The Post-Journal

Team Chemistry Helps No.1 Westfield Compile 15-0 Record

The No. 1 ranked Westfield Wolverines are marching through Class c baseball with the same winning formula that many World Series champions have displayed in the past.Pitching. Defense. Hard work.

They also fashion a couple of stud players and veteran leaders who help maintain the most important part of a winning ball club – team chemistry.

Currently sitting at 15-0 on the year with two Division 3 games left after Wednesday’s rainout, the Wolverines were spending their postponed evening in uncharacteristic fashion.

“I was getting text messages from some of the players,” said Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach. “’Let’s go hit tonight. And now they’re getting together at 7 tonight to hit.”

Like the underdog World Series Champion Florida Marlins of 2003, the Wolverines are making a spectacular run of greatness while flying under the radar along the way.

“We keep it pretty loose in the clubhouse,” Kaltenbach said. “They have truly bought into the one-game-at-a-time philosophy. They’ve made me believe in it more and I’m the one saying it.”

Kaltenbach never mentioned going undefeated to his team until this week. Westfield’s baseball program has never done it before, but now they want to go as far as possible.

Right now they’re so focused,” he said. “They want to end the year undefeated.”

As is the case with most talented teams, the Wolverines have playmakers and leaders all over the field. Nick Quagliana, John Blynt, and Marcus Cuevas are each having storybook seasons for the Wolverines.

“Quagliana is an all-world catcher. He’s an animal back there,” Kaltenbach said. “As a coach it’s a calming thing to have him behind the plate.”

Quagliana’s throwing arm has developed quite a reputation with base stealers around the league and his .487 average to date is nothing short of spectacular.

Blynt, currently hitting .412, is recognized as the staff ace and the go-to guy for Kaltenbach in the big games, but it might be Cuevas, the shortstop, who raises the most eyebrows from opposing dugouts.

He was an all-star outfielder and first baseman in 2007, but after the 16-4 campaign from a year ago left let three key positions open, Kaltenbach had a few questions to ask his smooth-fielding outfielder.

“Hey, I have a little challenge for you,” Kaltenbach said, approaching Cuevas in the offseason. “How about giving shortstop a try?”

“No, I’m not allowed to play shortstop,” Cuevas responded.

“Says who?”Kaltenbach persisted.

“I’m not allowed because I’m left-handed,” said Cuevas.

“Says who?” his coach repeated.

Kaltenbach made a deal with his all-star player to at least give it a try temporarily. Cuevas has evolved into a slick-fielding shortstop and is the best glove in the Wolverines’ infield.

“It’s become a thing with him and me,” Kaltenbach said. “He and I just laugh about it, but so many people comment on it.”

The keys to success are not unusual – pitching, great infield play, and few errors. Behind Blynt the Wolverines have several talented pitchers they can bring in at any time.

Early in the year during the Pine Valley Wood Bat Tournament, Kaltenbach’s squad realized it was possibly venturing into a special season when it defeated large school powerhouse Lake Shore. That coupled with a few tough wins against the defending Class D state champions from Pine Valley, the undefeated season was starting to become a possibility.

“I knew we would be a good team and our goal was to win the division, but we didn’t expect to be this good,” Kaltenbach said.

Pine Valley also only lost three players from a year ago, so Kaltenbach knew beating the Panthers would be difficult to do , let alone three times like they have thus far.

“We have a good sense of keeping things into perspective. We don’t worry about teams down the road,” Kaltenbach said. “We play one at a time and it works great.”

Down the road, Westfield will be playing Forestville to day and at Panama on Friday to finish up the Division 3 schedule. A big test in Division 1 Gowanda is looming around the corner on Tuesday for the Wolverines regular-season finale before sectionals begin.

“The kids support each other a lot. It’s huge and it makes it easier to coach,” Kaltenbach praised. “They don’t fight or bicker and they like to be together.”

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