By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Losing seven players to graduation that were key pieces in Hudson High School’s recent run of success (14-9, Division 3 semifinals in 2015 and 16-10, Division 3 finals in 2014) will be a challenge to overcome, admits seventh-year Hawk varsity baseball head coach Tim Reinhardt.
But don’t count this team out as its season gets under way after five postponements due to inclement weather. New and emerging talent and skilled returnees will take some time to bond, but the outlook is highly positive already, said players and coaches, all chomping at the bit to start the season.
“It seems like a lot of teams in the league (Midland B) think we’re in a rebuilding year and we don’t accept that so what the season holds we don’t know,” said Reinhardt, who is assisted by Dan Fahey and Jeff Wood. “We’ll start the season playing hard, learn from that and go on from there. These guys all believe they can be just as talented as the previous two seasons. They don’t believe they’re limited in any way…. They’re confident and they’re excited about the season and are anxious to prove some people wrong.”
“Even though we’re a young team, we’re working hard,” echoed senior co-captain Ryan Silva. “We know the players we lost so we’re just trying to do our best and have a good season. This is a new team but we have a lot going for us.”
Achieving their full potential will take execution, according to Reinhardt, especially in pitching and on defense, which are the two main areas of emphasis this year. The offense will take care of itself if the opposition can be limited in putting runs on the board.
“You throw strikes, you play defense, you’re going to be fine,” he said. “We lost some hitters so we’re going to have to execute a little bit and make sure we’re on top of our offensive game -stealing bases, bunting, hit and run, those things.”
The team has already bonded well thanks in part to the program’s recent annual sojourn to Cape Cod that featured exhibition matchups with area teams. Although only one game could be played due to harsh weather, the team used the experience to come together as a group.
“Everyone on the team is really close and that helps because we all support each other and pick each other up,” said senior co-captain Nick Simonenko. “That’s going to make a difference as we come together as a team.”
“We’re obviously a young team but we know the system we’re running and what we did last year,” added junior co-captain Jared Leahy. “It’s going to be a fun year. We’re bonding well through practices but we can’t wait to get the season going.”
Lineups remain fluid at this early stage of the season, but expect captains DJ Panneton, Silva, Leahy and Simonenko to play prominent roles. Panneton and Silva are steady in the outfield and swing a good bat. Leahy will see ample time at both middle-infield positions while Simonenko returns behind the plate for the bulk of the catching duties. All four will be counted on to provide offensive and defensive spark and ignite Reinhardt’s offense.
Senior Jesse Nemerowicz will anchor first base as he has the previous two seasons bringing stability to the right side of the infield. Speedy sophomore Thomas DiBattista will roam centerfield and be counted on to track down balls that might otherwise find gaps. Michael Chaves, also a sophomore, is ready to handle the tough responsibilities at third base.
Pitching may be an all-hands-on-deck situation with some talented but somewhat untested arms entering into the fray. Senior Matt Rosenthal, junior Brian Twomey, and sophomores Simon Fonseca and Andy Lenox will all see innings and also be counted on to produce at the plate.
Reinhardt said he is impressed with newcomers Tim Person (SS/C) and Noah Stuart (1B/P), both freshmen, who have already stood out and would appear to have promising high school careers.
Other players that will see ample diamond time are seniors Justin Rosenthal (C) and Bryan Day (3B); junior Jared Colbert (OF); sophomores Spencer Cullen (OF), Thomas Hydro (OF), Kenneth Sullivan (OF/1B/P), Sam Stout (2B/P) and Jared Gardner (2B), all of whom have strong upside and will see time in the Hawk lineup.
“What’s good about this group is that they all love baseball so it’s easy to have fun playing it,” Reinhardt said of his 2016 squad. “We try to keep practice competitive as much as we can so it incentivizes the kids to go hard and make plays.”
“We know what it takes to be successful,” added Panneton. “What we have to do is listen to our coaches, follow the program and take every day seriously. If we can stay together and teach the younger guys how to win and what it feels like, that will be very big for this team.”