While the Los Angeles Dodgers will be in San Diego tonight to officially open the MLB season, local players are gearing up for their opening days, which are scattered across the coming week.
The Gloversville Huskies are looking to improve on a 7-13 campaign in 2013 under fifth-year head coach Mike DeMagistris.
The Huskies will be without some key talent from a year ago. Chris Rockefeller, who hit .426, has graduated and is continuing his playing career at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. Mike Fancher (.396 BA) and Mike Murray (15 stolen bases) are two of eight total players the Huskies will go without in 2014. Kyle Casimiro logged a 3.16 ERA last year and will be missed on the mound.
Fonda-Fultonville’s Zak Shaw throws to the plate during a game last season. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)
Johnstown's Richie Lee throws to the plate during a game last season. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
The Huskies hope to get strong performances from Anthony Oathout, who pitched to a 3.12 ERA last season, and Justin Putnam. Putnam hit .306 last season and highlights a group of just five returners.
"We will be very young this year, but we feel that our defense and pitching will be solid for us," DeMagistris said.
Gloversville is welcoming eight players to the varsity level, including Austin Luci, Zakary Frazier and Sam Salvagni.
"If we play sound defense and get quality outings from our pitchers, we will compete with the teams in our league," said DeMagistris.
While the Huskies will be working with a whole host of new players, the Johnstown Sir Bills are returning a veteran roster in an effort to build on the success they had in 2013.
Johnstown finished with a 16-8 record last season before losing in the sectional finals.
"We are hoping to build off last year's success with a returning core," head coach Aaron Mraz said. "Depth should help this year as we look to compete at a competitive level."
The Sir Bills are losing seven players from last year, including Joe Nellis, Mike Everest and Jordan Beekman. They are returning 13, however, and hope the momentum they built last season will build again this spring. Matt Szurek, Richie Lee, Adam Caputo and Dan Nellis are four of the returning players, while Steven Forker and Derek Gray are the only newcomers to the team.
"Last year was a special year for the Sir Bills and getting a taste of success will hopefully carry us through this year," said Mraz, who reached the 100-win coaching milestone last season.
The Amsterdam Rams finished with an 11-9 mark last season before losing to Queensbury during sectionals.
The biggest challenge for the Rams this season will be overcoming the loss of two key hurlers. Dylan Angelo and Zach Dufel combined for 90 of 130 innings pitched last season, but both have been lost to graduation. The duo combined for 91 strikeouts compared to just 60 walks.
Amsterdam is returning 13 players, highlighted by Julian Gallup and Andrew Rouse who each hit north of .425 in 2013. Both guys are three-year varsity starters, along with Kolbie Glionna, who will be the team's second baseman.
"We are experienced positionally and should be solid defensively," said head coach Brian Spagnola.
According to Spagnola, the players have been getting together for workouts at 6 a.m. in an effort to prepare for opening day.
The Broadalbin-Perth Patriots are another group that lost key arms to graduation. Patrick Brown and Anthony Visco both posted ERA's of 2.33 or lower and graduated last spring. The Patriots are returning three players but will rely heavily on a crop of newcomers.
"We are a very young team," fifth-year head coach Dan Simonds said. "Several solid baseball players will provide a lot of depth, but many are untested at the varsity level."
Broadalbin-Perth is welcoming 10 players to the varsity level, including Connor Pingitore, Tyler Schmidt and Brett Getman.
According to Simonds, there are some solid pitchers in the group that will work toward helping Broadalbin-Perth improve on its 11-10 record from a year ago.
The Canajoharie Cougars are also dealing with an inexperienced team. The Cougars will look to overcome the loss of Zach Bowerman, who hit .414 last season and was lost to graduation.
"The key for the season will be pitching," said head coach Brent Watterson. "We have a lot, but it is not tested."
Joe Winsman is the only returning pitcher with a lot of varsity experience, while Jace Fox and Buck Anderson return as key infielders.
Newcomers Dillan Veeder, Colin Davis and Lucas Sossei are three athletes who can play anywhere. Sossei, a freshman, is the youngest player on the roster.
Dolgeville is fielding an experienced squad this year and hopes to improve on its 7-11 overall record from last season.
The Blue Devils lost Mackenzie Ferguson to graduation after last season. Ferguson, the leadoff hitter and tone setter, hit .388 and stole 27 bases in 2013.
