BY THE SKIN OF HIS TEETH — A North Collins player slides into second as S-GI’s Adam Wolfley stretches for the ball.
SPRINGVILLE — The loss still stings.
Springville-Griffith Institute varsity baseball had runners on second and third, with two outs, trailing Tonawanda 5-3 in the seventh inning of the Section VI B1 Championship. Springville’s Kyle Crotty ripped a line drive up the middle that was headed for center field, until Tonawanda pitcher Nick Pullo snared it, for the final out of the game.
“The way we lost in the playoffs last year was tough,” Springville coach Ron Tamraz said. “We outplayed Tonawanda. We out-pitched them, we out-hit them, but we just didn’t do what we had to do to win. High school baseball is just that. Who is going to make the least number of mistakes?”
Springville was a young team, last season, with three seniors in their starting lineup and as the No. 9 seed, they were not expected to run the table and advance to the championship game. Tonawanda was a senior-laden group and the top seed that made the plays, when they meant the most.
A year later, Springville goes from being a young Cinderella to an experienced favorite to win a division title and contend for the sectional crown.
“There really is no limit to what we can do this year,” Tamraz said. “With the kids we have coming back, we lost Billy Dickinson last year, but we have our entire pitching staff and our JV pitching staff has done a great job coming up. We have a very talented group.”
Springville has a roster of 13 and six of them are returning starters. Tamraz noted that all 13 players will have role on the team and will see playing time.
“This is by the far the deepest team I’ve ever had,” Tamraz said. “We have a number of kids that have been playing all year long, kids that played in New Era and all the summer leagues they’ve been playing in – this is just a big group of kids that really like to play baseball. It’s not just an activity, for these kids. They want to win and they want play at the next level and it shows.”
OVER THE FENCE — Adam Wolfley cracks the bat during a game against North Collins that opened the varsity baseball season. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
The team’s depth is most apparent with its pitching staff. Nine players will enter this season with experience on the mound and Springville returns its entire pitching rotation.
“I’ve never had this many guys that can throw the ball before,” Tamraz said. “I know that I won’t have to go so deep with my starters. That will give us a lot more opportunities with our guys, later in weeks. If we have three or four games in a week, you need to have that depth. Hopefully, these guys will come in and do what they can. What you do in practice or what you do in the gym is different than what you do when it counts.”
Senior right-hander Drew Scharra and junior right-hander Kyle Crotty will headline the Griffs’ rotation. Scharra is two-time divisional all-star, having been named a first-team all-star as a sophomore and as a junior. As a junior, he finished the season with a 2.55 earned run average. Crotty is a reigning second-team all-star – finishing last season with team-leading 1.00 ERA and was instrumental to Springville’s success in the playoffs.
“Drew has been our ace, for the last few years, but Kyle Crotty is right there, too,” Tamraz said. “Kyle did such a great job in the playoffs, last year. I’m looking to have two aces.”
Senior Jon Weronski is a three-year varsity player who will see innings, as will juniors Wyatt Sibiga, Pat Emmick and Tucker Grimm.
Sophomore Kyle Warner was called up to varsity this season and will see time on the mound, as well. Senior Noah George saw limited pitching time last season, but will provide even more depth for Springville. Senior Tyler Conklin pitched some innings last season, but had a shoulder injury, during football season, and has not pitched in practice.
Senior Adam Wolfley will lead off this season and split time playing both infield and outfield, like he did last season. Wolfley has experience playing all three outfield positions, as well as second base and shortstop. Wolfley led Springville with 18 singles, last season, and had a .333 batting average.
“His speed and his attitude have been great,” Tamraz said, of Wolfley. “He knows what he has to do. He’s a kid that says ‘I need to get on base.’ However he has to get on base, he’ll do it. With a man on base, he knows what he has to do to move him. I don’t have to tell him. Even in the cage, we’re playing simulated games and he’s up there bunting without me even telling him.”
The Griffs return the heart of their batting order in Crotty, Scharra and Conklin. Scharra will see himself in two-whole after hitting .417 last season and leading Erie County Interscholastic III in walks, with 19, and in on-base percentage. Conklin led ECIC III in both doubles, with eight, and RBIs, with 16. Crotty hit .329 in his first full season on varsity.
“Crotty is going to hit when it counts,” Tamraz said. “Scharra is going to hit .400 or better. Conklin is going to hit some bombs. We’re looking forward to scoring a lot of runs.”
An x-factor for Springville, according to Tamraz, may be the emergence of junior Kyle McCarthy. McCarthy was the team’s No. 9 hitter last season, but will move to the middle of the order – hitting either four or five.
“Kyle has put on 20 pounds and he spent the whole summer playing ball,” Tamraz said. “He’s not going to be a No. 9 hitter for us, this year. He’s going to be in the middle of the order and be able to drive the ball more than he did last year.”
Juniors Devin Pazzuti, Brian Poppenberg and George will see time in the outfield, for Springville. The infield is very interchangeable, with a number of guys that are able to play multiple positions. Scharra has experience playing shortstop, second base and third base. Crotty and Conklin both have experience playing shortstop and third base. Weronski and Grimm can play third base and the outfield. Sibiga and Emmick will play first base, while Warner can play first and the outfield.
“There isn’t a single kid on this team that won’t be able to contribute, at some point,” Tamraz said.
“We’re going to mix and match the outfielders and just see what they can do. They’re all just as good as each other. Whoever is hot is going to play.”
Grimm, a junior that can pitch, play third base and the outfield, has impressed Tamraz in practice, so far.
“Tucker has been the most impressive guy in the cage, so far,” Tamraz said.
“He comes in, throws strikes and keeps the ball low. He’s going to be a kid that I ask myself ‘Where do I put him today?’”
Springville defeated North Collins 22-0, on March 29, the first game of the season. Crotty was a home run away from hitting for the cycle and had 4 RBIs. Scharra had 2 triples and 4 RBIs as well, while Conklin had 2 singles and 3 RBIs.
“You can’t win on paper; you have to go out and play,” Tamraz said. “Every practice, they’ve been working hard. It’s a really talented group. We’ll see what happens.”
Springville had games against Tonawanda and Gowanda postponed due to field conditions and will travel to Depew on April 7 and Pioneer on April 8.