Baseball Blue Devils making history for school and themselves
By Michael Turton
The very best of the many excellent teams Haldane has produced in its history become part of a sports legacy that fuels conversations at local coffee shops and kitchen tables for generations – long after the players have moved on to college, careers and community life. The 2012 varsity baseball Blue Devils may well be one of those very special teams.
On Wednesday (May 30) they defeated arch rival Tuckahoe 7-4 at Dutchess Stadium to win their sectional championship. On Monday (June 4) they move on to the regional semifinals. The possibility of a state championship is no longer a pipe dream. The Blue Devils began their season with a sizzling 13 – game winning streak. They finished with a record of 15 wins against just three losses, going undefeated in league play with nine wins.
Baseball IQ, Pitching and Hitting
Like many great teams, the bond players share makes them better than their skills and their statistics. “We have a very committed team” said coach Tom Virgadamo. “They consider our team their second family.” Asked about his team’s strengths Virgadamo said, “Pitching and our baseball IQ … our guys are beginning to know the game more than the average player. And we have a deep pitching rotation.” Deep indeed. Six different pitchers picked up at least one win this season. Pitchers of record include Ryan Koval 4-1, Dan Kinnaird 4-2, John Rotando 3-0, Jay Marchese 2-0, Ryan Shubert 1-0, and John Maldonado 1-0.
The Haldane nine has excelled at the plate as well. The Blue Devils surpassed their goal of hitting .300 as a team. Before the playoffs they were collectively batting .311 compared to .268 in 2011 – a whopping 43-point increase.
The team has improved steadily during Virgadamo’s four years as head coach. “During my first year I kept everything basic. Each year we added new plays and now we are implementing parts of the game that college teams work on,” he said. One player who epitomizes that steady improvement is Stephen Zalys who went from being a bench player in freshman year to a role player sophomore year to batting cleanup as a junior while hitting .398 with 22 runs batted in. Likewise, senior Dima Spinelli went from only eight at bats as a freshman to starting every game as a senior, “and playing a tremendous right field while batting .288.”
Virgadamo is the kind of coach parents hope their sons get to play under. “Growing up I always said that I would love to come back and coach at my alma mater. I take pleasure in working with …and educating our student athletes about more than just baseball. The coaching staff instills qualities in our athletes that can be utilized right into adulthood.”
”On a Mission”
The Blue Devils’ warm up jerseys say a lot about this team. On the back in bold letters are the words “On a Mission.” Shortstop and pitcher Matt Farlow explained what the slogan means to him. “It’s about making a statement: this is the year.” Going into the season many thought Haldane had a pretty good baseball team – but perhaps not a great team. Pitcher Dan Kinnaird said that makes what has been accomplished even sweeter. He’ll remember this season for “going above and beyond everyone’s expectations…we proved people wrong.”
Ryan Koval pitches and plays center field and exudes a kind of confidence that is not boastful but comes from the trust he and his teammates share. “All the guys know what we’re about. Everyone bought in,” he said. “We believe in each other. We have a lot of talent.” It is yet to be determined how far that talent will take them, but this Blue Devils team will be talked about in coffee shops around town for quite some time.
Head Coach: Tom Virgadamo
Assistants: Joe Virgadamo , Anthony Virgadamo, Josiah Peparo, Simon Dudar
Andrew Balducci, # 21, C
Dima Spinelli, # 3, RF
Dan Kinnaird, # 20, P
Matt Forlow, # 17, SS/P
Drew Ford, # 8, LF
Ryan Koval , #10, P/CF
Joe Marigliano, # 2, OF
Stephen Zalys, #18, P/1B
Kenny Doxey, # 1, 2B
Ryan Shubert, # 28, P
John Rotando, # 25, P/3B/CF
Justin Kaufmann, # 7 C/3B
Jay Marchese, # 6, OF/P
Nick D’Antoni, # 11, OF
Johnathon Maldonado, # 15, 3B
Matt Balducci, # 19, OF/P
Justin Ferdico, # 13, 1B/3B
CJ Geller, # 9, C/OF
Photos by M.Turton