PLETHORA OF PITCHERS — Kyle Sickau is one of 12 players that could pitch for Hamburg. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
HAMBURG — Steve Chaffee said that his biggest concern this season is not so much rounding out his lineup with the enough talent, it’s finding his athletes enough playing time.
The Bulldogs are that deep; Chaffee has 10 seniors who all play well, a handful of juniors returning from last year’s team and a few newcomers.
It will be a challenge from game to game to get each of them the playing time they deserve, he said.
“Every game, I’m going to have to break some hearts when I read the starting lineup,” Chaffee said. “Everyone is so hard-working. Experience is a definitely a strength. It’s a good problem to have.”
It is now a motivated group, after reaching the Class A final, but losing there to the Williamsville South team. Hamburg finished 15 – 8 and knocked off defending sectional champion Grand Island in the Class A semifinals.
“They’re excited – they have bigger goals this year than second place,” Chaffee said. “They’re a pretty motivated and baseball-focused group. It’s tough to motivate the guys sometimes, but not this group.
“I’ve never seen before this kind of competition to be a leader,” he added. “Just competing for the job of captain is bringing out the best in all of them.”
Among the most experienced players are three-year starters Justin LaRosa, a senior looking to lock down shortstop, and Cam Ringo, a junior fire-throwing hurler who will play some second base and center field. Both are returning All-Erie County Interscholastic Conference II Second Team selections and will have an impact offensively, at the top of the order. Ringo can throw in the mid-80s and leads a group of a dozen players that can pitch.
Brett Ross, an all-division first team selection, will play left field or in center, coming off hitting .400 as a junior. Fellow senior Kyle Sickau, last year’s starting pitcher in the sectional final, will be a mainstay on the mound and play some outfield. Junior David Edie, who earned all-division second team honors, returns as the starting catcher and is expected to solidify the middle of the lineup, the coach said.
Competing for time at third base are seniors Pat Skelly and Connor Tucker, who can also pitch. Classmates Ryan Herr (outfielder) and Ryan Filas (corner infielder) will also see some time on the mound. Senior leader Tommy Moses, the team’s backup catcher last season, will move to right field to garner some more playing time.
Among the newcomers expected to make an impact are juniors Brian Bermingham, who will play first base, and Jake Mertowski, a player who Chaffee said may become a top four pitcher and hit lead-off or in the second spot.
Senior Nichols transfer Zack Tone is also in line for playing time, as the coach said that he has a powerful bat.
Creating depth in the middle infield will be senior Jordan Paxson, while juniors Tosh Johnson and Brendan Mauer also continue to compete for playing time. Sophomore newcomer Austin O’Shei will contribute behind the plate and in the middle infield, as well.
Hamburg’s talent will be tested right off the bat, with an out-of-league game at home with an up-and-coming Gowanda team to open the season on April 5, league games with powers Iroquois and Starpoint on April 7 and 9, respectively. It will host Class B state champion Fredonia on April 11.