The Oyster River High School (ORHS) varsity baseball team is eager to start their season after being trapped inside watching the snow melt.
Despite some players on the ORHS boys’ varsity baseball team recovering from injuries, and despite having a younger team than normal seasons, the team is confident that their chemistry and versatility will help carry them to a championship this year. However, they have their work carved out for them as the first game approaches.
Heading into practice, the team is ambitious. “Pretty cut and dry: we’re shooting for a state championship this year. We acknowledged that we’re going to have to work hard. Coach is going to push us in practice, and […] we’re all ready to work,” said Wylder Tonkin (’23), a senior returning to the team this year.
Colin Klein (’24), a junior returning to varsity this season, says that last season the team was 4-4 heading into the middle of the season. After deciding as a team to put in the effort to bring them back to a positive record, though, they went on to win eight of the next nine games, ending the season 12-5.
This season, the team is hoping to start strong, and is ready to put in that effort right from the start. Fans can look forward to seeing “a team that is hungry to win,” says head coach Cam Calato.
Heading into their first game, home versus rivals Coe Brown at 4:30pm tomorrow, Wednesday April 12th, the team is hoping to contrast their opener last season, also versus Coe Brown, to build early-season momentum. “Last year, Coe Brown hung 5 runs on us in the first inning and spoiled our season opener,” said Calato. Now, the team has “a chance to redeem [themselves]” in the opening game.
The team is younger than most years, balanced fifty-fifty between underclassmen and upperclassmen, with eight of each on the 16-person roster. “The sophomore class specifically is very big and very talented, and I think that shows up in our roster. […] It’s both true to say that we’re a young team and that we’re a veteran team at the same time, which I think is a good mix,” says Calato.
In addition to being younger than normal, the team is missing some of its best. “Our two best players had off-season surgery—John Federico and Cam Sengenberger—our one and two hitters and fielders and pitchers, are coming back from injury,” says Calato. Missing those two players for the beginning of the season, the team has leadership space left open for other players to fill during the season’s first few weeks. “We’re going to be leaning on some younger kids early.”
However, the balance in age among the team will help provide versatility early on as younger players step into those vacant roles. “Every guy on the team could be seen as a leader, younger or older. This year, the team dynamic is that we’re all on the same level. We’re all one team. Everybody does their job,” says Tonkin.
Calato agrees. “Our roster, top to bottom, are all good baseball players who can seriously compete [in] several different positions on the field. Baseball is kind of a unique sport, where there are so many roles.” This variety will make the versatility of the team beneficial, especially early on.
The team has found chemistry to build easily. “That’s something they already have,” says Calato.
Players agree. “A lot of these guys we’ve already been on teams with, and we’ve played with them pretty much, growing up, full time. We’ve got a couple freshmen on the team—a couple younger guys—who are already fitting in pretty well. We’re already pretty tight knit,” says Tonkin.
John Federico (’23), another returning senior, is looking forward to that aspect of the team. “I think we’ve got a good chance at winning a lot of baseball games. I look forward to, obviously, winning games and playing together, but also the practices and just getting to know the guys. That’s definitely one of my favorite parts.”
However, there are still some hurdles for the team to jump. “Playing New England baseball, the biggest focus is getting ready to play in an actual game, rather than practicing inside. The goal is to see live arms outside and get some game experience so that we feel prepared going into the season,” says Federico. As of now, the team has yet to have many outside practices, let alone outside games or scrimmages, and players are eager to get out onto the diamond as temperatures warm.
To combat this lack of outdoor practice, though, the team is giving their all during these early-season practices. Calato has been emphasizing this, ensuring that the team puts in the work needed to prepare for the season while still inside.
For Finn Meehan (’23), it’s beyond just giving their all. “It’s more emphasized on pushing yourself further than you can right now. It doesn’t matter if you’re making the play, so long as you’re striving to be better and really pushing your limits on what you can do.”
This effort is supported by competition fostered within the team. “Our biggest strength is our versatility. [There are] a lot of things up in the air, but I think that’ll breed competition, which breeds success,” says Federico. That competition, and the efforts of the team, are sure to pay off once games begin.
The team is confident they’ll be ready to go by their first game. “We’re working hard at practice, giving 110%, going in ready for the season. We’ve got some guys [recovering], but everybody knows where they need to fill. We know our roles,” says Tonkin.
Come support the team at their home opener tomorrow at 4:30pm, when the Bobcats face rivals Coe Brown!