Both New Paltz and Highland baseball had solid seasons in 2016, but both ended with losses in the Section 9 quarterfinals — New Paltz to Wallkill in Class A; Highland to Spackenkill in Class B — and with both suffering major losses to graduation. For the Huguenots, the major losses were but two, but maybe even more critically, the two were Tyler Black and Matt Barbieri — number one and two on the mound; while for the Huskies the losses were more defused: pitcher/first baseman Paul Hansut, catcher/outfielder Mike Doxey, outfielder Mason Hrodyski, infielder Rob Whalen and utility player Nick Palmatier. Either way, returning (after 12 years away) New Paltz varsity coach Bill Defino and third-year Highland coach John Bonomono will have to piece together teams from solid groups of returnees and core players.
For New Paltz, losing Black and Barbieri could seem insurmountable, but Defino has last season spot-starters — senior Nick Messina (also third base) and senior Chris Massaro (also second base) — returning, as is senior centerfielder Joey DiMarco — who might get in a few innings of relief, as will junior Mike Holohan (who also catches, plays third base and likely will DH). The strength continues with solid-hitting seniors Aaron Murphy (first base), Adam Stolfe and Dylan Dellay (both outfielders) and returning junior shortstop Sean Boyle. Add to these solid newcomers in big Max Lunati (junior first baseman/DH/spot starter), sophomore Alex Barese (outfield) and two freshmen: catcher Anthony DiMarco and infielder Aidan Hoffman, and the Huguenots look like they’ll be able to score some runs.
“We’re trying to put together a pitching staff. That’s our top priority,” says Defino. “We look okay defensively, and we have a great, deep outfield. But it’s with pitching that we’ll either sink or swim.”
Bonomono has a solid group of returnees, with two potential number one starters in junior Kevin Brennie (also shortstop) and last season’s nearly-untouchable reliever in senior Anthony Hegedus (also outfield). Otherwise the Huskies return some potent offense with senior centerfielder Isaiah Daubon, senior catcher/first baseman Frank Alfonso and the Crimi Brothers — Kyle and Matt — both senior infielders. Newcomers are junior Nick Turner (pitcher/infield/outfield), junior Max Vidal (infield), junior Dario D’Valentino (outfield), junior Mike Malheiro (outfield), senior Aaron Alvarez (catcher) and senior Kyle Eighmie (DH).
“We have lots of guys with essentially equal talent, so we’ll play the best,” says Bonomono. “As always it’s about preparation: different challenges, different choices to be made by the players, it’s not just about production on the field. We can be as good as we want to be, and particularly in a Division (two of the MHAL) that has four good teams besides us (Marlboro, New Paltz, Rondout and Red Hook).”
Highland got off to a tough start to the season, losing 10-0 to defending State Class B champion Marlboro on Thursday, as the Dukes’ threw a combined one-hitter (Austin Carey for five innings, Connor Carrado for an inning and Jack Dreyer for an inning) — a Matt Crimi one-out single in the seventh inning off Dreyer.
New Paltz opens the 2017 season on Thursday, April 6 hosting Highland at 4 p.m.; and traveling to Rondout on Friday, April 7 at 4 p.m.; while Highland, 0-1, hosts Onteora on Monday, April 3 (too late for this edition of the New Paltz Times); travel to Rondout on Wednesday, April 5 at 4 p.m.; and to New Paltz on Thursday, April 6.