NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— Last year’s run to a Class C state championship was something the North Salem baseball team will never forget.
But now a new season is on the horizon and the Tigers are aiming for another run at a section and state championship.
With six everyday players returning and two aces, that could very much become a reality.
“It’s one of those things that’s in the back of everyone’s mind and is our driving force this year, but we’re trying not to talk about it and ease into the regular season,” senior Connor Mahoney said. “We’re taking it practice by practice, game by game and we’ll focus on sectionals as it approaches. Overall, I’d say we’re pretty confident we will take the section, but from there, it’s hard to say because there’s some notable teams out there and we will need to cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Coach Rob Gilchrist isn’t looking too far down the line. He’s taking it one game at a time as the Tigers have a loaded schedule once again.
“Our main goal as a team is having the mindset of getting better each day,” said Gilchrist, who was the Class C state coach of the year last season.
Mahoney and senior J.B. Healy return to spark the pitching staff. Mahoney, a left-hander with pinpoint control, will be the ace of the staff.
The pitching staff graduated ace Dan Capra, who came through in the clutch in many big games last season including the section final, regionals and state semifinals. Capra was the Class C state player of the year in 2016.
“Losing Danny in general is rough because he did it all,” said Mahoney, who was third team all-state as a junior. “His pitching performances couldn’t get any better when it mattered the most. When he went out there, everyone had a sense of confidence and trust in him. We have two juniors and a sophomore who have been looking good during [bullpen sessions], and I think they’re all in the running for the No. 3, but it’s hard to say who will take it because it’s much different when you’re outside on the field facing hitters live. We should be able to tell in the next couple of weeks which one is standing out.”
While the Tigers are figuring out who will be behind Mahoney and Healy in the rotation, Gilchrist likes what he sees in the early going.
“My assistant coach Matt Mackenzie and I feel very good about our pitching staff,” Gilchrist said. “Will Baumler, Shane Cotter, Rian Balbino and Matthew Bond will compete for the remaining spots on our rotation.”
When Mahoney isn’t on the hill, he can be found in the outfield, while the versatile Healy can play either infield or roam the outfield.
Senior shortstop Adam Concadoro, an all-state selection in 2016, sets the table as the Tigers’ leadoff hitter and provides a sure-handed glove.
Junior Nate Carminucci returns behind the plate. Senior Jesse Fleming served as the designated hitter during North Salem’s playoff run and can also play first base and the outfield. Senior Phil Foglia is a first baseman with a strong glove and is a line-drive hitter.
Senior infielder Danny Press rounds out the key returners for a North Salem team which doesn’t have captains.
“We do have seven experienced and hardworking seniors who will lead this team,” Gilchrist said.
Baumler, a junior, will compete with junior Anthony D’Innocenzo for the starting gig at second base.
Sophomore newcomer Kevin Connolly will have an opportunity to be the team’s starting third baseman and is the back-up catcher.
Concadoro, Mahoney, Healy, Foglia, Fleming and Carminucci will lead the offense with the Tigers looking to fill in the bottom of the order with some productive players. North Salem, which finished 19-5 a year ago, scored 58 runs during its playoff run and figures to be an offensive juggernaut again.
“We have a solid hitting team,” Mahoney said. “We have six returning everyday, experienced senior hitters in the lineup which is definitely a strength. We do also have some speed on the base paths and will continue to be aggressive and take extra bases whenever we can. We just need a few more hitters to fill out the bottom of the lineup and they’ll have to earn their spots. Once the lineup is in place and is working, we won’t mess with it and we can be quite a force if we can get into a hitting groove like last year.”
North Salem opens up by hosting the defending Class B section champions Keio Academy at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 1. The Tigers will also face the defending champions in the other two classes in Class A’s John Jay-Cross River (April 22 on the road) and Class AA’s Roy C. Ketcham (May 5 at home).
“Coach Gilchrist plans a very tough schedule,” Mahoney said. “Our first eight or so games will be tough and will really test us. But in the long run—when we play other Class C schools—we are more than prepared and the formula worked last year, so hopefully we can find similar results this year from this schedule.”