“Since they were in ninth grade I’ve said, ‘Make me buy those (championship) jackets,’” said Burke. “‘Make me spend that money,’ I tell them that every year. I’ve watched them mature, and I’m not going to say that we’ll win it all, but they have the knowledge and the championship experience to get it done.”
To get it done, Burke will lean on the the standard-bearers of Twin Valley boys’ sports since September. After going an unimpressive 7-11 last year and losing in the second round of the Division IV playoffs, another year of maturity and experience has the Wildcats poised for an upturn season.
Senior captain Dal Nesbitt will lead the Wildcats on the mound, with junior Sam Molner and sophomore Kyle Murdock completing the team’s starting rotation. Burke also has a wealth of experience in the bullpen as seniors Craig Green, Dylan Johnson, Colin Lozito, and Cade Nesbitt will all see time on the mound.
The Wildcats have a lot of options to work with in positioning both their infield and outfield, with players capable of being shuffled on any given afternoon. Burke brought in three new coaches this year, which he describes as “new blood” for the team to learn from, and also provides him an opportunity to take a step back and manage, while the others create signs and coach the lines. Mark Berman brings experience from coaching in Greenfield, MA, area high schools. Jessie Lane provides a familiar face for the roster as he spent time coaching some of these players when they were in middle school. Mitchell “Bull” Balutski rounds out the staff. He is a retired serviceman and father looking to lend his help to the group.
Burke will have some important decisions to make with his deck of options. The Wildcats’ outfielders will include Green, Molner, Johnson, Nick Goodnow, and freshman Brett Swanson. Interchangeable infield options will include Lozito and Dal Nesbitt seeing time at shortstop, Cade Nesbitt and Baylee Crawford at second, Justin Hicks and Johnson seeing time at third, and Kyle Murdock at first. Burke says that if Chris Robinson, last year’s backup catcher, is able to take over full-time duties behind the plate, it will free up Lozito to see more time in the infield. Freshmen Ethan Fox and Kyle Lazelle have joined the roster this year, along with Travis Betit and senior Martin Balutski.
Burke said he would rely on his veteran captains Molner, Green, Lozito, and Dal Nesbitt, to take this team further than any Wildcat baseball team has gone before. “I told them one thing,” said Burke. “This year you lead to the very last out, and that’s how we’re going to take this.”
As in the previous two sport seasons, this crew of veterans expects to build on their maturity and their experience. “It’s a new year, a new coaching staff and there are new players,” said Lozito. “We’re looking to do the little things and let the little things lead to bigger things and lead to wins. Last year we had a lackluster basketball season and then had a pretty good one this year, so we’d like to make that happen here as well.”
“We’re more confident this year,” said Dal Nesbitt. “In the past we’ve come in thinking we’re not good, but every year we’ve become more mature, and we think this is going to be a good season.”
“As a coach I’ve watched their maturity and athleticism and how they work,” said Burke. “You get to this point only every so many years.”
The Wildcats begin their season Wednesday April 9, at West Rutland at 4:30.