AMSTERDAM — It’s been nearly two years since he last threw a varsity pitch, and Carson Cotugno has waited long enough.
“I’m looking to compete,” Cotugno said during Amsterdam baseball practice Tuesday afternoon at Shuttleworth Park. “I’m looking to not mess around.”
For Cotugno and the rest of the Rams, practice opened Monday as the team looks to get swiftly up to speed following a year without spring sports in 2020.
Less than a week into preparation for a season that was shaping up to be one of the best in program history, the Amsterdam baseball team — like every other spring high school sports team around the state — had everything come to a screeching halt last March under widespread restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the time, it was questionable. It was, ‘We’ve got to be off for a week, then they’ll let us know,’” Amsterdam coach Robby Hisert said. “It kept extending. It started with no states, then no sectionals, then, finally, no season.”
For Amsterdam, the pandemic pulled the plug on a 2020 season with Section II and state championship aspirations. Last year’s team would have featured a dozen seniors, including the bulk of the offensive core of a 2019 squad that ran undefeated through the Foothills Council and was a 13-inning loss to Averill Park away from a second-straight trip to the Section II Class A championship game.
The pitching staff was set to be led by Cotugno, a hard-throwing righthander who starred as a sophomore and committed to Wake Forest University early in his junior season.
Though the hitting standouts, including Peyton Ausfeld, Jake Greco, Michael Rocas, Matthew Murphy and Francisco Rodriguez-Santana, have moved on, Cotugno said this year’s crop of Rams is aiming to make up for lost time.
“I lost a lot of friends last year with all the seniors,” Cotugno said. “I think they’re rooting for us, too. We’re trying to win for ourselves, and for everybody else.”
Cotugno’s presence on the mound gives Amsterdam — which is scheduled to open its season May 8 against Hudson Falls at Shuttleworth Park — a built-in advantage every time he toes the rubber.
As a sophomore, Cotugno dominated Foothills Council hitters, going 5-1 with a 1.86 earned run average and striking out 51 in 46 innings.
“It’s never a bad thing to have a guy like Carson,” Hisert said. “You feel like every time he’s on the mound, you can win the game.”
Around Cotugno, it’s a team largely new to the varsity level. Only Cotugno and fellow senior CJ Durinick have a full season of varsity experience under their belts, while seniors Tommy Ziskin and Matt Hughes both made brief cameos when called up to the varsity team at the end of the 2019 season.
That quartet, plus sophomore catcher Spencer Cotugno — Carson Cotugno’s younger brother — will be among those expected to carry the load for the Rams this spring.
“For a little while, at least, we’re hoping that the young guys can get on their coattails,” Hisert said. “Sooner or later, they’ll be ready.”
And when they are, this Rams team — even with a much different cast — has the same ambitions as last year’s team would have, even though there won’t be a state tournament this spring.
“I really want to win,” Carson Cotugno said. “Everybody has the same goal in mind. There’s no states, but we all want to be sectional champions.”