J-D Baseball Swings for the Fences

By Ryan Pike

Managing Editor for Writing and Reporting

The Jamesville-DeWitt High School Varsity Baseball team is always competitive. However, the Red Rams have had a recent drought when it comes to league and sectional championships. The team hasn’t won the Section III Class A League championship since 2007-08, and they haven’t won the Section III Championship in 10 years. After a great season in 2012 ended with a loss to New Hartford in the sectional championship, this year’s group of J-DHS student-athletes aims to build on their prior success.

There are three goals for this year’s team that Head Coach Ryan Dera is drilling into his players’ heads: win the league, sectional and state championships. “Coaches give their players memories, and I want my players to have the memory of winning their league, section and state championships,” Coach Dera explained; “There is no better feeling than winning a championship.” Coach Dera emphasizes his desire to win everyday during the team’s practice. “He stresses it so much,” said junior Chris McGee; “it just makes us want it even more.”

Most teams with such high expectations find themselves facing a lot of pressure to succeed. The Red Rams are an exception to the rule. “There’s a little bit of pressure, but I think we have a good enough team to follow in the footsteps of the team from last year,” said senior Nick Austin. “It was a tough loss last year [in the sectional championship]. We learned from it, though,” McGee affirmed; “We’re gonna win this year. I’m feelin’ it.”

Through the first eight games of the season, the squad has exercised its dominance on its opponents. According to Coach Dera, the team is averaging exactly eight runs per game while holding their opponents to just over one run per game. The numbers speak for themselves; this is a Red Ram team to be feared in Class A. “I think last year really showed that our program can compete,” said junior Chris Wood; “We’re a good, dominant program in our section.”

The team has definitely dominated their opponents through their first seven wins this season. In the first game of the season against Oneida, junior Sam Crisalli hit a two-run home run while McGee threw a one-hitter, giving up only one hit throughout the entire 2-0 win. In the second game, played against Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, McGee hit a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning to win the game 6-4. McGee drove in all of the runs in that win. The third game of the season saw Crisalli throw the second one-hitter of the season against Camden in a 9-1 win. The Red Rams put on an offensive show in their fourth game, a win against Homer. The team scored 14 runs in just one inning of a 19-2 romp. The fifth win of the season came in a 7-0 shutout against the Gaelic Knights of Bishop Ludden. The shutout was pitched by none other than Chris McGee, giving him his second win of the young season. Against Mexico, Jimmy Sinopoli pitched the team to a 17-2 win, and a third shutout of the season was pitched by committee against Fulton in an 11-0 demolishing.

Junior captain Paul Fitzgibbons is confident in the team’s ability to continue this impressive streak of victories this season. “We have a solid pitching staff, we’re a deep team and we play good defense,” he said; “defense is what wins games.” Austin said that this year’s team has more juniors than previous teams, but that may not be a bad thing. Juniors Fitzgibbons, Jimmy Sinopoli, Alex Way, John Werbowsky and McGee all have been a part of the Varsity team as underclassmen. “I think that the juniors this year are doing a good job filling the roles of the seniors from last year,” Austin added; “I think we got a lot better.” “With the talent we have this year, I think the expectation of a state championship is reasonable,” senior captain Chris Lenish asserted.

There are a few specific teams that stand in the Red Rams’ way as they strive to achieve their goals. One such team is the Cortland Purple Tigers, who handed the Red Rams their first loss of the season in a 4-2 loss at J-DHS. Cortland’s college-bound ace pitcher, Brian Hughes, pitched a complete game and allowed just one earned run.

Coach Dera also cited New Hartford as a team that could cause problems this season. The Spartans are returning many of their players from last year’s sectional championship team. With all these obstacles in the way, the team knows they have to play hard every game. “We have to come out every day and be consistent,” added Wood; “If we take a game lightly or come out flat, we could lose. There’s a lot of crazy stuff that can go wrong.”