WESTFIELD — Around the league, there was one thing that most players and coaches agreed upon before the 2020 baseball season was cancelled which was that the boys down in Westfield were going to be one of the best NTL teams this season.
With one of the strongest senior baseball classes in the area, the Cowanesque Valley Indians looked poised to make a run at a District Title, but the disappointing news that the season was cancelled has everyone wondering, how good could they have been?
The senior class for the Indians was absolutely loaded, with the consensus top NTL player in Seth Huyler who batted an eye-popping .455 with 21 RBIs, 22 runs scored and a strong pitcher, Huyler was poised to put together one of the better seasons in not only the area, but all of District Four.
“It was really upsetting,” Huyler said. “We practiced a lot this offseason. We had a bad year last year and we were hoping to come back and go to Districts like we did in our ninth grade year. I think that year we took it for granted because we didn’t realize how special that was and that we would just go every year, and then realizing how difficult it actually was and hoping we can go back this year and make up for it but we just didn’t get the chance.”
Another member of the senior unit who was expected to make a major impact was three-sport athlete Owen Fitzwater. Fitzwater was another player who was coming off a strong junior year, and put together a strong statline batting .328 with 20 hits, 12 RBIs and 16 runs scored and was also an invaluable asset on the mound with a record of 5-1 and also behind the plate as the Indians top catcher and when asked his expectations for this season Fitzwater said simply “To win.”
Fitzwater was equally disappointed in not getting another crack at a District Title, and after a freshman year where he and Huyler both started on a team that made it to the District Championship, not making it back especially without even getting a chance this season was a tough pill to swallow.
“Our freshman year Seth and I both started when we made it to the District Championship game,” Fitzwater said. “It was pretty cool, we got to play at Penn State. Our sophomore year we made it to the second round and last year was kind of a disappointing season. So we were looking to make it back.”
Some of the underclassmen shared in the disappointment as well, as many of them saw this season as the golden opportunity for the Indians to stake a claim to the District Championship. Sophomore Mikey Sipps was one of those players, who will be looked to as leader in upcoming seasons.
“We really wanted to get to Districts,” Sipps said. “So we’re going to have to spend time in the offseason weightlifting and going and doing other things to really get ourselves to the next level.”
With Fitzwater graduating, Sipps will be called upon to take over as the main catcher for the Indians, and without the chance to learn and grow behind a veteran like Fitzwater, he will need to work even harder to get himself where he needs to be.
“I think you can be good at the position, but you also need to know your pitcher which is kind of hard, because you never know what’s going to happen,” Sipps said.
Another underclassmen who is missing the opportunity to not only play on a great Indians team, but also get his first chance to play in the Indians uniform is sophomore Glenn Barnes who transferred from Williamson.
Barnes was very excited to get the chance to play with the Indians this season, and embraced the family nature that Cowanesque sports seems to possess in abundance.
“I feel really bad for the seniors,” Barnes said. “ I really looked up to these guys and wanted to see them play. I just felt way closer here. Just the communication and working together.”
Another underclassman who was disappointed in the loss of the season is junior Devin Gatewood, who is motivated to continue to work to possibly bring home a District Title in his senior season next year.
“It is motivating,” Gatewood said. “But it’s also kind of disappointing because it feels like we’re behind a whole season. We miss out on a whole season of practices and games, so we’re not going to have a whole bunch of experience.”
Gatewood is a player who plans on stepping up his practice routines in order to keep moving the CV baseball program in the right direction.
“I’m going to stay after practice and work at home,” Gatewood said. “Stuff like that and working with coaches trying to get us all to do something.”
Another young player who had a chance to make a big impact for the Indians was three-sport athlete Tucker St. Peter who was devastated for the seniors who didn’t get to showcase their skills this season.
“I feel really bad for them,” St. Peter said. “I really looked up to the seniors and they really helped guide me through everything I played since ninth grade. They’ve really kind of been like my big brothers.”
St. Peter is another player who is planning to step up his offseason training next year to keep CV baseball in contention for a spot in Districts.
“I’m going to lift throughout the offseason stuff and play football to help get myself stronger and possibly throw harder and run faster and things like that,” St. Peter said.
One other underclassmen player who expected to be a leader for his team in the upcoming seasons is standout Kade Sottolano, who even as a freshman last season made huge contributions batting .348 with 15 RBIs, was very disappointed in the loss of the season, but as many know is one of the top offseason workers in the area for any sport and will continue to do so to lead the CV program.
“It was disappointing,” Sottolano said. “But I think we can come back and hopefully make these guys proud of us.”
When asked what it’s going to take to get CV baseball to the next step, Sottolano simply said, “Hard work in the offseason and I think if we do our part and hit the weight room and stuff like that we’ll be good to go.”