Big 10 coaches getting anxious to play outside

By ADAM SHINDER

adam.shinder@recordernews.com

COLONIE -- Schenectady High School baseball coach John Isabella summed it up best.

"It's the spring from hell," Isabella said during Big 10 baseball's media night Thursday at Christian Brothers Academy.

For the entirety of the Big 10 -- and Section II baseball as a whole -- its been a preseason spent stuck inside gyms with teams unable to test themselves out on a full-sized diamond.

And as teams roll into their fourth week of indoor practices with likely one more week stuck inside still to come, the league's coaches admitted that keeping their players sharp has become a chore.

"It's tiring," La Salle Institute coach Brian Henkel said. "You can only do the same thing in the gym so many times before the kids get bored with it. It's tough to keep them focused."

"We look like champs in the gym -- but everyone does," Isabella added.

And for teams like perennial league power CBA, where head coach Casey O'Connor said that defense is his club's biggest question mark, those questions will likely linger until the first games of the season -- whenever those might be.

"Right now, I'm a little nervous, because defense was our issue," O'Connor said. "We hit the ball, we threw the ball well, we didn't catch the ball well. I'm looking forward to them getting outside and really seeing what we can do defensively."

With teams likely needing to cram 18 regular-season games in a span of less than six weeks before the sectional seeding meeting May 19, pitching -- and especially pitching depth -- will be at a premium.

Most of the league's coaches said their teams were going through something of an overhaul on the mound thanks to a pitcher-heavy senior class a season ago, which could translate into some experimental pitching rotations as clubs try to navigate what could be an extremely busy schedule.

"You're gonna have to be able to at least hold teams down," Catholic Central coach Dave Bestle said. "You're gonna have to try and stay in the game for four or five innings. We plan on switching up some guys, so hopefully we can kind of change the tempo and keep them guessing a little longer than usual."

But, Amsterdam coach Brian Spagnola said, at least everyone in the league will be in the same boat.

"I don't think pitching is going to be a strong point," Spagnola said during the Rams' practice Wednesday at the Bacon Recreation Center. "The better guys last year were seniors. But, you don't know who's popping up."

That should lead to a potentially wild scramble for league supremacy as the season rolls along.

"I'd imagine it's the usual suspects that will battle for it," Spagnola said. "Troy's got a new coach [Will Whitty], but they're always good, and we start off with CBA and Troy, right off the rip. It could be interesting, especially without being outside. We'll see how it goes."

"It's the Big 10. Top-notch, all the way from top to bottom," added Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons coach Kacy Daus. "You could have Troy, they're always gonna be there, CBA and Schenectady are gonna battle. You put a few wins together and hope you can pick somebody off."

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