Big 10 baseball has seen plenty of turnover among its players, but also among the guys who will be filling out the lineup cards.
Six of the nine teams are under new leadership. The cast includes Brian Spagnola, who is back for a second run with Amsterdam, and Catholic Central’s Dave Bestle, who piled up 275 wins over the last four years at Tamarac and 15 years before that at Lansingburgh.
“I’ve been getting text messages from some of my former players,” said Bestle. “They’re telling me I better amp up my game.”
Longtime varsity assistants Kacy Daus, Brian Henkel and Nick Davey have been promoted at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, LaSalle and two-time defending champion Christian Brothers Academy, respectively.
“With new guys all around, we’ll be doing different things,” said Davey. “You’ll be seeing different styles.”
The holdover mentors are John Isabella of Schenectady, Curtis Nobles of Troy and Lance McCall of Bishop Maginn.
“With a bunch of new coaches, the Big 10 is fresh and rejuvenated,” said Nobles. “Everyone is not as familiar with the other guys’ style of play.”
“The turnover does make it tough. The tendencies are gone,” said Daus. “There’s no comfortable situation.”
Garett Baron brings nine years of experience from the University at Albany to Albany High School. Davey was an assistant at the College of Saint Rose for five years before spending the last four at Guilderland.
“You’ve got to familiarize yourself with a whole new . . . everything,” said Baron. “I had to familiarize myself with the high school rules. Even that’s new.”
Former Bishop Gibbons head coach Dwight Doepel has taken an assistant position at Amsterdam, where Spagnola first served as the top man from 2003-07, and guided the Rams to a trio of second-place finishes in the Big 10.
Former LaSalle head coach Jesse Braverman is serving as an assistant to Henkel. In the last nine years, the tandem led the Cadets to six Big 10 championships.
“I have a tendancy to be a little more aggressive than Jesse,” said Henkel. “We’ll be a little different, and so will the other teams. You don’t know what the opposing coach is going to do.”
Mohon seeks move up
Mohonasen was one of only three teams that beat Section II Class B baseball champion Glens Falls last season.
The Mighty Warriors also beat Guilderland and Broadalbin-Perth before their early-season 6-2 triumph over the Indians. There were no more highlights after that for the Rotterdam boys, who finished 1-15 in the Suburban Council, 3-17 overall, and missed the sectionals for the third year in a row.
In 2009, Mohonasen went all the way to the area Class A championship.
“We can definitely win games and get to the sectionals,” said Sam Flood, one of Mohonasen’s nine seniors, before adding. “As long as we finish games.”
That was a problem last spring.
“We always started out strong. We’d have a bad inning, and we were out of it,” said junior Jordan Cotton.
“Defense killed us,” said senior Tyler Beck, who, along with Flood, senior Andrew Pugliese and 11th-grader Jeff Wicks, will anchor the pitching staff. “We had that one bad inning every game. It’s not like we lost by a lot, but we still lost.”
Mohonasen didn’t win a game the season after its Section II title run, and in 2011, it went 1-15 in the league and 4-16 overall.
“We’ve got some pitching depth. We’ve got a lot of arms, and the bats look strong throughout the lineup,” said Flood.
Mohonasen needs eight league wins to reach the sectionals. The Mighty Warriors will get credit for two wins for every league victory over a Class AA team in the two-for-one formula that applies throughout Section II.
“We’ve got to stay focused all season. From start to end,” said Cotton. “And as a team, we have to stay together.”
Kilmer steps down
Doug Kilmer has resigned as Colonie’s varsity boys’ basketball coach in order to devote more time to his family.
Kilmer’s 17 seasons with the Garnet Raiders were highlighted by a run of three straight Section II Class A championship-game appearances in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Those teams featuring Brian Larrabee, J.J. Harvey and Lucious Jordan lost to Schenectady and beat Albany and Bishop Maginn in the title games. No Suburban Council team has won the section’s largest class since.
Prior to that, Colonie’s last title came in 1971 (Class AA) under Harold “Pep” Sand. Following the win over Albany in 1999, Colonie beat Liverpool in the regionals and topped Edison in the state semifinals before a three-point loss to White Plains for a 25-2 finish.
Kilmer is Colonie’s all-time wins leader with a 236-133 record. Thirteen of his teams won 10 games or more, and he took the Garnet Raiders to the sectional semifinals in 2001 and 2008.