by Tom Pedulla –
Shortstop Sean McCarthy, third baseman Alec Bjorkland, righthander Gavin Ryan and catcher Matthew Bischof are back for what may well be their final season together in forming the nucleus of Sleepy Hollow’s veteran travel team.
They have been together since they were nine years old and are now competing in the 20-23 age bracket of the Greater Hudson Valley Baseball League.
“Everybody gets along,” said coach Robert Bischof of the rare chemistry the team enjoys. “We have a lot of fun in practices and in games.”
Jared Carey and Joe Cabrera are outfielders flanking wide-ranging centerfielder D.J. Owen. Righthander Chris Williams and second baseman Fili Veraz are two more significant players. Ben Oshins and German Jiminez are valuable in utility roles.
This is a group accustomed to winning. Bischof does not look for that to change.
“I expect them to be very competitive,” he said. “I anticipate going deep into the playoffs.”
Hopes also are high for Sleepy Hollow’s 17-and-under travel team. Righthander Devin Batheja, who has a good fastball and an outstanding curveball and mixes them well, is joined by Andrew Walek in heading a solid pitching corps handled by catcher Manny Abreu.
Patrick Smith and Luke McCarthy will look to light a spark at the top of the lineup for third-place power hitter Ramon Salazar and Abreu. Ryan Owen provides a slick-fielding first baseman adept at handling whatever errant throws come his way. Talon Carsto and Gabe Flores are two outfielders of note. Eren Arduino is a newcomer to the roster looking to carve out a role.
Coach Sean McCarthy is optimistic about the team’s prospects.
“It’s a 20-game schedule,” he noted, “and we’re looking to win the majority of them.”
McCarthy added, “I think we’re definitely a contender for a great playoff spot. We are going to rely on our pitching staff and defense. If we make the routine plays, we are going to go a long way this summer.”
McCarthy is emphasizing improved pitching, situational hitting and defensive fundamentals with the hope that will translate into success for the Sleepy Hollow High School varsity. That team narrowly missed the playoffs this spring.
Coach Gene Arduino was pleased to start the summer season with 18 players on a team that will compete in a division for 10 and nine-year-olds.
“We have a collection of really good athletes, and we are turning that athleticism toward baseball,” Arduino said. He noted that the rise of other sports such as lacrosse and a preoccupation with video games have made it more challenging to fill baseball rosters.
The pitching staff offers promise with lefthander Aaron Rodriguez and righthanders Miles Dunn and Michael Variano. Sevan Arduino and Jack McCarthy are making progress as middle infielders while John Saraceno handles third base.
The team has the luxury of two capable catchers, A.J. Kumar (an eight-year-old) and Charlie Farbman. Daniel McCarthy, Jack’s twin brother, is an outfielder with potential.
Arduino’s emphasis is on individual and team improvement rather than compiling a winning record due to the age group and inexperience of his players.
“We’re a developmental team, meaning I don’t expect to be highly competitive this year,” he said. “But I do expect them to grow in both skill mechanics and the strategic thinking of the game.”