Chester once again contenders in baseball

Chester. After losing 10 seniors, Chester has a very young team — but is still a top team to beat in Division IV.

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  • Chester's 2019 baseball team (Photo provided)

"Everyone is young and hungry. It should be a fun Division race.”
Head Coach Mike Doucette

As any longtime fan knows, when it comes to sports, expect the unexpected.

But you can predict an earnest effort by the Chester Academy High School baseball program every time they step onto the field.

Last season, Chester finished with 14 overall victories, including a mark of 10-2 in OCIAA Division IV. The Hambletonian’s were OCIAA Division IV champions in 2018.

“We have won the last six Division titles-four in Division V and the last two in Division IV,” said Chester head coach Mike Doucette. “We have also qualified for the playoffs the last eight seasons. A realistic goal would be to qualify for the playoffs again and compete for the Division title. Once you get to Sections, you never know what could happen. Everyone has a shot to win the Section tournament.”

Key returning student athletes from last year’s team include Brandon Nolasco (short stop, senior), Joey Battiato (pitcher, first base, outfield, junior), Matt Popailo (senior, outfield), Kacey Shah (third base, second base, outfield, senior), and Arnav Ghuiliani (pitcher, first base, outfield, sophomore).

Newcomers to the varsity lineup include Sam Astafaj (pitcher, outfield, junior), Alex Buchanan (pitcher, outfield, sophomore), Brian Gregory (pitcher, infield, sophomore) and Jake Laura (pitcher, catcher, infield, freshman).

Setting the tone

“We are a very young group this season,” Doucette said. “We lost 10 seniors. Two of those seniors are currently playing college baseball at the University of Richmond (Johnny Hipsman) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Thomas Gregory). Obviously, those are big holes to fill. Brandon Nolasco is a veteran infielder for me who is looking to fill the role of the everyday short stop. He is the type of player that is willing to do the small things to win.

“Joey Battiato needs to take the reigns as our No. 1 pitcher and set the tone for every league series. Those two along with my other seniors, Matt Popailo and Kacey Shah need to help the younger players adjust to the speed of the varsity game.”

Chester is once again a top team to beat in Division IV.

“We are definitely a contender,” Doucette said. “Most teams in the Division lost some really good players. There are a lot of young players ready to step up on all the teams in the Division. I expect a fun battle for the top spot and I like to think we will be in the mix.

“My team along with Burke have been the top two teams for the last two seasons. O'Neill showed some strong signs of stepping up to Division contenders. Liberty is always a wild card. They have produced some very competitive teams over the years. You never know when they might make a move and surprise everyone. The Division really is up for grabs this season. Everyone is young and hungry. It should be a fun Division race.”

Chester has a busy schedule ahead this spring.

“As I said earlier, we lost most of my team that has been with me the last few years,” Doucette said. “It will be fun to see how we respond to a whole new group of players. Also, we have a few fun events on the schedule. We are playing a Section IX vs. Section II challenge to support Hope Rocks in Saugerties in May. We will be matched up with Saratoga Catholic."

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