March 29, 2012
Young Trojans back in Liberty
It will be a younger Homer Central baseball team stepping on the field for its season opener on Friday.
The 2011 OHSL Freedom American Division champions have returned to the Liberty Division for one season as the Trojans host defending Section 3 Class B champion Marcellus at 4 p.m. to get things underway. Trojan head coach Robert Nasiatka thinks his sixth season has a lot of potential.
“We are young after losing six seniors to graduation after we are going to be young for the next two years,” Nasiatka said. “We do have seven seniors, but some of them didn’t get a lot of time. We will have 14 to 16 guys playing in varsity games this season as some will be going back and forth from the jayvee team.
“We have good experience in our pitching,” he continued. “That will be our strong point in the beginning of the season with, hopefully, our bats coming around later in the year. Being outside every day has been a big help. We’ve gotten a lot more reps in the infield, been able to work on our relays, back-ups, cut-offs and pick-off plays. Those are just things you really can’t do much with inside.”
Nasiatka predicted it will be a season of change for many high school teams.
“I know our entire game has changed with losing Zephen (Kash), Zach (Blanden) and their 20-plus home runs,” he said. “But the new BBCOR bats are also changing the game.
“For us, it’s a total strategy change,” Nasiatka added. “We are going to have to play small ball. I am encouraged though because we played a very good small ball in our scrimmage against Cortland. We have some guys who have played baseball for a very long time. Their baseball intelligence is very high. They just need to take that intelligence and put it to use on the field.”
The Trojan pitching staff does include four returnees in senior Kevin McNeil (IF-OF-P), senior Brent Quinlan (3B-P), junior Payten Boice (P-SS) and sophomore Jake Casey (OF-1B-P), who was a call-up during the 2011 season.
“Kevin has been with the varsity program three and one-half years and this is Brent’s second year,” Nasiatka said. “It’s their time to shine and take on a leadership roll.
“It seems like we’ve been talking about Payten forever,” he added. “I am very encouraged with what I have seen from him this pre-season. He is coming along very well form some off-season surgery and, the good thing is, we still have him coming back nice year. Jake just keeps getting better as well.”
Other returning players include senior Mike Hartnett (2B-OF), senior shortstop Connor L’Hommedieu, senior catcher/outfielder Taylor Withiam and senior Leo Riley (1B-2B).
“Taylor has been in the background because of Andy Parker,” Nasiatka said. “He is very eager to show what he can do on a regular basis and I’m excited to see what he can do.
“Mike Hartnett has made some very nice improvements and will be taking a much bigger role this season,” he added. “The same is true for Leo Riley. Connor also will be a key contributor at short with Payten. We have some guys who are very flexible and it will take some time to see where they are best suited.”
Moving up from the JV ranks are sophomore Chase Davis (C-INF-OF) along with juniors Josh Apker (INF-OF), Tom Belton (P-INF), Nate Cole (OF) and Jared McGee INF-P).
“Jared has looked impressive pitching,” Nasiatka said. “He has been keeping the ball low in the zone most of the time. The other guys have some work to do to see more playing time at the varsity level this year, but they are also preparing for next season as well.”
There are two more new varsity faces. The first is senior Sully Hartnett, who traveled the lacrosse circuit in 2011, but has come back to baseball for his final year. Hartnett will see time in the outfield and at first base.
The other new face will alternate time on the varsity and JV roster. Sophomore hurler Millet DeAngelis will be used on the mound and travel with them those days he may be needed. He is much lower on the depth chart at first base, so he will play in JV games at first this season as well.
As for being back in the Liberty Division with Marcellus, Westhill, Cazenovia, Hannibal, Jordan-Elbridge and Solvay, plus Class B for sectional play, it will be a challenge.
“Back-to-back league championships in two different leagues would be nice,” Nasiatka chuckled. “Marcellus, Westhill and Caz will all be tough. Class B will be a challenge. I’ve lost touch with the coaches and players so I’m not really sure who’s doing what. I’ll be doing a lot of paper and media scouting, but we’ll be back in Class A back next year.
“This is a good group of guys and they are working hard,” he added. “We have the potential to do very well.”
The coaching staff remains intact. Mike Gimblette is returning as a varsity assistant. Mike DeMattei is the junior varsity coach and Kevin Douglass is the modified coach.
“Mike Gimblette does a great job as assistant coach,” Nasiatka said. “He has great knowledge from his time with Joe Brown at Cortland State. He is invaluable with the boys. I would like to keep him around a couple of years. Unfortunately, he is that good and will probably get a full-time job somewhere.”
After facing Marcellus Friday, the Trojans will have a home-and-home series with Hannibal. One big highlight will be the Apr. 28 non-league game against Tully at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field. The 10 a.m. game will be followed by a tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“This will be a great experience for the boys,” Nasiatka said of the Cooperstown trip. “We’re taking the JVs along to watch the game and for some incentive to come back and play a game there when they are varsity players. Then seeing the Hall will be special as well.”
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