Rook, Ben Serra, Sean TenBrink, Gage Tumpaloff, Nathan Weber, Ben Wright, coach Tim Fitzgerald; modified team, seventh row - Matt Cappellucci, Chris Casarsa. Nathan Casarsa, Andrew Cole, Jeremy Conner, Jonas Corry, Noah Denning, Riley Dillon, Colin Folck, Marcus Gibson, Ryan Judd, Ryan Kendzierski; modified team, top row - coach Brendan Brady, Chris LaMastra, Austin McNicholas, Cole Pearlman, Scott Raymond, Travis Unicic, Colin Wallrich, Garrett White, Grayson White, Tyler Yang and coach Bryan Mika. Ben Hanford, assistant coach Ed Warnke and assistant coach Jack DiCostanzo are missing from the varsity portion of the photo, and Aidan Gaiser is missing from the JV portion of the photo. 
Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Members of Clarence’s baseball program are once again ready to produce a successful season. Members of each team are, from left: varsity team, first row - head coach David Smith, Colin Arndt, Alex Croff, Devin Dzierba, Michael O’Brien, Noah Corry, Derek Andrews, Jake Ferger, Nicholas Sykas, assistant coach Matt Darlak; varsity team, second row - Will Hurwitz, Brendan Toole, Mason Davis, Steven Case, Aiden Wallace, Matthew Brown, Ryan Culhane, Jonathan White, Isiah Corry, Chris Kiener, Jon Stevens, Ethan Yang, Jack Putney; JV team, third row - Jason Berchou, Eli Biddlecom, Hunter Brainard, James Brooks, Justin Cange, Jake Chenevert, Zach Ciraolo, Kyle Fetter; JV team, fourth row - coach Scott Beebe, Austin Hank, Ben Jennings, Ron Kiener, Juan Santiago, Matt Sausen, Jacob Scherer, Andrew Schlabach, Justin Tighe; freshman team, fifth row - Sean Andrews, Alec Atwater, Justin Barnes, Joe Blujus, Kyle Corcoran, Adam Croff, Parker Esch, Colin Hand, Andrew Hill, Jack Hutchison; freshman team, sixth row - Dan Krzywicki, Anthony Ludwig, Jeff Newman, Jake Rook, Ben Serra, Sean TenBrink, Gage Tumpaloff, Nathan Weber, Ben Wright, coach Tim Fitzgerald; modified team, seventh row - Matt Cappellucci, Chris Casarsa. Nathan Casarsa, Andrew Cole, Jeremy Conner, Jonas Corry, Noah Denning, Riley Dillon, Colin Folck, Marcus Gibson, Ryan Judd, Ryan Kendzierski; modified team, top row - coach Brendan Brady, Chris LaMastra, Austin McNicholas, Cole Pearlman, Scott Raymond, Travis Unicic, Colin Wallrich, Garrett White, Grayson White, Tyler Yang and coach Bryan Mika. Ben Hanford, assistant coach Ed Warnke and assistant coach Jack DiCostanzo are missing from the varsity portion of the photo, and Aidan Gaiser is missing from the JV portion of the photo. Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com be steadier and more consistent when called upon to contribute this spring include senior Devin Dzierba, as well as juniors Matt Brown, Jon Stevens, Will Hurwitz, Steven Case and Jon White. Dzierba, a lefty at the plate, “didn’t get much of an opportunity last year but could be a guy who we can plug into all sorts of different spots,” Smith said, while Brown “played some with us last year, and when he came up and had the chance, he contributed.”

“Matt really belonged here last year but we just didn’t have any room for him,” Smith said. “I don’t anticipate his limited varsity experience being an issue. John Stevens is a good athlete and tremendous base runner, and Will – who’s been a steady performer on the mound for all of his years in our program – will get a chance to show whether he can get the innings that are up for grabs this year or not. Steve and John White are young guys we’re looking at to contribute on the mound too.”

Sophomores Mason Davis (catcher), Ryan Culhane (pitcher/first base/third base) and Aiden Wallace (outfield) “all have huge upside” and “will be in similar situations to what Matt Brown was last year” to where “if they can contribute, they’ll be in the lineup somehow,” Smith said. Seniors Ben Hanford (outfield) and Jake Ferger (outfield), along with juniors Ethan Yang (infield), Brendan Toole (outfield) and Chris Kiener (outfield), meanwhile, round out this year’s roster of 22 players.

“I think our infield is going to carry us defensively, and if we can get some of our pitchers to throw strikes and miss barrels – so that we’re not fielding line-drive missiles – then the guys should be able to make plays for us,” Smith said.

Clarence, which will continue to receive top-notch guidance from assistant coaches Ed Warnke, Matt Darlak – who played for the Red Devils’ first state finalist team in 2009 and was an assistant on the team that reached the state finals in 2013 – and 2017 grad Jack Di- Costanzo, was slated to have opened league play Tuesday against Williamsville North, but information about that contest was not available at press time.

The Red Devils, weather and field conditions permitting, will finish out their week with games against St. Joe’s on Thursday, Frontier on Friday and Canandaigua on Saturday. Their next slate of four games in six days begins Monday at Orchard Park.

“Because our pitching is a bit of a question mark right now, we’re going to need two or three guys to step up and consistently throw strikes for us,” Smith said. “If we can make the other team hit the ball, I have all the confidence in the world that we can field the ball well. Conversely, if we start walking teams, that’ll put a lot of pressure on our defense and make things more difficult in general. If we don’t give other teams runners, we’ll be OK.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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