Andrew Sponable, who pitched for Johnsburg last season, will take the mound for the Mountaineers in 2013.
April 19 @ Elizabethtown
April 20 Chazy @ Minerva
April 22 @ Long Lake
April 24 Wells @ Minerva
April 29 @ Keene
May 1 @ Schroon Lake
May 3 Westport @ Newcomb
May 8 @ Johnsburg
May 10 @ Crown Point
May 13 Indian Lake-Long Lake @ Newcomb
May 15 @ Wells
May 20 Keene @ Newcomb
At first glance, a 16-player roster for the Minerva-Newcomb varsity baseball team sounds impressive, but veteran Coach Ed LaCourse is faced with several challenges this season that could prevent the team from beating its 6-4 record last season.
“It’s a weird season,” said LaCourse, a teacher at Newcomb Central School. “I have no idea where we’re going to end up this year.”
The first question mark is the group of six international students. They’ve never played baseball before.
“It’s more of a challenge for me because when you’re coaching at the varsity level and you end up having to deal with some of the most basic skills that are usually done at Little League level, it kind of slows things down at times,” LaCourse said. “I’ve decided they’re just going to have to basically come along with whatever gifts they have.”
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Last year, for example, the team was fortunate to have one player from Brazil who caught on quickly and ended up being an All-Star caliber player. And there are currently a few international students who have the potential to be good ball players.
“They’ve never played, but they’ve got the athletic ability and they are coming along at an accelerated rate,” LaCourse said.
One standout could be Bryton Chikukwa, of Zimbabwe, who has played on the Mountaineers’ soccer and basketball teams this year.
“I’ve never seen a kid hit a ball so hard in my entire life,” LaCourse said about Chikukwa. “He’s never hit a baseball in his entire life, but he hits it like he’s Hank Aaron.”
Hitting a ball in a batting cage is one thing; hitting during a game situation is another.
“He’s never been in a game situation and faced a pitcher,” LaCourse said. “It’s just a big question mark whether he’ll pan out or not. He could be a monster hitter. The kids don’t even want to get out there when he’s hitting because he’s just cremating it.”
Another challenge this year has been the weather, with snow on the ball field late in the season. Coach LaCourse was hoping to teach the inexperienced players the baseball fundamentals on the diamond, but their inability to go outside and practice on the field “has just destroyed those plans,” he said. The weather also forced the cancellation of four scrimmages.
There’s only such much the team can do inside. Last week, LaCourse was desperate for a change and decided the team needed some fresh air.
“I had them out in the snow yesterday with boots on,” LaCourse said Thursday, April 11. “I got pretty desperate. I hit them fly balls in the snow.”
If the Mountaineers are going to make a move anytime in the next few years, this is the season, and LaCourse is hoping his four returning seniors will lead the way with their solid hitting and defense: Austin Williams, Wesley LaBar, Tyler Clickner and Justin Viele.
One bright addition to the team is Andrew Sponable, a Newcomb Central School sophomore who played for the Jaguars in 2012.
“He pitched well for Johnsburg last year, and this year he’s bigger and stronger,” LaCourse said. “I was a pitcher, so I’ve been able to work with him. He looks very good.”
The pitching rotation also includes seniors Wesley LaBar and Austin Williams.
Here is the roster for the 2013 Mountaineers: sophomores Andrew Sponable, Mickey Johnson, Steven Viele, Dustin Saville and Elias Ahrens; juniors Jorge Bertomeau, Borja Martinez, Alex Ruzbacki, Jacob Galusha and Marco Silvo; and seniors Tyler Clickner, Austin Williams, Wesley LaBar, Justin Viele, Xian Zhou and Bryton Chikukwa.
The Mountaineers were expected to open their season at home against Johnsburg on Wednesday, April 17 and had games scheduled for Friday, April 19 in Elizabethtown and Saturday, April 20 at home against Chazy.