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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 22, 2012

Guilderland baseball team is using a new hitting system for the new season

GUILDERLAND –– Head Coach Doug LaValley sat in a chair behind a backstop, clipboard in hand, grading his Dutchmen hitters for two hours on Tuesday. He was quite comfortable.

On LaValley’s clipboard was a brand new situational hitting system for the Guilderland baseball team that evaluates the players’ swings. The scheme has four rounds –– bunts, middle away, situational hitting, and seeds.

What is a seed?

“It’s a laser, clothesline, frozen rope, or hard-line drive,” said LaValley.

The Guilderland hitters are allowed six swings to hit the ball as hard as they can. Are seeds easy to find?

“You just know,” LaValley said. “You can tell if the ball is hit like a laser because it’s hit on a screw. You’ve got to wait for your pitch and try to do some damage, but there’s got to be an approach. You can’t just swing to swing.”

The new hitting system is being used to teach the Dutch some patience at the plate. LaValley said his hitters did well on Tuesday, but they could always get better.

“I like the new system a lot because it helps us keep focus,” said senior Adam Gersowitz. “We should try to hit better every day. We’re just trying to get our swings down. Our bat speed should be consistent.”

Guilderland went through the hitting process in groups of four while the other players fielded or hit in the batting cage. LaValley said that the hitting system was put into effect by assistant coach Nick Davey, who was throwing the hitters pitches on Tuesday. LaValley coached Davey at Catholic Central High School.

Players start out by bunting two balls to the first base side, two to the third base side, and two for hits. Next, balls are hit up the middle of the field or to the opposite way. In Round 3, it’s hit and run, infield in, infield back, sacrifice flies, or just trying to move runners over.

“We kind of had a hitting system last year, but this is more involved,” LaValley said. “It gives us feedback on the swings. What’s the success rate?”

A hitter’s worth isn’t always based on batting average. Sometimes, batters can be getting great contact, but also some bad luck. There’s a certain amount of luck involved in baseball.

“It’s the game of inches, right?” LaValley said. “When they hit a line drive for an out, they have to remember that time when they hit a little flair over the second baseman for a hit. It all evens out if you get enough swings.”

How hard is it to place the ball during an at bat?

“You’re not always trying to time it out, but it’s all about the approach,” Gersowitz said. “Batting practice is the perfect speed, so you’re getting your swing right if the ball is constantly getting hit up the middle.”

There weren’t many foul balls on Tuesday. Also, Guilderland looked quite organized.

“It’s important to understand where the strength of the team lies,” said LaValley. “Offensively, you need to do the right things –– get the runners over and lay down that bunt. You can’t give teams extra outs on defense, so pitchers need to stay ahead in the count and give the team a chance.”

There are new bats (BB Core) for the 2012 season, and this might make pitching a little more effective. “They react more like wood bats,” LaValley said. “The older bats had more of a trampoline effect. We might see less runs.”

The Dutchmen won’t have a pitching ace like Vinny Tamburello, who graduated last year, but the team has plenty of arms that can throw. Dylan Collett, Sam Cowles, Gersowitz, Eric Golderman, Zach Kronick, Matt Trestick, Tim Coppinger, Lewis Lima, and Ethan Bartlett can all pitch, LaValley said.

“I’ll take pitching and defense over hitting any day of the week,” said LaValley. “We’ll find a way.”

Senior Ryan Ghizzoni will have catching duties behind the plate. “No one’s going to blow anyone away,” Gersowitz said, “but we have more guys that can pitch.”

However, Tuesday was a hitting day. LaValley has been coaching baseball for 20 years, so he saw all the ins and outs of all the swings at practice. He routinely chimed in with feedback from that chair, only about five feet behind the batters.

“If you’re doing something wrong, you’re not going to get away with it,” Gersowitz said of his coach. “He knows how to fix things and he’s not afraid to tell you how. Today, he told me to stay back because I was dropping my hands. The guy sees everything.”

— By Jordan J. Michael

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