RCS coaches have high hopes for baseball, softball teams
By John Bernhardt
For three seasons Roxbury baseball coach Greg Funck has watched his squad evolve. Hard work, a focus on fundamentals, and a healthy dose of patience are all a part of a baseball transformation that Funck believes should result in a Delaware League championship for his team this year.
“We’re setting the bar high this season,” Funck explained when previewing his team. “We want the league. We have a team that can compete with anyone on the baseball field this spring.”
Funck has plenty of reasons to be optimistic. A 16-player squad gives the Roxbury coach overall depth and multiple options to best utilize personnel. Funck believes he has 12 guys who could start on most teams in the league.
All in the family
And, Funck has another ace up his sleeve. After nearly three decades of guiding Margaretville’s baseball fortunes, Funck’s dad, Rick, retired last spring and has taken his game to Roxbury. “It’s been incredible to have dad as part of the program. His knowledge and insights have added a whole new dimension to what we can do.”
Baseball success begins on the pitching mound. Kyle Ciaravino is the go-to guy on the pitching staff. “We’ve been working with Kyle for several seasons, and he’s really putting it together this spring,” praised Funck.
Funck gushes with excitement describing the pitching potential of junior Eric Shultis. “Eric bought into the mechanical side of pitching and is looking great on the mound,” explained the Roxbury coach. “Eric is coming together as a complete baseball player.”
Third on the pitching depth chart is another junior, Derek Cowan. Cowan, who will crack the starting line-up in left field, is bigger and stronger this year and making rapid growth in every part of his game. “Derek is showing real pitching promise and will start some on the mound,” Funck predicted.
Skills & knowledge
Funck will depend on another junior trio to play big roles on the squad. Spencer Hinkley, the prototype of a scrappy baseball player, returns as the Rockets’ catcher and leadoff hitter. Dakota Caronia, the Rockets’ power hitter, has gained arm strength and made huge strides fielding ground balls at third base. At the other corner position, Nick Hamil is a coach on the field.
“Nick probably knows the game as well as I do,” laughs Funck. “He’s always in the right place at the right time, is vocal, and knows where the ball needs to go.”
Funck has another infield quarterback in senior shortstop Danny bird. Funck calls his shortstop “a
gamer,” an all around baseball player who loves the game and is the best hitter on the team.
“Danny hits the ball with authority and will bat third on our lineup,” the Roxbury coach added.
Two sophomores could crack the Rockets’ starting lineup. Sam Nash, a line drive hitter who loves the game, has his sights set on the real estate around second base. Funck predicts Nash will hit somewhere in the middle of his lineup. Strong, fast, and hard working, Isaac Cline flashes the bat speed a coach can’t ignore.
With a 16-man roster, Roxbury has depth other teams can only dream about. Junior Tyler Faulkner is a line-drive hitter who will see some time in the outfield. Four sophomores, Skyler Fitchner, Chris Walcott, Trent Perry and Patrick Hanrahan are developing their playing skills as varsity players in their first seasons.
Fine young hurler
Funck rounds out the Rockets’ roster with freshman Chris Clark, a youngster with a huge baseball upside.
“This kid is going to be something,” marvels Funck. “Chris can pitch. He throws hard for a freshman and is a strike machine.”
Team speed is a Roxbury asset. Funck believes his Rockets will be aggressive on the base paths and able to play effectively from station to station.
“We’ve identified roles and should be ready to go,” noted Funck. “If we come together as a team, if everybody knows their role and understands what we have to do, good things are going to happen.”
Jane Ware knows softball. The veteran Roxbury softball coach has seen just about everything one could see on a softball diamond. And, Ware likes what she sees as her squad readies to play this spring.
Roxbury returns the pitching battery that saw the Rockets come one out away from a Mountain Division championship last season. The Rockets finished 9-1 in the Delaware League last year, losing to undefeated Mountain Division rival Gilboa after letting a lead slip away in the final inning of the final regular-season game. The sting of that defeat still lingers, motivation for Ware and her troops to make things right this season.
Brittany Keator returns to the hill as the pitching ace. Keator went to camp to hone a pitching repertoire that includes a bevy of off-speed pitches. Complimenting Keator’s hit-the-spot pitching approach is the power of Roxbury’s back-up hurler, junior fire baller Kendall Sprague. Sprague, a versatile athlete, is the team’s long-ball threat who crushes the ball at the plate.
Junior catcher, Cristina Chairappa, a first team Delaware League All-Star, returns behind the plate. “Cristina is a hustler and an incredible contact hitter,” raves Ware. “One thing you can count on is the fact Cristina is going to put the bat on the ball. She didn’t strike out a single time last year.”
Kennedy Faraci, the team’s leadoff hitter, is another junior returner. Faraci has great base running instincts and is a threat to steal every time she gets on base. Good range, a strong arm, and excellent speed placed Faraci in centerfield last season, but Ware says her budding star could play shortstop this spring.
Senior Angela Perazone saw some time at third base early in the season last year. Ware likes Perazone’s work ethic and predicts the senior will find a spot somewhere in the infield.
Returning at second base is junior Bailey O’Donnell, a player Ware praises for her “softball smarts.” A super bunter, O’Donnell can place the ball accurately for a single. Ware is counting on O’Donnell to be her infield leader from second base.
Another returning starter, junior Marissa Green played in the outfield last season. Green was the team’s leading hitter until an injury robbed her of the much of the season. Ware is working Green at first base and in the outfield this spring. Senior Alexi Boice returns for her third season. Ware likes Boice’s speed and praises her hustle and team play.
Ware is expecting big things from junior Samantha Sprague.
“Samantha has the athletic ability to excel,” notes the Roxbury coach. “She’s just lacking confidence. If Samantha hits, we’ll find a place for her somewhere in the lineup,” predicts Ware.
Ware has several promising sophomores playing varsity for the first time. “The jump from modified to the varsity level in a big one,” explains Ware. “You need to have patience, because it can take time. Even so, Ware gives praise to Kaile Vanloan, impressed with her throwing arm, speed, and overall athletic ability. Gena Candelaria and Liz Davis are athletic, have soft hands fielding ground balls, and are making strides every day.
Two freshmen round out the squad, Allyce McIntosh and Shannon Sprague. Both bring all- around skill sets that add depth. Ware is impressed with the pure athleticism of Spraque and believes the freshman could crack the lineup in the infield.
If her team gets solid pitching and executes defensively, Ware believes Roxbury has the offensive prowess and base running efficiency to compete with any team in the Delaware League.
“We have the athletes to win,” finished Ware. “With a little confidence we should take the next step we need to become very competitive.”