WILMINGTON -- Fresh faces have joined the Twin Valley baseball team this season, and that includes three new coaches on staff.
While he is still considered head skipper of the Wildcats, Jim Burke said his role this time around has become more managerial.
"I went out and made sure I got the right people," said Burke. "I want to see my players this year gravitate to the other coaches on the team."
Burke set out to find the best, and he thinks he’s found what he’s been searching for, after adding Mark Berman, Jesse Lane, and Mitchell Balutski to the ball team’s roster.
"I had no assistant coaches just two months ago," said Burke. "The important thing, was to bring in fresh blood."
Lane had previously coached Wildcats middle school hoops, and Berman put in his time coaching for a New York state team.
"New ideas are always needed," said Burke, who is in his fifth year coaching the Wildcats.
As far as freshmen are concerned, Burke said he’ll look to Brett Swanson, Ethan Fox, and Kyle Lazelle for that extra boost.
The team has been practicing their swings against a pitching machine, noted Burke, a strategy he feels will give Twin Valley the edge come opening day, when the team plays at West Rutland, Wednesday, April 9.
Not a single player’s position has been set in stone, said Burke, and he likes to have that kind of flexibility. He said he also encourages his players to speak up during games, since sometimes they have the best ideas.
"I like having options. We as coaches make the ultimate decision, but we also look to the players for the next move," he said. "There are a lot of positions they can move around."
That kind of flexibility can be seen in Wildcats’ hurlers Sam Molner, Kyle Murdock, Nesbitt brothers Cade and Dal, Dylan Johnson, and Craig Green. "Johnson gets us going in the first inning," said Burke, "We can use Green, Cade’s ready this year, and if necessary, Colin Lozito might pitch."
In their first game, Lozito will probably start as catcher, Johnson, when not on the mound, can handle first or third, while Molner and Dal should go the distance. If Chris Robinson turns out to be a decent catcher, Lozito will most likely move to shortstop, Molner is often first baseman when not on the hill, and Cade, with his long range, will cover the outfield with Jeremy Hunt, Nicolas Goodnow, or Brett Swanson.
Burke thinks the team’s senior core has blossomed, so the crew will look for their leadership to carry them through tough times. That’s why a lot of them are at the top of the batting order.
Lozito will lead off and the Cade brothers can trade spots on-deck. Hicks can bat in a few runs when the chips are down, and Hunt and Goodnow go to work when required.
That begs the question: Who’s going to be in the no. 9 spot at bat? It’s a major role to play, noted Burke. "We need a bat there," he said. "It’s a question we always ask ourselves as coaches."
Twin Valley fell to MSJ in the second round of the 2013 Division 4 tournament, finishing with a 7-11 record.
Players -- Seniors: Colin Lozito, Dal Nesbitt, Cade Nesbitt, Craig Green, Dylan Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Nicolas Goodnow, Martin Balutski. Junior: Sam Molner. Sophomores: Kyle Murdock, Daylee Crawford, Justin Hicks, Chris Robinson. Freshmen: Brett Swanson, Ethan Fox, Kyle Lazelle. Coaches -- Jim Burke, Mark Berman, Jesse Lane, Mitchell Balutski.
David Aquino can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.