SOMERS, N.Y.— Murphy’s law of anything that can go wrong, will go wrong applied to Somers baseball’s 2016 season. Right from the start, Somers suffered injuries to key players. The Tuskers lost an unheard of seven athletes to season-ending injuries, resulting in a three-win season and missing out on the playoffs for the first time in ages.
A new season is a breath of fresh air for a Somers team that is hoping to return to prominence. The Tuskers won three straight Class A section titles from 2007-2009 and reached the finals in 2011. But Somers hasn’t gotten past the quarterfinals of the playoffs since then.
“These kids really want to be the face of what we’re setting forth this year and in the future,” Somers coach Joe Wootten said. “They’re motivated and they’re ready to go. They refuse to have a repeat of what happened last year.”
Senior Marc Maestri, a team captain and three-year varsity player, missed all of last season with an injury, but the left-handed pitcher is ecstatic to be back.
“After not playing in a Somers baseball uniform in almost two years, I’m very excited to get back out there,” Maestri said. “After having to watch the tough, injury-riddled season from the dugout last year, I’m looking forward to showing the section what we’re really about. Being able to come back to the field with this group of boys makes it even more special.”
Maestri will play first base when he isn’t pitching and provides a big bat in the middle of the lineup.
“He’s all set and ready to go,” Wootten said. “He’s foaming at the mouth. He can’t wait (to play).”
Senior Matt Pires, who is coming off an all-state football season where he helped lead the Tuskers to a state title, returns at shortstop after missing most of last season with mononucleosis. Pires, a three-year varsity player who is committed to the University of Rhode Island for football, is also a team captain and will bat at the top of the order.
“Matty’s our leader,” Wootten said. “He embraces the role. He only played six or seven games last year because of mono. He’s just ready to play baseball this year, which I think is his best sport. It’s going to be good for him—his senior year—to shine through a little bit.”
Second base is a battle between seniors Michael Hirsch and Matt Mariani. “Whoever hits is going to get the position,” Wootten said.
Another position battle is taking place at third base between senior Joe Napolitano and junior Nick Keating.
“We’ve got a great bunch of guys who are willing to work and compete,” Pires said. “We have the tools to have a great season this year. We just have to come out and execute.”
Junior Eric Ferrara will start behind the dish at catcher for the second-straight season.
Senior center fielder Garrett Wilson is also a captain and the leader of an outfield that Wootten is confident in. Junior Nick Ruggiero gets the starting nod in right field and fellow junior Anthony DeCoro will start in left field.
“We’ve got a pretty good defensive outfield,” Wootten said. “These kids can track it. It’s just going to be interesting how they hit. I know Garrett’s going to be able to hit varsity pitching, but it’s going to be interesting to see how these juniors do.”
Pires agrees that the Tuskers are sure-handed in the field.
“The strength of this year’s team is our defense,” he said. “We have more than enough guys that can go out there and play ball. We just have to perform on the offensive side and we’re going to be a hard team to beat.”
Napolitano, Hirsch and Logan Carriero join Maestri as the top four starting pitchers.
Carriero is the lone sophomore on the roster and is a relief pitcher and back-end starter. “He can bring it,” Wooten said. “We brought him up for a reason—to see what he can do.”
Senior Colin Smith is the first right-hander out of the bullpen. Junior Jack Torre and Ruggiero are right-handed relief options.
The Tuskers have an endless supply of pitching with 12 players capable of toeing the rubber.
“With the new pitching mandates, everyone’s going to pitch,” Wootten said. “It’ll be interesting. If a guy throws 105 pitches on a Monday, he has to wait four days until he can pitch again...Everyone will pitch and get their shot at glory. Whoever gets guys out, that’s who’s going to play.”
The three senior captains in Pires, Maestri and Wilson will lead the Tuskers offensively.
“Those guys will be our run producers and our table setters,” Wootten said. “We don’t have a lot of guys with a lot of at-bats at the varsity level except for those three. Ferrara was our starter last year, so he’s seen a lot of varsity pitching. We have some team speed this year, which is a nice thing to have. Our outfielders can fly, so hopefully when they get on the bases they can cause a little bit of havoc.”
The Tusker roster is rounded out by juniors Mario Caltabellotta, Bryce Shor, Carter Sitar, Joe Marino, Ryan Cameron, Chris Boncardo, Nick Fiore and Jack Albero.
Somers opens the season on the road against Roosevelt today at 4:15 p.m.
“After last year’s season our team is taking a different approach in practice to turn things around,” Maestri said. “We have a lot of new juniors and a sophomore who are bringing hard work and focus every day. With Somers sports this year doing well all around, the mindset of this team is to keep the success alive. Everyone is healthy and ready to get the season started.”