Recorder file photo The Post 701 baseball team observes a moment of silence for Bob Cetnar prior to a game earlier this season at Shuttleworth Park.
By ADAM SHINDER
After two years coaching the John Wyszomirski Amsterdam Post 701 American Legion baseball team, Bill Agresta can sense something special building.
A season ago, Post 701 returned to baseball after a hiatus of several years, won the New York District 5 Junior American Legion title and came within a game of a state championship. This year, playing in a different district but with much the same corps of players, Post 701 turned in a strong showing before eventually coming up a win short of a District 3 championship last month.
Even though Agresta had to do some shuffling with departures from the team between seasons, he could see the team's progress on the field.
"I think they're coming along good. They always play good defense," Agresta said. "We had to switch some players around, because we lost some kids from last year because of age, and others wanted to go to other travel teams."
Without an everyday catcher on the roster, Agresta turned to his son, Kyle Agresta, to take on the bulk of the duties behind the plate and he responded with a strong summer. Kyle Sherlock joined returning standouts Tyler Graham and Logan DeNeuville to provide a solid top trio on the mound, while Ben Rhodes gave the team a commanding presence in the middle of the lineup.
That group helped lead Post 701 to tie for first place in its division in District 3, where they were playing against clubs from the Capital Region after spending 2013 in District 5, which consists of teams from the Utica area.
In the district tournament, Post 701 dropped its first game to a team from Albany, but then beat Coxsackie and picked up a measure of revenge with a win against Albany to reach the finals against a Saratoga Stampede team that emerged undefeated from the winner's bracket.
Behind a brilliant pitching performance from Graham, Post 701 won the first game to force a deciding final in the double-elimination tournament, but Game 2 starter DeNeuville was hurt while giving Kyle Agresta a break behind the plate in the opening game of the championship series and struggled as Saratoga claimed the title with a 10-2 win.
Bill Agresta likened the situation to the way Post 701 missed out on the Jr. Legion state title a year earlier, as the team was already short on pitching due to a rainy summer.
"We were tired," Agresta said. "The same thing happened last year, where we played a lot of games in a short time, because of the rain."
It was yet another whirlwind summer for Agresta, who also coached a Connie Mack team and a 13-and-under travel team in addition to leading the Post 701 club.
"I coached 59 games in June," he said. "So, I was busy."
After two successful seasons at the 17-and-under junior level, Post 701 will move up to the senior level in 2015 with a group that's already gained plenty of experience together. Their ranks will also be bolstered, as Agresta said the change in age limit will likely allow Baylee Hall, a key player in 2013 who was too old for Jr. Legion this summer, to rejoin the team along with several other local players who have already expressed their interest.
"We've got a couple kids that are already contacting us to play next year that are good ballplayers," Agresta said. "I think we'll be pretty well off."
That's more than enough to give Agresta the confidence to believe that 2015 could be a monumental season for Post 701 baseball.
"They're a good group of kids. I think they're gonna go pretty far," he said. "I'd like to see them make it out of the states and go to the World Series. I think it would be a really good experience for them. They have the potential to do it, they've just got to want it, work hard during the offseason and hopefully they'll be ready to go next year."
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