As part of my season preview package which ran in Thursday’s edition of The Journal News, I identified top teams and players to watch, as well as came up with three questions for the season. Remember, since it went in the paper, it only includes Westchester, Rockland and Putnam schools, meaning no Dutchess. I included those teams in my previous season previews.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Fox Lane: The most potent lineup in Section 1 has no easy outs, as the Foxes bring back nearly all of the key pieces from a lineup that collectively hit .344 last year and averaged 9.1 runs per game. They look like they could be the team to beat in Class AA if they get some consistency out of the pitching staff.
Kennedy: The Gaels are bumping up from Class A, but have the talent to compete with the big boys. The outstanding battery of right-hander Schuyler Bates and catcher Jason Agresti will lead a team that will also rely on some promising underclassmen.
Mamaroneck: The Tigers need to replace some power bats and two of their top three pitchers, but they’ve made a habit of contending and have won six straight league titles. Ace Will Hofmann will lead a team that has less pop, but will play solid defense and has a lot of team speed.
Other teams to watch: Mahopac, New Rochelle, North Rockland, Suffern and White Plains
Harrison: The defending champs have some big cleats to fill with The Journal News’ reigning Westchester/Putnam player of the year Max Bruckner now playing at Iona College, but they bring back players with championship experience. With senior Luke Sassano taking on Bruckner’s role as team ace and an infield that returns three-fourths of its starters, the Huskies will be a threat once again.
Somers: The Tuskers boast arguably the best battery in Class A with Northeastern-bound catcher Joe Scambia and Albany-bound pitcher J.T. Genovese, but the question will be do they have enough with their supporting cast? If some young players can step up, Somers could be the team to beat.
Tappan Zee: No rotation in Class A is as deep as the Dutchmen’s, with three proven starters in Chris Monaco, Eric Casey and Mike Woulfe. They’ll keep TZ in just about every game, but the offense will need to produce better than it did in 2012 for this team to win its second section title in three years.
Other teams to watch: Byram Hills, Lakeland, John Jay, Pelham and Sleepy Hollow
Briarcliff: The two-time defending champs were state runners up last season and have become the perennial favorite in Class B. While the Bears lose some significant pieces, they have plenty coming back to make a run at the three-peat, led by ace Spencer Kulman.
Keio: The Unicorns were widely considered to be Briarcliff’s top challenger last season, but they came up short against the Bears in the title game. League MVP Kento Suga is gone, but senior Takumi Yokoyama seems ready to lead this young and talented team.
Others to watch: Ardsley, Hastings, Pleasantville, Putnam Valley and Rye Neck
Haldane: Last year’s state runners up, the Blue Devils look like Section 1’s best chance for a state title this season. Incredibly, Haldane returns its top seven hitters from the 2012 team, led by Manhattan-bound senior shortstop Matt Forlow.
Others to watch: Palisade Prep, Solomon Schechter and Tuckahoe
Iona Prep: After 30 seasons with coach Fred Gallo at the helm, Ryan Mahoney will be the new head man in the Gaels’ dugout. He takes over a team that is coming off of a CHSAA Class AA title and always has high expectations.
Others to watch: Hackley, Rye Country Day and Stepinac
10 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kyle Adams, White Plains: The senior hit .490 with a .640 on-base percentage, and is regarded as one of the top catchers in Section 1. Adams is a tall righty with a strong arm who has worked hard to improve his defense.
Joe Anselmi, North Rockland: The senior will be relied on heavily. He had a 1.97 ERA last year as the No. 1 starter, and will likely hit third in the lineup.
Schuyler Bates, Kennedy: The Penn State-bound senior is one of the true aces in Section 1. The right-hander emerged as the No. 1 starter after throwing a no-hitter against Panas last season.
Spencer Kulman, Briarcliff: The Wofford College-bound senior contributes in all facets of the game. He’ll be the Bears’ ace and No. 3 hitter after hitting over .400 while leading the team in ERA and strikeouts.
Vin Martin, Iona Prep: The Iona College-bound senior will take on the role of team ace and also play the outfield. On a team filled with talent, he may be the most important player.
Sky Mercado, Stepinac: The Maine-bound senior can hit for power, steal bases and play excellent defense at shortstop. He’ll also be used to close games as a late-inning reliever.
Matt Oniffrey, Fox Lane: The Maryland-bound senior may have the sweetest lefty stroke in Section 1 and one of the smoothest gloves at first base. He hit .408 with 24 runs scored, 21 RBI and four homers.
Joe Scambia, Somers: The Northeastern-bound senior is one of the most complete catchers in the section. Scambia had 25 RBI and a .500 on-base percentage and threw out 70 percent of would-be base stealers.
Richard Slenker, Fox Lane: The Yale-bound senior hit .457 with 22 runs scored, 27 RBI and three home runs while basically playing on one knee. After multiple offseason surgeries, he proclaims himself to be “100 percent.”
John Valente, New Rochelle: The senior will be one of the most critical players in the section. Not only will the hard-throwing righty serve as the Huguenots’ ace, but he’ll also play shortstop and likely hit third again after doing so last season.
THREE QUESTIONS FOR THE SEASON
Which teams have changed classes that could have big impacts? Kennedy’s move to Class AA really shakes things up in two classes. The Gaels would have been the favorites in Class A — which now appears wide open — and should contend in Class AA. Ardsley dropping down from Class A to Class B should also have some ripple effects.
Which defending section champ is most likely to repeat? Arlington (Class AA) and Harrison (Class A) will have tough paths back to the top in deep classes, but Briarcliff may be the favorite in Class B for the third consecutive year. The obvious choice is Haldane, which looks like a state title contender in Class C.
Where will the section championship games be played? After years of playing at the home of the Hudson Valley Renegades at Dutchess Stadium, all section finals will be held at Provident Bank Park, the home of the Rockland Boulders.