COOPERSTOWN, NY – Most people know Cooperstown as the “Birthplace of Baseball.”
So it takes a lot of people by surprise to know that the Hawkeyes don’t have a state championship in the sport that the town is most well known for.
The 2017 edition of the Hawkeyes look to be one of the best chances to break that drought. Previously, Cooperstown had won three sectional titles, but always found themselves on the losing end of their regional game, This year, the Hawkeyes barreled through not only their regular season schedule, but an abbreviated sectional schedule en route to one of their best seasons in school history. Now, Cooperstown finds themselves just two games away from their first ever New York State Championship Plaque in the sport their town helped invent.
It’s a good thing they have someone who’s been there before. Head coach Frank Miosek has spent 27 years coaching various teams, including helming three Hawkeyes girls’ soccer teams to state titles.
“It’s always a gold ring…you’re always reaching for it,” Miosek, who is finishing up his 27th year in Cooperstown athletics. “It’s always a good feeling, since I’ve won one myself, but it’s always something worth striving for.”
The Hawkeyes certainly have reached for the gold ring in a big way, going 18-2 in a neck-and-neck race for the CSC-II championship with Sauquoit Valley. However, state rules in pitch counts and Mother Nature didn’t make it easy, enforcing pitch counts and forcing the entire section to play many games in a short amount of time. For Cooperstown, that meant playing four sectional games in a week to earn that Class C championship. However, Miosek wasn’t worried about his team heading into what amounted to an open Section III tournament.
“It’s fair if you don’t have to play five or six games in a week,” Miosek said of the new pitch count rules. “I’m glad I have three seniors to pitch for me, or we wouldn’t be here right now.”
Those three seniors – Taylor Price, Reilly Hall and Dante Wellman – have certainly become leaders for the Hawkeyes, both on the field and on the stat sheet. Hall leads the team in batting average, going .500 in with 11 doubles and two triples. Price is right behind him, hitting .484 with eight doubles and three triples (in which he leads the team). Wellman also leads the team in home runs, with two, while also hitting a solid .371 in 62 at-bats. On the mound, all three have performed admirably, going a combined 14-2 with ERAs all under 3.25 (Price’s is the lowest, at an astounding 1.18).
However, with the new pitch count rules, Miosek has had to get creative with his pitching rotation. With the sectional tournament opened up to everyone, the Hawkeyes had to get that banner with a careful eye on their arms.
“I think it challenged us,” Miosek said. “It forced us to play younger guys and try to save our upper-level guys. We were fortunate in that way.”
Another obstacle that looked to hamper Cooperstown was the travel. Being one of the southernmost schools in the section, the Hawkeyes found themselves on a bus quite a bit, including trips to Utica and Syracuse. This week will be one of their biggest trips of the season, as they will head to NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton twice. The first time will be on Friday, as they will face Section X’s Potsdam there. If they defeat the Sandstoners on Friday, the Hawkeyes will be right back there on Saturday, and while most teams would be bright-eyed at the prospect of playing in a professional stadium – NYSEG Stadium is home to the New York Mets’ AA affiliate, the Binghamton Rumble Ponies – Miosek knows that his captains will keep them grounded.
“We’ve had teams go to states before,” Miosek said, alluding to the Hawkeyes’ basketball teams appearances there of late, which included three of his own players (Hall, along with Ethan Niles and Sean Meyers). “We know what to expect and we’re not afraid. They’ve heard about it, they’ve seen it.”
Surprisingly, while Potsdam will likely stay over in Binghamton, like most teams usually do during this point in the spring sports season (they are over 200 miles away, after all), Miosek will not. He’ll load up the bus both days and take the almost two-hour trip to NYSEG Stadium. “They’re going to have their rest, we’re going to be in our own beds. You don’t get quite the rest you would, but you don’t have three guys keeping you awake either. There’s something to be said for home cooking, too.”
As for bus rust — the Hawkeyes will still have to make two trips of over a hundred miles over as many days – Miosek isn’t worried. As the southernmost team in the section, trips almost always become one-to-two-hour journeys. “We’re accustomed to getting on a bus and driving around to different places,” Miosek said. “The kids settle in, they’ve got their electronics…It’s like an electronic think tank on our bus, and everyone rides the bus. They’re blue-collar players.”
If the Hawkeyes play like they have
so far, those blue-collar players may be hoisting a golden colored plaque of the State of New York by week’s end.
Who: Cooperstown Hawkeyes
What: New York State Class C Semi-Final vs. Potsdam (Section X). Winner will face either Section I’s North Salem or Section V’s Avon in the New York State Final.
Where: NYSEG Stadium, Binghamton. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased at NYSEG Stadium or online at the NYSPHSAA website.
When: Semi-final is Friday, June 9 at 3 PM. The final will be Saturday, June 10 at 10 am.