Behind a new coach and experienced seniors, the Wolverines have high expectations
The 2017 Niagara Falls High School baseball team is coming into the season with high expectations and revenge on their minds.
Last season the team finished 12-7 and made their second straight appearance to the Class AA sectional final game. They were defeated by Lancaster, 6-4.
Behind first-year varsity coach Rob Augustino, the bar remains high, and he hopes for another return to the title.
“The expectations here are no different than in years past,” Augustino said. “Win baseball games, do well in our league, which will be extremely competitive this year, and get back to sectional finals. Every current player has played for me at some point already. I have been in this program since the school’s first season in 2001, so very little will be changing.”
Augustino built a good reputation at the Junior Varsity level, finishing with a losing record only once. He takes over the varsity job for former coach Joe Contento who was named athletic director for Niagara Falls.
Augustino said his team’s experience will play a key in how the teams season goes.
“Our roster is full of seniors with varsity experience. That can only help us as we progress through the season and get into important games,” he said.
The Wolverines carry eight seniors, seven juniors, one sophomore and one freshman.
Of the eight seniors, Augustino said he’s looking to ace pitcher and shortstop Matt Grace to have a big year.
“Matt Grace is the example player on this team. He does everything we ask, works hard every day and is a positive example to everyone, from the seniors down to the freshmen,” he said.
Grace, in two varsity seasons, has a .306 batting average and a 2.94 ERA on the mound. He recently signed his national letter of intent to continue his baseball career at Niagara University.
Along with Grace, the Wolverine seniors are Chris Clark, Michael Laurrie, Dustin Newman, Jon Orfano, Ross Pochatko, Rory Sanabria, and Patrick Sisler.
Augustino still stressed the value of ‘team’.
“This team will succeed as long as everyone takes pride in doing their part,” he said. “I want the team to standout, not the individual.”
He said the Wolverines need to stick together, and if they can do that, success is likely.
“We do feel like we have a good nucleus of players that will help us be very competitive,” he said. “If we are all on the same page with what we are trying to do, then we will have a chance in every situation.”
As the season approaches, the Wolverines will look to win their first Niagara Frontier League title since 2015 and reach their third straight sectional final. Their last sectional title win was in 1999.