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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 20, 2008

Dutchmen hit the diamond looking for a repeat

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — With a plethora of players back, the Guilderland baseball team looks to be in good shape to defend its title.

Last year, the Dutchmen won the Class AA Section II championship and lost a one-run heartbreaker to eventual state champion Proctor High School of Utica. This year, the Dutch are hoping to repeat and go a step further than last season.

“We believe we can,” Guilderland Coach Doug LaValley said. “You never really know what’s going to happen. We’ll have to make adjustments during the season, and I believe we’ll be able to do that with everything I’ve seen so far this year.”

Guilderland has 12 players back from last year’s team.

“We have some experience,” LaValley said. “We lost some key guys, but we have key guys coming back.”

“We all hang together”

There are 19 players on the roster this season.

Jake Colavito, Andrew Simpson, C.J. Sohl, and Nick Ranalli are all returning and are the team’s captains this spring.

Jason Westervelt, Kyle LeClair, Josh Lochner, Pat Gareau, Chris Murray, and Ivan Plata are the returning seniors.

“We definitely want to repeat,” Colavito said. “We want to make our senior year a memorable one.”

“We know we’ll still have to work for it,” Ranalli said.

Juniors Steve Anderson and Kyle LaValley are also returning this year.

Newcomers to the team are juniors Jason Sherwood, Matt Roth, Pat Quinn, C.J. Lozano, Ethan Slupski, and Jeremy Affinitto.

Jimmy Quinn, a sophomore, is also a newcomer to the varsity team.

“We have some guys that have been there,” LaValley said. “They know the journey. They’ve already done that. This year, we might have to do it a few different ways. But I definitely think it can happen.”

“Everyone will have a new role,” Ranalli said. “All 19 guys will get playing time.”

“Last year’s team was really close,” Colavito said. “We all played together since we were six or seven. We have seven new kids that we have not played a lot with. We are getting to know each other. Some of us went on a trip to Florida. We are starting to get as close as last year. There are no cliques; we all hang together.”

Hard workers

The newcomers followed the lead of the returning players and worked hard during the off-season.

“We didn’t take any days off,” Colavito said. “We averaged 30 to 35 kids a night, three times a week in the weight room.”

“Then we would be out hitting three times a week,” Simpson added.

Sohl will anchor the pitching staff this season. He had a successful season on the mound last year as the team’s number-two starter behind Nick Polsinelli who graduated and is now playing at The College of Saint Rose.

Westervelt, LaValley, LeClair, Affinitto, Slupski, and Lozano will also see time on the mound this spring. And, if needed, brothers Pat and Jimmy Quinn could see time on the mound along with Simpson.

“I will be taking the younger guys under my wing,” Sohl said. “I’ll make sure they are ready. I’ll help make it work.”

Despite the talented group of players that graduated last year, the Dutchmen have talented returners and talented newcomers to help fill in those holes.

“We lost the player of the year,” Coach LaValley said of Polsinelli, the Suburban Council Player of the Year. “We also lost Benny Henderson and Mike Goldstein. You don’t replace those guys. But we have guys that are talented and have brought leadership to this year’s team. They are not like last year’s team, but I think, if they bring what they’ve got every day, that’ll be enough.”

Henderson and Goldstein are playing college baseball. Colavito, Ranalli, Sohl, and Simpson will play college baseball next spring. Colavito will play at Stetson University in Florida, Sohl will play at Siena College, Simpson will play at The College of Saint Rose, and Ranalli will play baseball and football at Union College.

Demanding schedule

LaValley will take this team on the road a lot this season, as the Dutch will play its most demanding schedule in recent history.

Not only does Guilderland play in the rough-and-tumble Suburban Council, it will play a tough non-league schedule as well.

The Dutchmen will play Central Square of Section III (in the Syracuse area) on April 19 and then host Massapequa of Long Island on April 25. Guilderland will then play in the Northeast Elite Tournament on May 2 and 3 and will take on Tottenville of Staten Island and play either George Washington or Fordham Prep. The Dutch will play Clarkstown South on May 4.

“This is the best schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here,” LaValley said. “Out of the section, we play Massapequa, which was the 2006 state champs, Central Square of the Syracuse area, which is coached by Kyle Brown, who played at Colonie. We play Clarkstown South and Tottenville who was 52-9 and 25th in the country last year. And then we’ll play either George Washington or Fordham Prep.

“Those are some big-time schools. That is a testament to our players in the past. They paved the way for us to get into tournaments like that.”

LaValley does not worry about his team playing hard against such a demanding schedule.

“We are focused on this year and the goals ahead,” Simpson said.

“We are going to compete,” the coach said. “They believe in each other that they are going to give 100 percent on a daily basis. So far, they have done what needs to be done to be successful. As a coach, what else can you ask for? They’ll do that every day, practice or a game.

“That shows the success we have in the program,” LaValley added. “I stress to them that the hardest part is preparing — practice. The games are easy.”

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