Sauquoit Valley head coach Frank Curriere has won three sectional titles and four conference crowns during his six-year tenure.
Despite being a young team, the Indians should be considered among the favorites to repeat as sectional champions and challenge to regain the conference title.
After winning the Center State Conference Division II from 2011-2014, the Indians were unseated by Dolgeville last season. Curriere knows the competition is always tough in the division and realizes his team has a target on its back.
The Indians did suffer some key losses, but return nine starters, including senior leaders Zach Freeman and Ryan Overrocker who will be counted on to lead another successful season.
“Every year is different,” Curriere said. “Last year Dolgeville came out of nowhere to be a contender. The kids are aware because of the success over the past five years (that) we are going to get every team’s best game.
“This is not anything new to our kids. A couple of our kids (Freeman and Overrocker) are trying to win their third sectional title which would be a great accomplishment. Other kids like Andrew Castelletti, Derek Prichard, Kody Taylor, Antonio Grande and Luke Price were a huge part of our success last season and are being counted on to contribute heavily this season.”
The Indians were among the favorites when they won sectional titles in 2011 (2 seed) and 2013 (3 seed). Last season’s run to the champioship was unexpected by many. Sauquoit Valley (14-10) was the 12th seed, but came together to catch fire at the right time in running through the Class C field for their third title in five seasons. Playing their best baseball, the Indians ran through Little Falls, Fabius Pompey and Watertown IHC before blanking Pulaski 7-0 in the Class C final.
The Indians lost 8-1 to Tioga in the state quarterfinals and despite the program’s recent success, Freeman knows it’s not easy to win sectional titles.
“Most of the guys were on the team last year and they know how hard we have to work to get back and hopefully go farther,” said Freeman, who started in the outfield the past two seasons.
Overrocker, who returns for a third season as the Indians’ starting catcher, feels there is no replacement for experience and hard work.
“We have an attitude that we can come into any game or situation knowing we can handle it,” Overrocker said. “Most of our guys have been with us for a sectional championship and some of us have been around for two sectional championships. Our team plays hard and practices harder. We have a great coaching staff that knows how to mold and push us to go from being a good player to a great one.”
The Indians have been the dominant team in Class C over the past five seasons, but there are a few accomplishments that have been set as goals for the 2016 season.
“We expect to be the first Sauquoit team to win back-to-back sectional titles,” senior outfielder Kody Taylor said. “And (we) are really working to be the first team to win a state championship.”
Sauquoit will have plenty of competition within the division. Defending CSC II champion, Dolgeville will have to get contributions from underclassmen after losing five conference first-team conference all-stars, including co-players of the year Johann Doerrer and Dan Fox.
Westmoreland is another contender in the division as well as in Class C. The Bulldogs return senior Jack Acquaviva and junior Noah Bowen, both first-team all-stars in 2015. Cooperstown could also challenge for the top spot in a tough division.
IN CLASS B, Holland Patent will try to regroup and rebuild after making a run at a sectional title last season.
The Golden Knights (20-2) made it all the way to the sectional final before being edged by Westhill 5-4 in the title game. However, they lost all but three starters and return just four total players from last year’s squad. The losses include Jared Fisher, Steve McGahey, Jordan Brown, Dan Dygert and Jordan Dziekan, all top players in the league.
The good news for Holland Patent is that all-star shortstop/pitcher Nico Ramos returns to lead the team. Ramos, who along with Fisher was the conference’s co-player of the year, batted .468, had 39 RBIs and 16 extra base hits. Along with Ramos, senior P/OF Devin Franco and junior outfielder Nick Palmer will have to lead the way as the younger players find their footing at the varsity level.
Head coach Scott Parsons is in his 29th season leading the Golden Knights and knows he has a young team and is in the rebuilding process. He knows his team has a lot of work to do, but still expects them to compete and get better throughout the season.
“We are trying to get back to sectionals,” Parsons said. “I think as the season goes on we will get better. Take one out at a time … one inning at a time … one game at a time.”
Adirondack is one of the top contenders in Class B and in the division. The Wildcats return three first-team all-conference performers in Ethan Wiedmer, Gavin Chambers and Gavin Merriam.
Like Holland Patent, Little Falls will have to rely on a young roster as they lost three first-team all-stars. However, the Mounties do have three juniors (Kobe Jackson, Nate Zambri and Jason Gallt) who played well as sophomores.