Dolgeville didn't lose anyone else as eight guys are back for another season at the varsity level. Darin Darling and Kasey Foster figure to be key pitchers this season, while Alex Johnson and Daniel Fox will patrol the infield.
"We have a lot of players returning in key positions," head coach Joel Walrath said. "Hopefully, the experience they had the last two years will start to pay off. Our goal is to be competitive in our league and reach the sectionals."
The newcomer expected to make the biggest impact is Jacob Farquhar. Farquhar is a freshman and will see time at first base.
Fonda-Fultonville finished third in the Colonial Council last year with an 11-8 record and despite losing five seniors, th team has a solid group of returners to lean on in 2014.
"We return many key veterans who are really ready for the challenge of the Colonial Council," said 13th-year head coach Rick Palumbo. "This is a very focused and hard-working group of guys. There is not much that rattles this team."
Luke Calkins, Brandon Baker, Kevin Myers and Anthony Sinicropi are four of 10 returning players. Sinicropi will handle the catching duties after the departure of last year's catcher Clyde Sammons.
Newcomers include William Furman, Rob Bagley and Taylor Carpenter. All three can play the outfield while Furman and Bagley may see time in the infield as well.
Craig Phillips is back for his 39th season at the helm of the Fort Plain Hilltoppers and is four wins shy of reching the 700-win plateau. The Hilltoppers are young and inexperienced this season after losing players such as Marcus Failing, Joey Ray, and Chris Hanifin to graduation.
"We are in need of leadership from our veterans on the team," Phillips said. "At the present time, we have no one locked into a position and we have very little playing experience at the varsity level."
Jesse Heroth will be a key arm for the Hilltoppers this year, while Eric Orlogio, Alex Bleichner and Kiernan Briggs are returners who will fill out the rotation.
Drew Fuerno, a ninth-grader, figures to be the starting catcher for Fort Plain this year, while newcomers such as McKay Nare and Cody Logan will be looked to for key contributions all over the diamond.
The Mayfield Panthers missed sectionals last season after finishing with a 4-14 overall record (4-12 WAC).
The Panthers are losing just one player in Ryan Hennessy, but his leadership will be sorely missed.
"We are looking to our nine seniors to step into his leadership role," said head coach Matt Ellithorpe. "Mayfield comes into the 2014 season with an experienced roster."
Jordan VanNostrand and Bobby Gates will handle a lot of the pitching duties for the Panthers. Alex Charbonneau and Austin Lair will take care of the middle infield, while Gates and Matt Messina will split time in center field.
"We are very strong up the middle," Ellithorpe said. "Offensively, we will need to improve upon last year and we are looking for breakout seasons from many of our hitters."
Anthony Ashbey and Mason Rossi are two of four newcomers to the varsity level.
The Oppenheim Ephratah/St. Johnsville Wolves finished 8-11 last season under head coach Darin Lynch. In 2014, Lynch is hopeful his team will compete for top honors in the WAC North.
"This season we should finally be reaching the experience and maturity level to make an impact in the WAC," Lynch said. "While there are no seniors on the roster, this team will contain four three-year starters."
Dylan Klock, who hit .390 last season on his way to becoming a WAC all-star, leads a group of eight returning players. Devan Battisti hit .330 in 2013 and will look for continued success this spring.
The Wolves lost only two players to graduation in Alex Hart and Kyle Smith, but gained three newcomers in Zack Swank, Joey D'Antonio and Nick D'Antonio.
The Wells Indians are coming off a wildly successful 2013 campaign under coaching veteran Bob Stoddard. Wells logged an 11-3 overall record and finished undefeated in their division to win the division title. They lost a close game to Moriah in the first round of sectional play to bring their season to a close.
Wells will be without Jake Earley this season. Last year's first baseman hit .426 and led the team in putouts and runs scored. Caleb Hayes, who registered a .308 batting average and led the team in stolen bases, also graduated.
Pitcher and shortstop Seth Weaver will lead Wells. Weaver was league MVP a year ago and will be playing for Houghton College after graduation. Ben Brenan is back as the team's catcher and Adrian Collado, who led the team in RBI last year, is back to pitch and play center field.
"We will be very competitive," said Stoddard. "We have strong pitching, hitting, base running, attitudes and practice ethics."
Freshman Ty Earley and Nick Dopp are two of six newcomers to the varsity team this season.