There is no surer sign of the arrival of spring than the crack of the bat and the sound of a ball smacking into a mitt. Saugerties High School varsity baseball is here, and the Sawyers are looking to build on last year’s successes one game at a time.
By the time you read this, the Sawyers will have only just emerged from a few weeks of practicing in the Saugerties High School gym, with their first on-field practice scheduled for Wednesday, March 20. They’ll open the preseason two days later when they host Kingston in a scrimmage at Cantine Field. All four of the team’s scrimmages will take place at Cantine, but they’ll hit the road to open the regular season, traveling to Goshen on Saturday, March 30 where they’ll take on the team that ended their 2018 campaign.
Saugerties was the reigning Section IX, Class A champ until May 23 when they fell 12-5 to Goshen in the sectional semis. They were outplayed by a single Goshen player, with Robert Hensey — now playing baseball for NCAA Division I school Monmouth University — earning the win on the mound striking out seven Sawyers, while helping his own cause from the plate, going 4-for-4 with three doubles, one homer, and seven RBI. It was a game the Sawyers thought they should have won, and for returning players like junior catcher Ty Gallagher, a rematch has been a long time coming.
“That loss last year was not expected,” said Gallagher. “Tip your cap to them, they did their job and we just kind of fell off…Opening the season against them is very exciting. It keeps me up at night to think about going to Goshen to start the season and give back to them.”
Shortstop Randy Dodig, also a junior, agrees.
“Ever since our coach told us back in maybe October that we’re going there for our first game I’ve been motivated,” he said. “March 30 can’t come any sooner. We want to get some revenge for what happened last year. It was tough.”
Saugerties Coach Michael Pugliese said opening the season at Goshen was by design. With an influx of players new to varsity and the likelihood of early struggles as the team continues to forge its identity, Pugliese said shaking off the Goshen bugaboo early may provide an opportunity to come together. “That was strategically placed that we’re going there and they’re not coming here,” he said. “That was something I wanted to use as a motivator. There were some guys in that dugout last year that were upset after that game, and rightfully so. If we do well on Saturday the 30th, it’s not like we’re tied 1-1 and we get that sectional game back. But if baseball is important to you and means something to you, you’re looking forward to starting the season down there.”
Gallagher, Dodig and senior Riley Merritt were named co-captains of this year’s Sawyers. For Dodig it’s a familiar position.
“Randy was voted as a captain last year on a team that was defending a sectional championship and had nine seniors,” said Pugliese. “That shows the level of respect that he demands.”
“It’s awesome,” said Dodig. “It’s an honor to be chosen like that, and knowing that my teammates look up to me, are ready to go to battle and put in the work and know that I’m a guy that’s going to be leading them.”