Wolverines full of new faces; returning ace pitcher, centerfielder, catcher
By David Yarger
The Niagara Falls High School baseball team for 2019 is one that not many people charted high expectations for.
After losing six seniors – all starters – from its 13-6 campaign one season ago, Wolverines coach Rob Augustino knew he had some holes to fill and things would be difficult. Augustino was tasked with replacing the corner outfield spots and a whole infield aside from catcher.
Despite unfavorable odds, the team has begun the 2019 season with an overall record of 4-3 and Niagara Frontier League record of 3-2.
This year’s team will not overpower others with the bats, and Augustino said the team will play classic Falls baseball, which is based on stellar pitching, quality defense and, offensively, playing a little small ball and causing opposing defenses to make the plays.
In the team’s first league win over Niagara-Wheatfield the Wolverines won off a base hit that went about 30 feet, but with the winning run on third and the game tied, 1-1, it caused the Falcons to make a difficult play at the plate.
“We planned for it in a way,” Augustino said of doing the small things. “We have gone over the small things more this year than we have in the past. For example, if you’re going over bunting scenarios, you might go over it ‘x’ amount of times. We’ve gone over it twice as many as we normally would. And the same goes defensively. … We knew going in, not only that, we told guys that ‘We are not going to win games 12-4.’ ”
Augustino added how he expected his team to win games by such scores as 2-0, 2-1 or 3-1. In three wins this season, the Falls has won 2-0 twice and 2-1. Additionally, the team lost to Grand Island, 3-1.
Despite some nerves about the defense coming into the year, Augustino said the team has played well other than one bad inning versus North Tonawanda.
“If there’s one thing I pride myself on, is doing the small things defensively correctly. Being a good, sound defensive team helps you in so many ways in high school, especially with pitch count. Not making errors, making the right plays keeps you out of big innings and keeps the pitch count low,” Augustino said.
Augustino said he felt coming into 2019, the Wolverines would have a decent stable of about five pitchers capable of starting, including last season’s All-NFL Second Team honoree Treavor Janese.
Janese enters his senior year as the NF ace for the second-straight season. As a junior, Janese threw 40 innings, struck out 52 batters (second most in the NFL), gave up eight earned runs and posted a 1.08 earned run average.
To start 2019, Janese has started where he left off on the hill, striking out 21 batters in 15 1/3 innings pitched, with a 1.37 ERA.
Augustino said having Janese as an ace is a reassuring feeling, because he knows every game he pitches, the team will be close.
“Even when Trevor is off, he’s around the plate. He makes things happen, he gets guys to swing, whether it’s his off speed or his fastball, he’s at the plate. … It’s a no brainer. I don’t care who we’re facing. You could have the best bats in the league and we’re going to be in the game because of him,” Augustino said.
Another important part of Augustino’s pitching staff is his catcher commanding the game, Zach Brydges. As a sophomore in his first season as the Wolverines backstop, he hit .364 with 11 RBIs, two home runs and 13 runs scored. Augustino said assistant coach Brad McLeod preached to Brydges last season about doing all the small things defensively, such as blocking balls and framing pitches on every single play, regardless of the situation. He said he’s seen development from Brydges as a catcher and a leader.
“It makes it a lot easier defensively when possibly your most talented defensive player is the catcher, because he runs the show. He sees the whole field, he communicates, he’s loud. I can’t even count how many times this season, whether with what is being called pitching wise or whether he’s on the bases, he already knows ahead of time (what to do),” Augustino said.
Another returnee for the Wolverines is centerfielder and No. 3 hitter Dom Geracitano. The senior captain has been through it all in the NF program, starting as a sophomore in center and batting lower in the lineup. In his junior season, he moved up to three hole and drove in 11 runs, while hitting two home runs.
Although, Geracitano is off to a so-so start offensively this spring, Augustino said he has faith in his senior to be the big guy in the lineup for the Falls.
“I expect him to be a senior captain and leader. … He’s off to a slow start at the plate, but what he does in the outfield is anchor everything around him. He makes anything they do – right field or left field – a lot easier. He’s fast, he’s got a good arm out there, he’s smart out there; the kids follow him. He’s exactly what I though he’d be when he was starting for me on varsity as a sophomore,” Augustino said.
In addition to the trio, the Wolverines also return junior Mason Hilliard, senior pitcher Michael Uhrich and infielder AJ Jocoy. NF also received a transfer from Niagara Catholic High School in shortstop Tevin Sanders.
Augustino and the Falls face undefeated Lockport at home at 4:45 p.m. today.