AMSTERDAM — Brenden Cetnar finds himself in a strange position.
The Amsterdam softball coach enters this spring with eight seniors on his 11-player roster, but extremely limited varsity experience among that group. Most, if not all of them, would have gotten a major chance to grow during a 2020 season that the Lady Rams were entering having undergone massive roster turnover following the graduation of six key players from 2019, but last year’s campaign was wiped out after a few days of practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, with many of his players not having taken the field for a game in any capacity in nearly two years, Cetnar has just over a week to get his team ready for a compacted season that starts May 5 against Troy.
“We missed a year of development,” Cetnar said following practice Tuesday at Shuttleworth Park, the team’s first time outside on the field since last spring was interrupted during the first week of preseason practice. “There’s a lot of seniors on the team this year. I’ve got eight seniors, and they all would’ve been on the team last year. . . . These guys would’ve had another year, and it would’ve been nice to get them another year.”
When the team took to the diamond at Shuttleworth Park on Tuesday afternoon, Cetnar did plenty of shuffling, trying to figure out which players could fit at which positions.
However, he does have a group of veterans that make up the spine of the team — junior Shelby Lamont at catcher, along with a trio of seniors in pitcher Sydney Szczepanik, shortstop Jordyn Wozniak and centerfielder Gaby Maroto. All four have at least one year, if not more, as a full-time starter on the varsity team.
“I think we’ll do pretty good, actually,” Szczepanik said. “We just started out, we’re just getting back outside, so it’s going to be a little while, but we’ll be good.”
With only 11 players and a regular-season schedule that features 17 games in about five weeks, Cetnar termed this spring as “a sprint” and said that the Rams will have to move players around to stay fresh at key spots. In particular, both Szczepanik and Wozniak can pitch, while Maroto can spell Lamont behind the plate.
“We’re going to rotate in and out,” he said, “keep everybody as fresh as we can.”
The challenges of coming back after a year away and packing so many games into a short period aren’t putting a damper on the enthusiasm of Cetnar and his team.
“It’s my senior year, it’s good that I have at least one year left to play,” Szczepanik said. “It’s really good that we get to play again this year.”
“Everybody wants to play. That’s the thing,” Cetnar said. “Everybody’s here and they want to play. We’re happy to be out here. . . . We’re going to be safe, and we’re going to do everything we have to do. We’re just happy to be out here.”