By Rich Place
In a league that focuses on player development and perfecting fundamentals while still striving to remain ahead on the scoreboard each game, junior varsity teams certainly aren’t excited about the stubborn snow that continued into early April.
“Not being able to go outside is really tough for us because I can’t really see how we can throw the ball from third to first or centerfield to home plate,” said Adam Wolfley, Springville-Griffith Institute (SGI)’s first-year JV head coach.
No doubt it’s been the same story for teams across Western New York, as practicing inside a gymnasium only allows for 85 feet of throwing space. So baseball teams of all levels are eager to get outdoors prior to opening the season.
For SGI’s JV baseball team, they are scheduled to host Maryvale in a season opener Monday, April 9.
“It’s been brutal — it’s impacting everybody,” Wolfley said about the weather during a conversation before spring break. “On varsity, those guys have strong arms and they knew they can throw the ball. But we’re still developing our arms here at JV, so not being able to go outside and throw long distances has been really tough.”
Wolfley takes over the JV coaching position from Joel Lux, who moved up to varsity head coach this year. And while Wolfley might be a new face in the dugout for the Griffins, he’s certainly no stranger to Springville.
Currently a health and physical education student at Canisius College, Wolfley is student-teaching at SGI, where he graduated from in 2014. He most recently served as JV coach at Alden High School.
“It’s actually really awesome,” he said when asked about coming full circle for Springville baseball, having served as a player while he attended school here. “I didn’t think it would happen so soon, but it’s really cool to be able to walk around the halls and not have to go to class and kind of be in charge for once.”
Outside of the classroom, his duties as the man in charge include working to develop a JV squad of 16 baseball players as they continue to refine themselves to prepare for varsity.
Wolfley explained his philosophy of getting all the kids to play while at the JV level. Cutting players, he said, risks the potential of them not returning to try out again next year. And in baseball, subbing players as pinch hitters late in the game, for example, allows for all student-athletes to get some kind of playing time throughout the season.
“I’ve talked to some players and I told them ‘we’ve got a lot of kids here, so you might not start in every game or play in every game, but I can guarantee you can get to play,’’” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Baseball is by definition a sport so, even at the levels below varsity, the desire to score runs and ultimately win games is an obvious goal. And Wolfley said he’s “expecting some wins” out of a team that has “a lot of talent.”
But at the JV level, just as much focus is on fundamentals and refining skills as it is on winning games, he said.
“Basically, (JV is) to prepare them for varsity,” Wolfley said. “It’s working on fundamentals: hitting the ball, throwing the ball, being able to catch the ball. They should be able to do most of those things by the time they get to JV, but I’m here to kind of perfect that so they can go on to the next level and win sectionals, win states, just win games.”
He said he has about 10 boys on the roster who “can throw strikes, and that’s what we are looking for at JV.”
Players on the SGI JV roster this year include: sophomores Ty Dash, Nick Emmick, Zayne Dearmeyer, Nick Sullivan, Travis Mansfield, Nick Pfarner, Ryder Hoffman and Austin Walker; freshmen David Black, Austin Boies, Alex Elkins, Dan Komenda, Domenick Sicignano and Keaton Wnuk; and eighth graders Carter Hoffman and Garrett Walker.
The JV season kicks off with a busy week next week, weather dependent. The team plays four games in five days against Maryvale (April 9, 4:45 p.m.), at Pioneer (April 11, 5 p.m.), at Olean (April 12, 4:30 p.m.) and against Depew (April 13, 4:30 p.m.).