Experienced Blackbirds expect winning ways to continue all the way to the finals

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Throwing off a wooden mound at indoor practice on Monday, Voorheesville sophomore Nick Chiseri winds up before delivering a pitch. The Blackbirds made the state semifinals in 2012 and 2013, and Head Coach Kyle Turski says that Voorheesville has some of the best pitching in Section 2 for 2014.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Electric swing: Voorheesville junior Joe Guerette hits the baseball off a tee at practice on Monday. Guerette is one of eight juniors on the Birds’ roster for 2014.    

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Happy camper: The Voorheesville baseball team has been practicing indoors since March 3; the start of the regular season has been pushed back due to the inclement weather. Here, sophomore Alex Giordano waits for his turn to bat on Monday. The Birds have 13 players returning from its 2013 championship team.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Solid stance: Senior catcher Jared Paigo waits for a pitch to hit on Monday at Voorheesville’s baseball practice. The Blackbirds have lost the past two Class C state semifinal games, but the team moves up to Class B for this season. 

VOORHEESVILLE — Making the state semifinals for baseball in 2012 and 2013 was no fluke for Voorheesville. The Birds have had a distinctive approach, and always play with inspiring confidence.

With the experience that Voorheesville’s roster possesses — eight players have two regional titles — much of the same success can be expected for 2014.

It has been an exciting few years for the Blackbirds, but just getting to the state semifinals has left the team hungry. Making the finals, or winning a state championship would be more satisfying at this point.

For the last four or five years, Head Coach Kyle Turski said at practice on Monday, winning has been a culture for Voorheesville. “It’s an attitude; it’s something all these guys love to do as a team,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if one of them strikes out, as long as the team wins.”

The Birds have 12 returning players who already know their roles. They’ve made that big out, thrown that nasty pitch, and hit that game-winning RBI when it really counts.

“We want to do it for ourselves, for the team,” said senior Mike Hennessy of winning more titles. “We’ll work as hard as we can to get there.”

Continually being a champion may have put Voorheesville up on a pedestal, but the players don’t have time to worry about that. There is time only for practice and improvement, even if the team has been stuck inside since March 3 with snow still on the ground.

“We’ll come out and play our baseball,” said Voorheesville’s other senior, Jared Paigo. “If we win, then that’s great.”

“You never play well if you’re nervous,” added sophomore Nick Chiseri, who, as a freshman last year, practically pitched lights out.

Turski is very high on his pitching staff — Chiseri, and juniors Kristian Singh, Joe Guerette, and Zach Childs — for this season. Last year, Chiseri kept batters guessing, Singh had eight strike-outs in a complete game performance in the Class C regional finals, and Guerette got four huge outs against Stillwater in the sectional semifinals.

“We have the best pitching in Section 2,” Turski said without blinking. “I have no problem pulling a name out of a hat and giving one of them the baseball for the day. I would close my eyes and point to one of them. I’m 110-percent confident that they’ll get the job done.”

Depending on how late the start of the regular season is pushed back — Turski didn’t really know, but Voorheesville definitely won’t be opening the season as scheduled next Monday — Childs may be used as a starting pitcher, but Turski wants to use him as a closer. Also pitching at Monday’s practice was junior Kyle Payne, and Turski said that new freshman acquisition Dalton Esposito will see the mound this season.

Paigo, Hennessy, and Chiseri seemed to agree with Coach Turski’s opinion of Voorheesville’s pitching personnel. Paigo would know; he’s the catcher.

“We have a very strong staff,” said Chiseri, who throws left-handed. “We’re all confident; we’ve all been through tough situations, and we have the experience.”

With the frequency that the Birds’ pitchers have struck opposing batters out, the fielders may not have to worry about making very many plays. Over the last two years, the baseball has fallen into nice places.

“Good things are going to happen,” Turski said. “Those guys have gotten big outs as sophomores and freshmen that you would hope your seniors would get a chance to do. We’re extremely lucky.”

However, Voorheesville’s starting second baseman from last season, Tom Gallager, tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during basketball season; he’s out for the year.

“That was a devastating blow, but players go down; that’s part of the game,” said Turski.

In the middle of last season, Childs broke his arm.

“Every year, someone steps up to fill a role, even if we didn’t expect it,” Turski said. “They take advantage of the situation, and a handful of guys could do that this year. We don’t expect a drop- off.”

Voorheesville expects to win games, no matter who is healthy.

Turski said that he doesn’t make up any “if we don’t” or “if we can’t” scenarios.

“Everyone talked about Nico Church, but we don’t have him now,” Hennessy said. “What about Alex Giordano in right field?”

Church and Mike Young provided Voorheesville with a lot of runs last season before graduating.

“It’s a new season,” Chiseri said. “The past is the past.”

The Blackbirds moved up to Class B from Class C. Turski isn’t too concerned about the change; the Colonial Council has teams from Class B and A. Previously, Voorheesville wasn’t familiar with its Class C playoff opponents.

The Voorheesville basketball team, which Hennessy, Childs, and Alex Minnick were part of, made the same class move, and ended up winning a sectional title.

“That proved a point; it’s a normal thing,” Turski said. “It’s another challenge, but we just have to beat whoever is in front of us. If anything, I see more familiarity.”

Despite maybe having to play four games per week because of the schedule reconfiguration, or despite the change of opponents at playoff time, Turski says that Voorheesville’s goal remains the same: Make it to the state semifinals.

“If we want to win our third title, we’ve got to work at least three times harder,” said Turski. “This is a different team — not the same team as last year, or the year before that. So, as a collective whole, they have not accomplished anything.”

However, 12 of Voorheesville’s 13 players have won a sectional championship, and a regional championship, and eight of them have won two of each. There’s nowhere for the Blackbirds to go but up.

“If you work hard, and practice hard, you’re going to make it,” Paigo said. “Things will pay off.”

Voorheesville usually has a loose swagger, but Monday’s practice was draped in seriousness. The Blackbirds seem like a team that’s determined to do something.

Hennessy sat on a bench away from the rest of his teammates for several minutes, clutching a bat, and staring at the floor. The sound of a hard pitch hitting a leather glove echoed throughout the gymnasium.

“They know what it’s like, and they know how to win,” Turski said. “Most importantly, they know what it takes to win.”

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