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2014 Frontier League baseball preview: Bellinger hopes to improve on standout season for Watertown


Jarrod Bellinger had a dream sophomore season.

Not only did he set three Watertown High School baseball records with a .544 batting average, 43 hits and 36 runs batted in, he also went 6-1 on the mound and became the Cyclones’ best pitcher. That was good enough to earn a spot on the Times’ All-North first team.

Duplicating or even bettering that kind of scintillating performance will be hard for the 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to try, and hasn’t put in the offseason work with just that in mind.

“There’s always room for improvement,” said Bellinger, who figures to be the Cyclones’ ace and top hitter once the season finally begins. “You can always be better prepared, get stronger and work on mechanics of pitching and hitting. Everything went right last year, so you never know what will happen this season.”

WHS coach Matt Covey pointed out that losing all-stars Josh Belch and Ryan Bajjaly to graduation will put more pressure on Bellinger to produce without their presence in the lineup. But Covey still feels Bellinger is just scratching the surface as to what he can accomplish.

“One thing you can be sure of Jarrod is going to work hard on improving because he’s a baseball die hard,” said Covey, whose Cyclones have captured the last three Frontier League “A” Division titles. “He’s thinking about baseball year-round, he plays all summer and works out all winter. So when the season starts, he’s already prepared and in great baseball shape.”

Bellinger travels to Camillus every Saturday and Sunday during the long winter months to work out at Pine Grove Recreation Center. Saturday’s are reserved for pitching and hitting workouts. Sunday’s are for team practices.

“It’s a way to keep my body and arm in shape during the winter,” said Bellinger. “We do a lot of work on fundamentals and mechanics, and having the right mental attitude once you take the field.”

During the summer, Bellinger plays for the Sports Zone team out of Syracuse, a travel team which plays in tournaments all over the east.

“That shows just how much he loves the game,” said Covey.

Bellinger said there are a couple of areas he would like to improve as both a pitcher and a hitter.

On the mound, he wants to add a “little more pop’’ to his fastball, which means increasing his arm strength. And he wants to be able to throw his curve ball and change-up more consistently for strikes.

“If I can control the off-speed pitch a little better, it will make my fastball even better,” Bellinger said.

Covey said Bellinger’s mechanics are “first-rate. But you can always get a little smoother and more consistent. He does have good movement on his fastball, which is a big plus.”

Last season, Bellinger struck out 57 and walked just 14 in 40 2/3 innings of work.

Bellinger’s prowess at the plate in 2013 was, as Covey said, “something of a surprise. We knew he was a good hitter, but to have that kind of season was pretty special.”

Maintaining that consistency “will be pretty tough,” Covey said. “But if anybody can do it, it’s Jarrod.”

Bellinger’s main goal this season is “to drive the ball a lot better and get more extra base hits.” A season ago, only nine of his 43 hits went for extra bases (eight doubles, one triple).

Covey said the key to Bellinger’s plate success is “he doesn’t swing at many bad pitches and he has good balance. This year, he’s going to have to be a lot more patient because he doesn’t have Josh and Ryan batting around him. Teams are not going to give him as many good pitches to hit.”

Bellinger realizes that this is a new year, and that things may not go quite as well as last season. “Hitting is such a strange thing,” he said. “You can hit the ball hard and right at somebody. Or hit bloopers that fall in.”

As Covey said, “Up here, all you need is a hot three or four weeks. Jarrod is certainly capable of that.’’

While he is only a junior, Bellinger also plays a significant leadership role for the Cyclones.

“It’s something I enjoy and take a lot of pride in,” he said. “I’ve been here three years and I hope my experience can help some of the younger guys.”

