CLINTON — The Clinton baseball team will miss some of its senior leadership from last year, but with eight returning starters, second-year coach Rocco Bouse is sure this young team will come to play everyday in the Center State Conference this season.
Bouse said the Warriors have an advantage because he has been coaching most of these players since they were as young as 5 years old, having coached many of them in Clinton Little League over past years.
“I have a lot of rapport and credibility with many of these players,” Bouse said. “I think I know how to motivate the players, I know the areas where they are strong, and I know the areas they need to improve upon.”
The team finished 5-12 overall last season and went 5-9 in the league, and Bouse is confident the Warriors will be better this spring.
Weather-permittting, Clinton was slated to open its season Wednesday at home against Sauquoit Valley.
“Last year we struggled with our pitching,” Bouse said. “If you look at our record I can count quickly five games we had in the bag we just couldn’t close out because we didn’t have the pitching.”
Bouse is expecting some of his returning players to be “impact players” like junior pitcher Andrew Krom, who Bouse describes as the team’s probable ace. The left-hander showed a lot of promise last year and worked very hard in the offseason, noted Bouse.
Senior Jandre Garcia, a third-year starter, and the guy Bouse described last season as his best all-around player will start at shortstop and double as the team’s No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher.
Senior captain Brady Dabrinski, who’s played varsity baseball since he was an eighth grader is back. Bouse said he’s had some arm problems that kept him off the mound the past three years, relegating him to first base. However, this year he’s healthy, the arm is strong and Bouse sees him coming into the starting rotation. Junior Alex Mancuso, a returning starter, left-handed hurler, who also plays center field, is another returning player Bouse feels really good about.
“On paper, for pitching, we are deep,” Bouse said. “I expect the games we kind of gave away last year, this season we’re going to be able to close those games out.”
Bouse hopes to use junior Joel Cleveland, one of his hardest throwers with the ability to launch a pitch somewhere in the upper-70s, to close out some games this season.
Other key players include sophomore Luke Bouse who came up to varsity as a freshman last season to lead most offensive categories. Bouse, who throws right, bats left is described by his coach as “very fast” and a “tough out.” Also, up from JV is Noah King who is expected to contribute on the mound right away. Additionally, sophomore Cam Angle, a “utility player” who played JV last year is one of Clinton’s best hitters coming up and is expected to hit somewhere in the middle of the line up. Angle can play first base, short-stop, he catches and can play the outfield, a very diverse athlete that Bouse feels will be key for the team.
The Warriors intend to improve on their base running. And playing what Bouse describes as “small ball” - hit and runs, bunts and runs, double steals, drawing some walks and trying to engage the players. Bouse said they are a very fast team.
“Top to bottom we have a lot of speed,” the Warriors coach said.
With second year varsity players, Bouse said he expects his outfield to be very tight.
He also said he’s scheduled both home and away games with Tri-Valley League teams like Utica Proctor, Notre Dame and Oneida. That level of play, pitching, fielding and hitting is something he wants his team to experience to better prepare them for sectional play.
Bouse said he sees a higher level of commitment from these players this year saying they’re much more focused than last year. He said he sees a lot of confidence in the team the second year of running his system and he feels his players are buying into it and are starting to see the results.