HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. >> Opening day has arrived for the Hoosick Falls Central School baseball team, which is very excited to get its season under way.
"We are ready to go," said Hoosick Falls coach Mike Lilac. "The kids are itching to start playing games after a good couple weeks of practicing, so we're ready to get the season officially underway."
The Panthers enter the 2016 season as one of the top teams in the Wasaren League, after finishing second in the conference last season.
This season Hoosick Falls will be led by their pitching staff that is headed up by their ace Wyatt Whitman.
With two years of varsity experience under his belt, the senior is very honored to be one of the leaders on the Panthers squad this season.
"It's a very humbling experience to be a leader on this team and to help lead our great pitching staff," Whitman said. "I'm going to go about like how I did when I started playing on varsity my sophomore year — that is to continue to work, to do my best on the mound to keep the team in the game and do anything I can to help us get the win."
Whitman will also play third base and shortstop when he is not pitching for the Panthers and will be one of the best hitters for Hoosick Falls in their lineup, as he is one of the top four hitters returning from last season.
Joining Whitman at the top of the Panthers' pitching rotation is fellow senior Noah Conety.
During his time at Hoosick Falls, Conety has mostly been a great player for the Panthers as a hitter at the plate and in the outfield, but will add pitching as another element for the team this season.
Pitching has been big love for Conety and he is excited to get the chance to show his stuff more on the mound this season.
"I have always loved to pitch and I have worked hard the past few season to become a better pitcher, so it's very exciting that I will get the chance to throw a lot from the mound this season," Conety said. "I also feel pitching gives me another tool to use to help the team win and that's what is the best part about it too."
The rest of the Panthers' rotation will be filled out by junior Ryan Sanders, senior Wyatt Cushman and sophomore Andrew Stevens, who is showing a lot of promise Lilac said.
"We have a great pitching staff and a wealth of pitching depth," Lilac said. "When you have the ability to throw out five solid arms on the mound, that is a huge plus for you and we feel like it's an area that's going to give us a chance to win in every game we play this season."
Sanders and Cushman also return as key players for the Panthers in the field and at the plate as does senior Alex Mendez, who will move from center field to shortstop this season to help bolster the team's infield.
Senior Riley Bacon is another returning player with varsity experience for Hoosick Falls and can play multiple position in the field for the Panthers.
A couple new faces that will make big contributes to the Panther squad this season is the cousin duo of seniors Connor and Josh McCart.
Connor will play for baseball for the first time in his high school career, while Josh will get more playing time after primarily coming off the bench for the Panthers last season.
"Both Connor and Josh are going to be key contributors for us this season," Lilac said. "Connor is great natural athlete. He has shown he can be a great defender for us in center field and has good hand-eye coordination to be a good hitter for us in our lineup. Josh on the other hand is very smart baseball player and is good athlete as well. He can help us in a variety of way in the field and at the plate."
Another new player for the Panthers this season is recent transfer Dustin Laubacker, who will give Hoosick Falls some depth at the catcher position.
With a good pitching staff and a good veteran ball club, the Panthers in a wide open Wasaren League have a chance to win the conference and be one of the top four teams in Sec II, Class B tournament like they were last season.
"We're right in there as one of the top teams in the conference and our team goal is to win this year," Lilac said. "If we can continue to get better as the season goes on and be at our peak towards the end of the season combined with our pitching, we will be in a good position to do so."
The Panthers will host Fort Ann in their season opener today at 4:30 p.m.