By Dave Ricci
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Kenmore West baseball coach Johnny Haynes didn't take too long to answer what he liked best about this year's team. He said, without question, the dedication from day one is what stands out about the 2013 Kenmore West Blue Devils.
"Absolutely," Haynes said. "And that's huge because that's just going to set the tone for the rest of the year."
Haynes said that early on the depth of pitching could be a question. So it's essential that the Blue Devils maintain their preseason target of scoring between six to eight runs a game so that the pitching staff doesn't feel too much pressure.
Haynes also feels his team stacks up well defensively, starting behind the plate with four-year starter Tommy Ryan at catcher.
"I think our defense is our greatest strength," Haynes said. "Ryan is back. I think our infield is pretty strong. (Jeff) Becker is back at shortstop. (Tim) Stoerr is back at second base. (Mike) Coyne played about half the season at first base last year. (James) Faso's out in center field. He was the main man out there last year. I think our infield is going to be pretty strong."
In his third season coaching the Ken West varsity team, Haynes, a former Blue Devil himself, feels that he has put his fingerprints on the program and the guys have bought into his desire to make Ken West a respected name in baseball again.
"There's definitely a different attitude around here and for the better," Ryan said. "There's a lot of young kids coming up and they look pretty good so far. Hopefully they live up to their potential."
Sophomore Ricky Deiboldt (OF), who is coming off of a breakout freshman season, and Dakota Lloyd (P), will play third base. Both can also catch when needed.
Faso will join Justice Sheehan and Cody Sullivan as the core of the Blue Devils rotation, while speedy Noah Whalen (OF) will be a threat to swipe a bag every time he is on base.
Deiboldt said that the majority of the underclassmen were able to spend a lot of time together over the winter sharpening their skills during Monday workouts. But it was the senior leaders like Ryan, Faso and Becker who set the tone on day one of practice and got everyone focused for the season.
"They were ready to work. They got everyone focused. It was absolutely great," Deiboldt said.
The Blue Devils have a balance in leadership between their savvy veterans and younger stars like Deiboldt and Stoerr.
"I love the fact that me and Tim are able to contribute more of a leadership (quality) to this team," Deiboldt said. "I also feel like anyone can come to anyone else for help in any position. We have Tim, Jeff, Tom — they're all in the infield and me and James we play in the outfield I feel like this year, because of that, we're more of a family. We're more of a team than last year. It's just different."