Let it go, but learn from it.
Those are the words of wisdom the Kenmore West Blue Devils baseball team will try to live by in the spring of 2017.
On paper, the Blue Devils return a veteran lineup that is rich with baseball talent. But, through some painful experiences of the past, those returning veterans know that all the talent in the world doesn’t mean much if you don’t play your hardest until the final out.
The Blue Devils had a harsh reminder of that lesson last season and it cost them a chance to advance in sectionals.
After going 9-5 in the Niagara Frontier League, the Blue Devils earned the right for a home playoff game where they played Williamsville North. The Blue Devils were leading and seemed to be ready to advance. But the unthinkable happened. The game got away in the later innings as the Spartans scored the stunning comeback to end Ken-West’s season.
“I agree 100 percent,” Blue Devils coach John Haynes said. “That still bothers me, but you’ve got to let it go. Let it go, but learn from it. And I think these guys have a lot of fire in their eyes and they haven’t forgotten about that. I’m not saying they didn’t want to go farther last year. I think they know and they learned from it. So the expectations are pretty high.”
Leading the way for the Blue Devils will be seniors Kyle LaPlante (SS) and Benny Serrano (3B/OF) who have both signed to play ball for Division I Niagara University. Serrano, who has been on varsity since freshman year, said that he hopes the painful lessons of the past will serve as reminders that no win is a lock until that final out.
“Exactly,” Serrano said. “On paper it may say (we’re good), but it depends on how we do on the field. Everyone’s got to do their part one hundred percent, every game. I believe that we’re going to have a good season this year. There’s a lot of returners and a lot of guys that just want to win every game. I’m big on winning. I hate losing and I’m pretty sure everyone here hates losing, too.”
The Blue Devils will not be short on arms as at least nine of their 19 players will be able to take the hill for them.
The rotation will be built around returnees senior Richard Fries (1B/3B), junior Andrew Fron (INF) and sophomore Dom Schmidt (OF/1B) who is coming off of a breakout rookie season.
Senior Jacob Pray (OF), senior Scott Hanesworth (INF/OF) and junior Owen Green (INF) will also be able to eat up innings on the hill.
Senior Adam Pray returns as the Blue Devils starting catcher while fellow senior Patrick Gourlay will be at second base.
Due to field renovations at Kenmore West High School the Blue Devils are scheduled to practice and play all home games at Sheridan Park. The mental grind of being road warriors is something the Blue Devils will have to combat and hopefully turn into a plus that will pull them closer together as a team.
Zach LaPlante, Cole Phillips, Mike Pinzel, Andrew Eckert, George Kaselis, Joe Liszka, Jacob Robb, Chris Mang and Ryan Glabb complete the Ken-West opening day roster.
“Our goal is to be playing at the end of the season for that blue (sectional championship) patch,” Haynes said.