New rule will help smaller SC schools

For the baseball teams from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Mohonasen and Averill Park, two for one could

For the baseball teams from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Mohonasen and Averill Park, two for one could lead to a little more fun.

The Section II baseball committee has devised new postseason qualifying criteria that is meant to aid smaller schools that face larger schools in league play. BH-BL,

Mohonasen and Averill Park fall into this group as Class A schools playing with 11 other Class AA schools in the Suburban Council.

“We pushed for it. Things went right for us,” said Burnt Hills coach Paul DeLuca. “If we can sneak two or three of them in, we’re good to go. It helps us, and what we all like is it doesn’t penalize the Class AA schools.”

In the new two-for-one qual­ifying formula, a smaller school (based on enrollment figures) will get credit for two wins when it beats a larger school in league competition. If that small school’s number of wins (two-for-ones and against like-sized schools) is at least 50 percent of the number of league games, they make the playoffs.

Small-school teams that make the playoffs, however, would still be seeded according to their actual win-loss record.

“I think it’s awesome,” said

6-foot-5 Burnt Hills senior

David Fischer, the staff ace and one of Section II’s premier pitchers. “We’ve always played against bigger schools, and that makes it tough.”

“Two for one is a step in the right direction,” said Mohonasen coach Jim Huggins.

“I like it,” said Shenendehowa coach and Suburban Council chairman Jim Carrese. “It eliminates the Class A teams in the Suburban Council having to jockey, fight and maneuver to try to get in. It boils down to you know what you have to do to make the playoffs.

“Another thing it does is gear their strategy toward the league rather than to non-league games.”

Burnt Hills and Mohonasen were allowed to compete in the 2005 playoffs after petitioning the Section II executive committee,

despite 3-11 and 5-9 league records, respectively. The Section II baseball committee had earlier denied their petition to play, though Carrese fought hard for their in­clusion.

“We petitioned a few years ago, based on our Class A record,” DeLuca said of then-coach Tim Brunson’s Spartans, who went 7-1 against Class A teams during the regular season, and then swept through the sectional field to claim the championship. “Before, we had to try to win all of our non-league games to try to build up our record. Now, it’s a different mindset, as far as how we approach the league.”

Huggins agreed.

“It shakes up what you’re going to do with your pitching,” said Huggins, whose staff is anchored by

junior Robert Tedesco and seniors Ben Gatchell and Dave Hondro. “You may throw a different kid, depending on the situation you’re in that day or that week.”

Class AA Niskayuna is in a spot like no other Suburban Council team in that, as a member of the White Division with Burnt Hills, Mohonasen and Averill Park, it will meet those teams two times each. Teams play non-division opponents only once in the 14-game schedule.

“We won our division last year,” said Niskayuna senior outfielder Chris Okonski. “There’s definitely a target on our chest because of that [two for one], and because we were a winning team last year.”

“We play those teams six times,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey, who also has Joe Privitera, Danny Peters, Adrian Mitchell and Ryan Kenealy returning from his 2007 sectional semifinal team. “They’re going to come after us.”

eye on dutchmen

Every team in the league will be trying to knock off Guilderland which, at 13-1, posted the best

record in 2007 before capturing the Section II Class AA championship, its first title in 30 years.

“We’ve got to earn our wins,” said senior outfielder Nick Rinalli, one of 12 lettermen on the Guilderland roster. “We play with a lot of the kids in the league. We know what’s out there, and we know people are coming after us. We’re conscious of that. We can’t take anyone lightly, but at the same time, they can’t take us lightly.”

Guilderland’s lineup includes Stetson-bound third baseman Jake Colavito, Saint Rose-bound pitcher/outfielder Andrew Simpson and 6-4 hurlers C.J. Sohl and Jason Westervelt. Simpson hit a three-run homer in the Dutchmen’s 5-2 Section II title-game win over Troy.

“I’ve been asked, ‘Is this team as good as last year’s team,’ and I do think they have a chance, absolutely,” said Guilderland coach Doug LaValley, who graduated slugging first baseman Ben Henderson, staff ace Nick Polsinelli and star reliever Greg Barcomb from last year’s Gold Division champions (18-3 overall). “Only time will tell, but I do know the guys are going to give everything they’ve got. That’s all you can ask for.”

Though three-time defending Blue Division champ Colonie is the preseason favorite to challenge Guilderland for overall league

supremacy, LaValley doubts it will be a two-team race. Shenendehowa is determined to bounce back after missing the 2007 sectionals, while Bethlehem, Shaker, Niskayuna and Columbia, under new coach Chris Dedrick, are lurking.

“It’s going to be very compet­itive. I can see five, six teams battling for the overall No. 1 seed,” said LaValley. “Year in and year out, there are no days off. You’ve got to come ready to play, or you’ll get knocked off.”

Colonie has 13 varsity veterans, led by junior outfielder Joe Poleto, who batted a school-record .550 last season. Poleto is a holdover from Colonie’s 2006 state runner-up team, as is senior pitcher Nick Carnavale, who combines with Chris Smith and Derek Zielinski to give the Garnet Raiders one of the league’s finest staffs.

“We’ve been competitive for a long time,” said Colonie coach Greg Lanni, whose team opened with a 10-2 win over defending Section II Class A champ Ichabod Crane. “We want to keep that going.”

Shenendehowa badly wants to get back among Section II’s elite, after finishing second in Class AA in 2006 and 2005. The Plainsmen lost eight one-run games last season, and finished 5-9 in the league and 9-12 overall.

“Missing the sectionals was a great motivating factor for us,” said Carrese, who has seven back who saw extensive action last year, led by standout junior shortstop

David Balsalmo and senior hurlers Jon Shippee and Jeff Carter. “These kids want to turn it around, and I believe we have the chemistry and talent to do it. We’ve solidified our lineup, and added to the bullpen.”

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