N-W returning core of talent from 2018
By David Yarger
Last spring, the Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons baseball team strolled into the Section VI Class AA final winners of nine consecutive games before their fall versus Williamsville North, 3-2.
During the streak, the bats and pitching arms of the Falcons were as hot as could be.
For the 2019 season, the team will return a bulk of the talent that led them on the streak.
In total, the team returns 8 players from last year’s 13-5 team, including Canisius College commit and left handed pitcher Tom Peltier; four-year varsity member senior catcher Ethan Guthrie; sophomore shortstop Andrew Stillinger; junior lefty pitcher and outfielder Ben “Rico” Salomon; senior pitcher, first basemen and outfielder Peyton Siegmann; senior Pete Lysiak; junior third baseman Adam Liberti; and senior infielder and outfielder Chris Cacciatore.
At the helm of the Falcons is coach Jim Hagerty and he said he’s intrigued to see what comes of the season with the talent he has coming back.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “We won’t be able to hide from anybody this year. We’re just going to have to put it all together on game day, day after day.”
An interesting aspect of Hagerty’s team is its barrel of left-handed pitchers. Peltier was an All-NFL First Team selection as a junior, while Siegmann and Salomon will see starts on the hill for the Falcons.
“It’s very unique. I could, if I wanted to, never throw a righty this year, but I also have three righty’s that are pretty good, too,” Hagerty said. “Tommy is very much the leader of the pitching staff. He actually does a good job coaching the young kids. Siggy is Siggy; he’s his own bird. He’s a little different style than Tommy. … Ben, I would throw him up against anybody.”
For pitchers to operate, they must have someone controlling the pitches behind the plate, and for the Falcons, that person is Guthrie. Guthrie was an All-NFL Third Team honoree last season, as he knocked in 16 RBIs and possessed a .314 batting average. Over time, Hagerty said it’s paid off having “EG” on varsity the past four seasons.
“Great pitching and good catching is just good pitching, and great pitching and great catching is great pitching,” Hagerty said. “I think he’s very important. He handles the kids well, he handles himself well. He’s a team leader and four-year varsity guy. We’re seeing some of the benefits of having taken a younger team a couple years ago.”
Hagerty added that the team is still particularly young. With six seniors, the team also possesses five juniors and four sophomores.
Spring for baseball teams is tough in Western New York, as some teams, such as N-W, have been locked inside for most of the beginning slate of the season. The long-lasting winter conditions of WNY makes it difficult for teams without artificial turf to get a ready and playable field by the beginning of April, let alone early to mid-March when practices begin.
On Tuesday, the Falcons hit the field for the first time all spring – not for a practice – but its first regular season game against the Niagara Falls Wolverines.
The Falcons were up 1-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, but the Wolverines tied it at one, then won the game in the seventh inning on a ball that traveled approximately 30 feet down the third base line with the bases loaded.
The winning “hit” summed up the offense on a cold day on the turf at NFHS – very little.
While Hagerty was a little disappointed the bats didn’t come alive after hitting in the gym for nearly a month, he said he understood he faced a good pitcher in the Wolverines’ Treavor Janese (an All-NFL Second Team honoree in 2018), and it’s still the early goings of the season.
“It’s always an adventure getting outside for the first time. This is realistically the first time we’ve been outside all year. We have a bunch of good players and they’ll come back from this. It always sucks to lose, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a one run game this early in the year, it was 1-1 in the seventh inning. It was a good baseball; it was a fun baseball game,” Hagerty said.
He added it’s difficult to come outside for the first time and face game action right away without a practice on the diamond.
In the loss, Peltier pitched 5.1 innings of one-hit ball and struck out nine batters in a no decision. Additionally, Siegmann tripled and scored the Falcons’ lone run of the game, which was driven in by a Ben Shapiro sacrifice fly.
The Falcons’ next scheduled battle is at 4:45 p.m. Monday at Kenmore East.
Niagara-Wheatfield senior lefty Tom Peltier pitches versus Niagara Falls Tuesday. Peltier held the Wolverines to just one hit and struck out nine guys in a no decision.