HOOSICK, N.Y. -- On a usual, every-year basis, the key to being successful in the Wasaren League is pitching. This season, with a late start after a rough winter, pitching depth will take on a whole new role as Hoosick Falls looks to be in the mix at season's end.
"With everything [in the schedule] condensed, some years you can get by with two pitchers," said Hoosick Falls coach Mike Lilac. "This year, you need definitely three solid starters and a fourth to spot start."
Last year, the Panthers were 15-7 and lost in the Class C quarterfinal to Fort Plain, 5-4, on a walk-off hit.
The ace of the staff is junior Kealan Hitt, who moves up from the No. 3 spot to No. 1 with the graduation of starters Billy Pine and Josh Brogue. Hitt was 7-2 last season, pitching 45 innings to a 2.33 ERA.
"Kealan's back as our ace, and after that we have a bunch of capable guys," said Lilac, heading into his 24th season leading the Panthers. "Brandon Hodges will be in there when he isn't catching, Wyatt Whitman will start for us quite a bit, Tyler Rondeau is a veteran that can throw for us."
Hitt said he's not concerned with facing the top pitchers in the Wasaren League game after game.
"I've been working a lot to get my pitchers and working on my mechanics," Hitt said. "There's a lot of competition in the Wasaren League, we have to be ready and prepare for it."
Lilac is only keeping 11 varsity players, which includes Alex LaBarge, a reserve last year; Peter Muratori, a transfer from Hudson Falls, Tom Peabody, Shayne Richard and Alex Mendez.
"Every year, it's how well the new guys handle varsity," Lilac said. "There's established guys back, but also some question marks. We're hoping for big things from Hodges, we have a good leadoff man in Peabody. Wyatt will be in the infield and Alex LaBarge could turn into a good hitter for us."
Whitman, a sophomore, looks to pencil in as the No. 2 starter.
"I want to make an impact right away, I put a lot of work in the offseason and I want to win a championship," Whitman said.
The top teams in the Wasaren League will be Hoosic Valley and Greenwich but on any day, anyone can win against anyone else.
"We have to come prepared every day to get it done," Whitman said.
* Coach: Chris Farley (second season)
* Last year: 6-13 (3-11 league); missed sectional tournament
* The team: After suffering a devastating injury early on, Hoosick Falls sophomore Erika Quackenbush then sat through a tough season that was trial by fire for the Panthers. This year, Quackenbush will be the key on the mound. "She only was in two games last year before she was hurt, she dictates a lot for us," Farley said. "Erika is the horse here, but there's a lot of ifs, the goal is to be better in May than now." Starters Carsen Williams, Rachel Pine and Olivia Schneider didn't return for 2014 after solid seasons in 2013, but Farley isn't dwelling on who's gone.
"We have some of the freshmen coming up, it's a bit of a learning curve," Farley said. "We have to play the game, work on the skills and make improvement every day."
The lone senior returning with experience is catcher Ashley St. Onge. "She's a presence behind the plate, a leader on the field."
Other returners include the sister double-play combo of Liz and Maddy Ryan, Alyssa Ellis in the outfield and Chelsea Stevens at first base.
"I expect a big year from her, it's her third year on varsity and she's got to take her hitting to the next level," Farley said. "She's the anchor of our infield."
"Our goals are to shoot for .500 in the league and get to sectionals, we need to play good defense and stay healthy, if we can get a semblance of pitching, we can do that."
* Opener: Monday vs. Schuylerville, 4:15 p.m.
-- Adam Samrov
* Coach: Mark Marquart, 2nd season
* Last year: 0-12; missed sectional tournament
* The team: Last season was the first for the Hoosick Falls boys lacrosse team, but things are headed in the right direction. "We're progressing well, we have two coaches now, I can focus on the defense and Coach Sprague focuses on the offense," Marquart said. Junior Mark Hackett leads the way on defense, along with fellow football players Jake Bakaitis, Logan Hout and Derek Bird.
Things are slower on offense, where the goal is to be patient, especially early on, Marquart said. "We don't have the depth offensively to run and gun with teams, if we can keep it under 10, we're doing all right."
Mike Sprague scored the lone goal against Schuylerville, and expects to be the main scorer, while Cole Votra and Noah LaBarge, both underclassman who came through the Hoosick feeder program, make the future bright for the Panthers. "Noah gained a ton of experience as a freshman on a varsity team last year," Marquart said.
* So far: 0-2
* Next game: Thursday vs Greenwich at Lansingburgh
-- Adam Samrov
* Coach: Lisa Ferrannini, 2nd season
* Last year: 3-9
* The team: The Panthers lost, among others, seniors Keri Wilkins -- who's playing at Skidmore this spring -- and Liz Leva, who's at Morrisville now. But Hoosick Falls is attempting to reload in the second season of varsity girls lacrosse. The Panthers have seven seniors -- Katelyn Harrison, Dana O'Malley, Paige Graney, Claire Seifert, Hannah Fricke, Elise North-Kirkman and Lastacia Wilder -- who bring a wealth of experience on the lacrosse pitch in the Women's Independent Lacrosse League. "We're trying to shut down teams more defensively, and to do that, we've had to have better conditioning," Ferrannini said.
Other returners include midfielders Jordyn Haynes, the team's leading scorer last year and Kara LaFlamme, a sophomore who split time in goal last season. New players looking to make a name are Keelan Seifert, Heidi Bossoni and Caytlyn Springer. "We have a strong core of players, on attack, we have set plays this year, something we didn't do last year," Ferrannini said. "Our offseason cardio program will build on our mental toughness."
* Opener: Friday vs Schuylerville, 6 p.m.
-- Adam Samrov