Making History

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D baseball championships are set with four teams vying for the state title.Three of the four teams – Smithtown Christian, Fort Ann and Oriskany – are familiar visitors as they have been to Conlan Field at McArthur Park before.

Then, there is the Westfield Wolverines.

The Section 6 champions are heading to the big dance for the first time in school history and are undaunted at the task ahead of them.

“We are on a mission and we know we are going to have it tough,” Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach said. “We are the new kids on the block. We are taking this as a business trip. This is not Myrtle Beach. We are going down there and if we are going to go down, we are going down with everything, with no regret. I want them to enjoy it, but I want them to keep focus. They seem to be great. They seem to be ready to go. We are just really looking forward to it and the challenge of it. I told a lot of people, we can promise you that we will go down fighting.”

First up for the Wolverines is Oriskany. The Section 3 champion last appeared in Binghamton in 2012. That team defeated Pine Valley, 1-0, in the semifinals before falling to Coleman Catholic, 2-0, in the championship game.

Kaltenbach called Oriskany a “mirror image” to his team.

Oriskany sports a 21-2 record. In the last two years, the only loss to a Class D school came at the Regional Finals in 2014 to Hancock in the Far West Regionals. Like Westfield and Nolan Hunt, Oriskany’s ace, Nick Springer is a junior south paw who received All-State honors last year.

Springer is 6-0 on the season with a 2.88 earned runs average. At the plate, he is hitting .474 with 28 RBIs and three home runs.

Oriskany has four solid pitchers it will use at will, as no pitcher has pitched more than 43 innings. It would not be a surprise if Springer pitches just two innings and is relieved by righty Kyle Liddy, who is 6-0 on the season.

Offensively, Ryan Enos is a player to watch as he is hitting .507 this season.

Kaltenbach is not worried about seeing Springer, as his team has seen six left-handed pitchers this season, and have won all but one game. That one loss came in Myrtle Beach against a Class A school. On top of that, Westfield hitters get to practice against one of the state’s best left-handed pitchers in Hunt.

“My kids are so low key,” Kaltenbach said. “They are pumped up, but they don’t get too high or too low.”

While Kaltenbach is the head coach, he is not a one-man show in the dugout as he has the volunteer help of Dan Martin and Don Mansfield.

Mansfield was the varsity coach for 17 years.

“Every kid calls him Uncle Don,” Kaltenbach said. “We talk about everything. We are not always on the same page, but we are able to talk things out. He doesn’t realize how important he is. He is always great for advice to the kids. They love talking to him. He is the bench coach and is always talking to the kids on the bench. He is a teacher on the bench. They like talking to him. He gets right to the point.”

Meanwhile, Martin has been part of the coaching staff for seven years.

“We have become real good friends,” Kaltenbach said. “The kids love him. He is the first base coach. He is my right-hand man. We say anything we want to each other and throw every idea to each other. He helps me with hitting and throwing. He has become real important. We are the three stooges. We keep it loose. I wouldn’t be where I am without these guys.”

According to Kaltenbach, the three do not have to spend much time motivating the Wolverines this weekend as the team feels it belongs on this stage.

“There doesn’t seem to be a fear factor with this team,” Kaltenbach said. “All we hear in school is , ‘Are we nervous?’ Not really. We talk about it so much and playing with confidence, maybe it has gotten to the team and we are confident. I told the kids and I believe this, it’s an honor to be on this team. The team has been great for so many years. It’s an honor to be on it. It’s not a right. They are proud to wear this jersey and take it as an honor.”

The honor of being a Wolverine has been a long-standing tradition as evidence by all the well wishes Kaltenbach has received from former players this past week.

“The messages I got from past players who I haven’t talked to in 25 years are great,” Kaltenbach said. “Everyone in Westfield has been great. Everyone is excited and we are ready for this.”

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