Baseball, varsity style, is back

BEVERLEA WALZ | Hunter Starzee ready to rip a high hard one as the Shelter Island boys varsity baseball team took the field for its first workouts last week. Riley Willumsen does the catching as Henry Lang waits on deck. Inactive for several years, the varsity boys play a full schedule this spring.

Soggy soil, blustery wind, stinging hands — it must be baseball in the northeast.

After months of being cooped up in the gymnasium, the boys have replaced sneakers with baseball cleats, donned their mitts and are now preparing for the 2013 baseball season. The Shelter Island boys team is returning to a varsity schedule after taking a hiatus for several years. With the first game only two weeks away, the boys have begun spring training with much work to complete. After competing at the JV level for three years, the boys need to up their game in order to be competitive at the next level.

The team is extremely excited to play on the upgraded field thanks to the Shelter Island Bucks collegiate baseball team and the summer league organizers who have replaced sod and clay for the mounds. Future upgrades will include a new backstop, dugouts and a scoreboard.

The returning juniors and seniors who hoe to light up that scoreboard will be led by team captains Hunter Starzee and Mathew BeltCappellino. Rounding out the group is Riley Willumsen, Nathan Mundy, Myles Clark, Spencer Gibbs, Chandler Olinkiewicz and Thomas Mysliborski. Along with sophomore Johnny Sturges, newcomers include Peter Kropf, Richard Ruscica, Will Garrison and Henry Lang.

The key to a successful season will be pitching. Gibbs and BeltCappellino led the staff last year and they will be the anchors of the staff this year. Both will be working on improved mechanics to increase velocity, techniques to hold runners more closely, and the ability to pitch on the corners to establish more favorable counts. Also contributing on the mound will be Starzee and Willumsen, who will catch the other hurlers most of the time.

Scoring runs becomes much more challenging at the varsity level, so playing solid defense will be at a premium. Repetition, focus and constant review of scenarios will be the emphasis over the next few weeks of practice. The weather has been difficult to start the year, so the team will utilize gym and class time to discuss the importance of hitting counts, moving runners and other nuances of the game.

Overall the team is excited and a little nervous at the outset. However, the older players revel at the chance to play at the next level. The team is shooting for a winning percentage of .500 and to challenge Smithown Christian for the Class D title of Suffolk County.

The first game will be Friday, March 22 at Stony Brook followed by the home opener Monday, March 25, a doubleheader versus Greenport.

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