Such is the case with the 2011 Sawyers, who as of press time are a robust 6-1 overall, with a 4-1 record in league play. Their closest competition in the MHAL’s Division I is Rondout Valley, a mere 2-3 against league opponents.
So things are going well for Saugerties. Still, they’re hungry, an encouraging sign for fans who want to see the team play well into the postseason.
“I felt like we were going to have more success but you can’t be disappointed with this start,” said senior Darren Lareau. “There’s always room for improvement, but I think the team has settled into a good position to be competitive.”
The team’s lone loss came against a previously winless Wallkill, a team that somehow came away from Cantine Field with a 7-2 victory over a far superior Saugerties club. Though as competitors they’d like to win every game (like the Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, who genuinely felt like his team ought to be able to go 162-0), it’s possible that this unexpected early season loss might do more to motivate the team than an easy win would have. From that point forward, they’ve taken nothing for granted.
“We had one hiccup against Wallkill, a game in which they just outplayed us,” said senior Alex Lindsay. “We’re starting to hit even better and pitching will always be there for us. For what we need to improve, I would say just to keep the fire going and keep pushing towards becoming the best we can be.”
Junior Justin Whittaker agreed.
“There is always room for improvement no matter how good your team is,” he said.
For the players on the team who were around last season, the disappointment of a 9-9 record still casts a shadow. Barring a monumental collapse, the Sawyers are certainly poised to put that relative failure behind them this year. Focus is the key, said most of the players polled for this story. That and remaining confident without getting cocky.
“Right now I think we’re in a good place with everything, but we have to always want to do better the next game and improve on anything we can,” said senior Elan Trischitta. “In think the biggest hurdle is going to be staying focused throughout the entire season because it’s still very early and there’s a lot of baseball left to be played.”
That focus was certainly there early on when the team showed their mettle with three straight one-run victories. It was also there during their most recent game, a 9-2 home win against Rondout on Thursday, April 21 that put an even greater chasm between the division’s top two teams.
Against the Ganders, the Sawyers did all their scoring in a tidal wave of a fourth inning, with Trischitta and Whittaker each blasting two-run singles and Mike Dodig adding a two-run double. Through three, Saugerties had only managed a single baserunner against Ganders pitcher Austin Dreher, but their collective patience paid off all at once. Senior hurler Jordan Baschnagel went six innings for the Sawyers to pick up the win.
Saugerties has shown they can win in close games and hang on in blowouts, both good signs for the inevitable visit to the playoffs. But with 2/3 of the regular season still ahead of them, the Sawyers know they’ve got to keep their focus in the now rather than the future.
“I think we should just stay focused and not lose sight of what’s still ahead,” said junior Eli Riozzi. “Wallkill was a bad loss, but we’re determined in making that our only blemish this season.”
Riozzi admitted that the Sawyers have been able to use shock and awe this season, because even with the program’s past successes, last year’s modest record may have given some teams the impression they weren’t going to be competitive in 2011.
“I felt like we were going to be a good team this year, and I’m glad other teams didn’t, and we kind of flew under the radar,” he said, adding that their looseness before games may have also proven deceptive. “We do things before games that probably make other teams think of us as pushovers. But hey, it’s not how good you look while stretching that matters. All the things we do before games keeps us loose, and now we are tearing it up out there.”
Many of the Sawyers noted individual teams they’re most looking forward to playing, with New Paltz coming up most frequently.
“New Paltz is going to be a tough game for us, like always, but I think this year we’re going to take it without any trouble,” said senior Jon Hindes.
Asked if there have been any defining moments for the team early on this season, players offered different takes. Some thought it was early wins, when a few of the team’s best players were battling injuries and the reserves carried the day.
“I think the defining moment of the season was our first game against Marlboro,” said senior Matt Dittus. “We had to overcome adversity in that game after losing one of our best players and then losing the lead towards the end of the game. Some guys came up big in key situations and we refused to lose, coming back in the last inning to take the lead and eventually win the game. That game showed how tough we were as a team and we didn’t give up on the game and refused to quit.”
Lindsay opted to not choose a single game or moment, instead saying that the season as a whole will be what defines the team.
“We look at each game as an equal to every other,” he said. “If anything, this final season with most of us leaving this year will be our defining moment on Saugerties proving how well we can play the sport we all know and love. This sport teaches us about life: the right way to deal with competition; teamwork; believing in something other than ourselves. It’s a beautiful thing, this sport.”