By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
At Southern Vermont College, five local products are figuring out the college baseball scene together.
Helping to make up the roster and coaching lineup for the Mountaineers this season are Amsterdam High School graduates Robby Hisert and Kurt Kowalczyk, as well as Broadalbin-Perth High School graduates Owen Chizek, Dave Gage and RJ Pingitore. Gage is in his first year as the head coach at SVC, Hisert is the team's hitting coach and the remaining trio are players on the Mountaineers' roster.
"It's nice coaching guys I already know because I know what I'm going to get," says Gage, a 2007 graduate of B-P. "That's the nice thing about it -- every single day, you can expect to get consistency."
The three players -- Chizek is a sophomore pitcher, Kowalczyk is a junior pitcher and Pingitore is a freshman infielder -- all played together during recent summers as members of the Tri-County Bees, a club that Gage helped to coach.
"It's been easier getting adjusted to the team because they (the other area products) helped me fit in," says Pingitore. "Especially having coach Gage as a coach in the past helped. We're used to his philosophy, so it's made it a lot easier."
Actually, the two of the five who might know each other the least are Gage and Hisert, who only met this past summer when the latter was helping to coach Gage's brother, Matt, on the Amsterdam Mohawks. Now a member of Gage's staff, Hisert is figuring out the major differences between high school and college ball
"The biggest thing is that in high school ball, you want to the win league and all that ... but in college, you want to win the conference, but even if you win it, you've still got to go to the conference tournament and win again," says Hisert. "It feels like it's a bit heavier just because it's college baseball."
Gage says the biggest change for himself has been dealing with the "ins and outs" of the day-to-day life of being a full-time baseball coach.
"But it's awesome," he says. "You can't complain when every day you wake up and get to be a coach. You show up, you recruit, you coach, you teach the guys the games ... sometimes, I wonder if it's a job. You sit back and say: 'How lucky am I?'"
Chizek says the team's local players feel lucky to have Gage at the helm.
"I was definitely excited for him (when he got the job)," says Chizek. "It definitely gave me a bigger interest to come here and play for him."
But there are differences between playing for Gage in the summer, and playing for him in the less casual setting of college baseball.
"Now that he's here, it's more about getting stuff done and doing things the right way, going out and teaching us how to win," says Chizek, who is 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA this season in 11 2-3 innings of work.
So far this season, the Mountaineers are off to a 10-11 start, but have won four of their past six games. The team travels today to play MCLA at 3 p.m.
Pingitore is leading SVC in plate appearances this season, as the freshman is hitting .319 with 12 RBIs and 14 runs scored. Pingitore's play in the infield has helped make life easier for Kowalczyk, too.
"This year, we've got a lot better fielding team," says Kowalczyk. "As a pitcher, you need a good fielding team behind you and if they can make the plays it gets easier to get through games."
Kowalczyk is 2-1 this season with a 5.23 ERA.
Gage says that experience with so many products from the local area has gone well in his first season at the helm of the Mountaineers, and that he is already scouring area high school rosters for future players.
"We'd like to bring in more and more kids from Section II and our area," he says.
At the New Jersey Institute of Technology, former Mohawks Mark Leiter Jr. and Ed Charlton are seeing ample playing time. Leiter, a Mohawk in 2011 and 2012, is 3-5 this season with 50 strikeouts in 52 1-3 innings pitched. Meanwhile, Charlton is hitting .263 with a team-high 10 extra-base hits in 99 at-bats. ... Working primarily as a relief pitcher for the Kentucky Wildcats, sophomore Chandler Shepherd (Mohawks 2012) has tossed 28 2-3 innings this spring and accrued a 3.77 ERA. ... Siena's Matt Gage -- SVC head coach Dave Gage's brother -- continues to be the Saints' workhorse, as the left-handed pitcher has tossed a team-high 48 innings. Gage is 2-5 with a 4.69 ERA and 41 strikeouts.