John C. Longton III
Last year the baseball team suffered a 14-13 loss to Niagara in the regionals, which ended their season. The team went 20-12 and were sent home with a bad taste in their mouths. This year the roster is deeper and second-year coach Alex Jurczynski has his team anxious for a spot in nationals.
“Our goal is to win the world series,” said Jurczynski.
In his second year as head coach, Jurczynski has hit the recruiting trail and has brought in some talent that can help he and the team achieve that goal.
Jurczynski is active in the baseball world and has reached out to a lot of different players. He has helped run various baseball camps including sites at West Point, Naval Academy and Siena. He’s even going out to Stanford this summer to be an instructor at a camp out in California.
Jurczynski is also Assistant Director at Prep Baseball Report New York, a scouting agency he helped start. Adding the fact that he’s a hitting and catching instructor at the All Stars Academy in Latham, Jurczynski boasts a high pedigree with just 24 years of age.
“I brought in six Division I and Division II transfers,” said Jurczynski.
When asked how he managed to bring in higher profile players like that the young coach responded by saying, “I was in the right place at the right time.”
Three of the players that Jurczynski brought in are ranked in the top 10 for four year school transfers by the NJCAA. Brady Fallon, a shortstop, transferred from UMass Lowell, Zack DeThomasis, an outfielder, transferred from Akron and Brennan Strovink, a first basemen/DH transferred from Lamar College in Texas. All three players will fill the voids left by exiting players.
In terms of key returning players, the team has five returning players with batting averages that range from .316-.489. Second baseman Jeff Bink .361, catcher Ben Julian .316, second basemen Liam Kelly .402, outfielder Connor McDonough .446 and Darren Conte hit .489.
Darren Conte finished the season with the second highest batting average in the nation and he thinks this team has a lot of potential.
“The team is shaping up great this year. Coach [Jurczynski] brought in a lot of talent and everyone is coming in together well,” said Conte. “We are a couple deep at each position with all quality players.”
When asked about the team’s goals for the season Conte replied, “Our first goal is to win the conference, which we all think is very realistic. Then we want to advance to the regional final four. We all think we’re capable of winning that and advancing to the World Series.”
Conte realizes that it’s a long road.
“We just can’t get ahead of ourselves and we have to take it series by series,” he said.
Last year the team got off to a fast start and won 13 out of their first 16 games. They finished the season at 20-12 and didn’t have as strong of a second half. That was due large in part to injuries and the lack of depth at each position.
The Vikings also only had seven pitchers to finish the season last year, which wears on your bullpen when every matchup is a double header. The 2016 team has a total of 16 arms all capable of toeing the rubber at any given time.
The team has brought two new assistants that bring more experience to the team. Brian Fey played first base and hit cleanup for the Siena Saints last year.
Fey is going to be working with the infielders and outfielders. Dave Ames was also added to the coaching staff. Ames was the former coach of Ichabod Crane and he will be the new pitching coach. Al Williams comes back as the statesman of the staff in his fourth year with the team.
“Our team last year was greatly improved over the year before,” said Williams.
Williams thinks that this year’s team has also made a leap from the prior club.
“Alex and I talked, and if we finish with a 24-6 record, we’re going to be greatly disappointed,” said Williams.
Williams has been coaching for decades and he knows a good team when he sees one.
“I feel we’re stronger at every position and much more mentally tough than we were last year,” he said
The Vikings will get a gage of how their team stacks up at the end of the month as they travel down to Virginia to play in a weekend tournament against Hagerstown on Mar. 25 and Thomas Nelson on Mar. 26. Their regular season kicks off Apr. 5 at 2 p.m. as they host Fulton-Montgomery, a team that the Vikings beat three times last season, for a double header.