By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE June 24, 2003 On Friday night, it was a triple header, as the Tri-Valley Central School baseball coaches honored their 2003 teams with an awards dinner at Ninas Restaurant in Loch Sheldrake.
The program began with modified coach Jason Semo calling his team up before the audience. Then junior varsity coach Greg Botsford repeated the honor for his players.
I thought it was an extremely successful season, Bears varsity baseball coach John Rusin said before bringing his team to the front of the room. Before the season started, a lot of people thought this was going to be a rebuilding year. It was like they were consoling me, Youll take youre knocks this year, but next year youll be okay.
Rusin said the 2003 edition of the Bears led off with a couple of starting freshmen, Danny Knox and Joe Garigliano, and sophomores Brandon Scott, Kevin Hornbeck and Josh Smith.
The rest of the team was made up of mostly juniors and two seniors.
The 2003 Bears varsity baseball team: Ryan Briggs, Zac Bright, Matt Calabrese, Joe Garigliano, John Garigliano, Rob Gruenfelder, Kevin Hornbeck, Danny Knox, J. R. Rennison, Jason Romero, Brandon Scott, Josh Smith, Matt Smith and Kyle TerBush.
The team managers were Matt Bogorad and Matt Thoben.
Two great little guys to have around, said Rusin.
The highlight of the awards dinner was announcement of the trophies: Most Valuabe Player (MVP), Most Improved Player (MIP), Best Offensive Player, Best Defensive Player and the Coachs Appreciation Awards.
J. R. Rennison was tabbed by his teammates as this years MVP. The 17-year-old junior pitched and played center field.
He did all the things I asked of him, said Rusin. He pitched very well and hit his spots. His strikeout to walk ratio was the most telling statistic.
Rennison struck out 52 opposing batters and walked five while pitching a total of 41 and 2/3 innings in six games (5-1). He batted .375.
He faced some very tough teams this year, Rusin said. J. R. gave the kids confidence on defense . . . and we always preach the only thing you cant defend against is the walk.
He pitches quality games, added Rusin.
Rennison said he worked hard for the MVP award, and had a little help along the way.
All of us went to Steve Pintos Baseball Training Camp in Monticello, said Rennison. He helped us a lot with good techniques.
Ryan Briggs, a 16-year-old junior was selected by his teammates as the squads MIP. He took to the field as first baseman and pitcher. He had a 2-4 record on the mound and batted .245 this season.
I started off a little rough this year, but then started to hit the ball, he said.
According to his coach, Briggs has a ton of athletic ability and an excellent work ethic.
He pitched some tough luck games this year, but did a great job for us this year as a hitter, said Rusin. When he finally settled in, nobody could get a fastball by him. He hit line drives all over the place.
Among those hits was a grand slam against Tuxedo.
As a hitter in the cage, he tags the ball, said Rusin. We expect big things from him next year.
Zac Bright picked up the Most Improved Offensive Player trophy. The junior second baseman is 16 years old and batted .408 this spring.
He handles the bat extremely well and had on base percentage over .500, said Rusin. When you need the big hit, Zacs going to get it for you.
Zac is a ball player, he added. Hes one of those kids who know the game. He was brought up on baseball. Hes a gamer . . . hes going to get dirty, and do what it takes to win.
Brights take on the award?
It feels good, he said. Next year, were going to improve and go further.
Matt Calabrese earned the title of this seasons Most Improved Defensive Player.
It tops off a good season, and next year were going to have a better one, said Calabrese, a 17-year-old junior catcher.
He was like a second coach on the field, said Rusin. He was like a quarterback in the infield . . . he calls a great game, and knows how to settle pitchers down. He threw out 36 percent of the runners to go against him.
As a team, the Bears had 32 stolen bases against them while stealing 92 bases themselves.
John Garigliano garnered the Coachs Appreciation Award. The 17- year-old junior played first base for the Bears.
Johns a kid who gets there early before practice and stays late to work the field, Rusin said. He does anything he can to help, and doesnt look for any recognition.
He plays very good defense and hits the ball. He always finds a way to get on base.
As a team, the 2003 Bears got 123 runs and 136 hits in 467 at bats. They had 103 singles, 26 doubles, four triples and three homers. They batted .291 with an on-base percentage of .424 and a slugging average of .383.
Rusin is a coach who lives and breathes baseball.
It took a little while for us to get used to winning this year, he said. Finally, they realized we had the ability to go out there and win every game.
T-V finished the season with a 10-7 won-lost record.
Going into the sectionals, the Bears won their last five games including a season ending 20-1 drubbing of the Fallsburg Comets.
In the opening round of sectional play, they lost to Chester, 11-3.
Rusin is a second year physical education teacher at T-V. This year, he took over as coach of the varsity baseball team. In addition to his baseball coaching duties, he also serves as an assistant varsity football coach.
Football is my love, baseball I live, said Rusin.