The Post-Journal

Big Shoes To Fill

Westfield Looks To Fill Void, Win Another Title

Max Bates will lead a group of six seniors.
Max Bates will lead a group of six seniors who hope to get Westfield back to a Section VI championship game this spring. P-J file photo.

The accolades and accomplishments Westfield has racked up on the baseball diamond recently are certainly impressive.

Think about this: Last May, the Wolverines won their second consecutive Section VI Class D title thanks to a thrilling extra-inning victory over North Collins.

Also, Westfield has appeared in a total of seven straight sectional finals and the Wolverines hold a remarkable 46-game winning streak in league play.

“After going to the state finals (in 2015), I didn’t know what to expect (heading into 2016),” Westfield coach Doug Kaltenbach said. “We went undefeated in our league, we’ve won 46 straight games in our league up until now. … That’s about four years worth of games we’ve won in our league and we’ve had some good teams in that league too. … I thought last year, the guys were very driven to get back (to the sectional title game).”

In order to make it back to sectional prominence once again this spring, the Wolverines will need to account for some key players who graduated after last season’s magical run.

Brock Schuster fields the ball.
Brock Schuster is one of several underclassmen who have gained valuable experience in the past couple of years. P-J file photo.

Two of the key seniors who are gone are Jonathan Wilson and Greg Schroeder.

Wilson was named a New York State Public High School Athletic Association First Team All-State selection following a senior campaign in which he hit .578 with seven home runs and four doubles. In addition, he stole 21 bases, compiled a 3-0 record on the mound with a 1.31 ERA and was recognized as the Most Valuable Player in the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association’s Division 2 West.

Schroeder was a NYSPHSAA Third Team All-State selection and was honored as a CCAA Division 2 West First Team All-Star. He starred on the hill all season long for Westfield, posting a 5-0 record with a 0.31 ERA. He only allowed one earned run in league play and hit .421 at the plate.

Other seniors who played integral roles in Westfield’s success included Joe Quagliana, Taylor Irwin and Trevor North.

“It’s not gonna be easy,” Kaltenbach stressed when asked about replacing the 2016 senior class. “I think the guys that we have though, they know the situation. … They want to kind of carry that (success) on. But, I told them, ‘Don’t burden yourself with that. Just go out and play.’ I think the guys this year have accepted that challenge.”

A couple of names to keep an eye on heading into 2017 are senior Max Bates and sophomore Brock Schuster.

In 2016, Bates hit .422 with a home run, two triples and three doubles. He drove in 19 runs, threw out 14 would-be base stealers as Westfield’s catcher and was a Division 2 West First Team All-Star.

It was Schuster’s dribbler in between the pitcher and third baseman that scored the decisive run in the Wolverines’ sectional title win over North Collins.

“Absolutely I do (trust him),” Kaltenbach said of Schuster last season after Westfield’s sectional championship. “I was telling the paper the other day, as a freshman, he’s probably my most reliable RBI machine. He really is. The kid is fearless for a ninth-grader.”

Other players to watch according to Kaltenbach include seniors Eric Fermier and Chris Catalano as well as sophomore Bret Babcock.

“Us winning and us going to sectionals and winning it twice in a row, I know that the fear factor isn’t there,” Kaltenbach explained. “Even without the five guys we lost last year, they like the challenge of it I think.”

The Wolverines are slated to open up play today at home against Silver Creek with a total of six seniors on their roster according to Max Preps: David Grayson, Mike Poletto, Bates, Catalano, Fermier and Simon Williams.

That crucial playoff experience that Westfield has gained over the past several years could certainly come in handy once again late in the season.

“Their enthusiasm for the game is great,” Kaltenbach said of the 2017 edition of the Wolverines. “I would say the two big things (that have caught my eye so far) are enthusiasm and our senior leadership. … I would say right now our immediate goal is to win our division and then take it from there.”

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