By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE SUNY Sullivan Coach Ryan Snair is very pleased with how the Generals are playing in early the 2012 baseball season.
“We are having a great season so far,” he said. “We are playing well in all three areas of the game hitting, fielding and pitching.”
With a 15-3 victory over the visiting SUNY Orange Colts on Friday afternoon, SUNY Sullivan improved its record to 12-8 overall and a perfect 5-0 in National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XV.
The Generals are making a lot of noise at the plate. Entering Friday’s game, the team had scored 49 runs and hit 19 home runs in its 19 games.
As it has the past few years, SUNY Sullivan began the season by traveling to North Carolina for a week of games over spring break. The Generals finished the trip with a 4-6 record, though Snair was quick to point out that “we played a lot of good teams.
“We played pretty well and were in every game. For example, we played three games against Lenoir [North Carolina] Community College, which is a Division II team. They have gone to the NJCAA World Series in three of the last seven years. We lost one of those games by two runs and the other two games by one run.
“We also had some close games against Cecil Community College, a Division II team from Maryland that went to the World Series last year,” Snair added.
Another team the Generals played was the East Carolina University club team which includes ex-National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I players and former ECU players. The ECU team defeated SUNY Sullivan, 3-1.
Naturally, Snair would like to win the majority of those season-opening games, but the experience of playing them pays dividends.
“We want to go down south every year and play the best teams we possibly can,” Snair explained. “By doing so, we are very prepared for our Region XV games.”
This season, Snair and the Generals are hoping to at least equal last year’s success. The 2011 Generals won the Region XV title and then won the Regional Tournament to earn a spot in the Northeast District Tournament. At that double-elimination tourney, SUNY Sullivan lost to a team from Connecticut and then to a team from upstate New York to end its season.
The winner of the Northeast District Tournament earns a berth in the NJCAA Division III World Series held in June in Enid, Okla.
“We would really like to take that next step and go to Oklahoma for the World Series,” Snair said.
Helping Snair guide the Generals this season is the same coaching staff which includes assistant coaches Jared Carrier and Tom Mattice and pitching coach Everett Saul.
There has already been one milestone set this season. With the Generals’ 13-6 Region XV win over Dutchess Community College last Wednesday, Snair earned his 200th career coaching victory.
“It’s a sign that I have been doing this too long,” Snair said with smile.
He then offered a more serious evaluation of the milestone.
“I really love what I do,” Snair said. “There is no question about it.”
The Generals have 27 players on the roster this season: 12 sophomores and 15 freshmen. And like their coach, they would love to be playing in the Div. III World Series come June.
“That would be awesome,” said Austin Sauer, a freshman left-handed pitcher from Cochecton.
Sauer played baseball at Sullivan West Central School. When he wasn’t on the mound for the Bulldogs, he was a starting outfielder.
After graduation in 2010, he attended SUNY Albany for one year. But then he transferred to SUNY Sullivan and joined the baseball team.
“I just want to help the team in whatever way I can,” said Sauer, who has pitched in relief in a handful of games so far this season.
Fellow freshman Jake Schilling of Honesdale, Pa. agrees with Sauer that fulfilling the goal of reaching the World Series would be an outstanding accomplishment.
“That would be a great experience for everyone on the team,” said Schilling, who played second base for the Honesdale (Pa.) High School baseball team before graduating in 2010.
After working for a year, Schilling decided he wanted to enroll in college.
“I also wanted to play baseball,” said Schilling, who has played in a few games this spring and collected some hits. “This is the best baseball team I have ever played with.”