Here is a look at the Frontier League’s teams:

“A” Division

Outlook: Watertown has captured three consecutive league championships, and still has the firepower and talent to make it a fourth. Despite huge graduation losses of Josh Belch and Ryan Bajjaly, coach Matt Covey can call on All-North standout Jarrod Bellinger as his top pitcher and hitter. The Cyclones have the most pitching depth of any team. Covey’s main concern is how quickly some of his position players adapt. Carthage and Immaculate Heart Central should both challenge WHS with veteran lineups. Carthage coach Joe Sech can count on seniors Dylan James, Tyler Clemons and Andrew Smith. While IHC’s Mike Delaney has experience in players such as Robin Massey, Jude Fusilli and Miles Sexton and a budding star in freshman Vincenzo Alteri. Indian River may be the league’s most improved team, and coach Kevin Smith feels his Warriors can challenge for the title. He’s counting on Edward Malinoski, Danny Angelo and Kyle Bresett to carry much of the load.

Carthage Comets

Coach: Joe Sech (8th year, 52-76).

2013 record: 12-8 overall, 9-3 league.

Players to watch: Dylan James (.366), Tyler Clemons (.425, 17 RBIs), Andrew Smith.

Roster: Dylan James (Sr., P-C); Tyler Clemons (Sr., OF); Andrew Smith (Sr., P-IF); Nick Bigelow (Sr. P-OF); Matt Draper (Sr., IF-OF); Robert Flint (Sr., IF); Denny Montanez (Sr., IF); Ryan Pete (Sr., OF); Jacob Walls (Sr., P-OF); Dylan Bass (Jr., P-C-IF); Elijah Galapia-Castillo (Jr., IF); Bailey James (So., P-C-IF); Devin LaQuire (Jr., P-OF); Shane Michaels (Sr., IF); Michael Nevills (So., P-OF); Jordan Oliver (Jr., OF); Jacob Walker (Jr., IF).

IHC Cavaliers

Coach: Mike Delaney

2013 record: 9-7, 5-5.

Players to watch: Jude Fusilli, Robin Massey (4-2, 2.28 ERA), Miles Sexton (.306), Vincenzo Alteri (.444, 20 RBIs).

Roster: Jude Fusilli (Sr., P-SS); Miles Sexton (Sr., C); Spencer Sharlow (Sr., C); Robin Massey (Sr., P-OF); Noah Murrock (Sr., OF); Taylor Campanaro (Sr., 3B-OF); Jake Fusilli (So., P-1B); Joshua Navarra (So., P-1B); Cyrus Beckman (Sr., 3B); Vincenzo Alteri (Fr., 2B); Calo Alteri (Jr., OF); Harry Ho (Jr., OF); Tai Ta (Jr., OF).

Indian River Warriors

Coach: Kevin Smith (3rd year, 9-16).

2013 record: 6-7, 6-6.

Players to watch: Edward Malinoski, Daniel Angelo, Kyle Bresett, Dale Kirby, William Eichner.

Roster: Daniel Angelo (Sr., P-2B); Kyle Bresett (Sr., P-C); Dale Kirkby (Sr., 1B); Cody Davis (Sr., P-3B); Evan Morine (Sr., OF); William Eichner (Jr., C-OF); Edward Malinoski (Jr., P-SS); William Maloy (Jr., P); Zach LaForest-Hurd (Jr., UT); Anthony Demarco (Jr., OF); Devin Thornton (Jr., OF); Steven Lowe (Sr., 3B); Dylan Gonzalez (So., P-OF); Gary Ruckman (Sr., P-OF); Ricky Burgos (Jr., OF).

Watertown Cyclones

Coach: Matt Covey (7th year, 93-34).

2013 record: 16-5, 11-1.

Players to watch: Jarrod Bellinger (.544, 36 RBIs, 6-1), Christian Jorden (5-1), Collin Jorden (.382), Nicholas Lavin (.361), Kenny Schimpf.

Roster: Jarrod Bellinger (Jr., P-IF); Nick Lavin (So., C-IF); Christian Jorden (Sr., P-IF); Kenny Schimpf (Jr., P-OF); Steven Hatchell (Sr., OF); Killian LaDue (Sr., OF); Collin Jorden (Sr., P-IF); Jorden Salyers (Sr., OF); Joseph Freda (Jr., C-OF); Daniel Olney (Jr., IF-OF); Chris Bristow (Jr., P-IF); Michael Newman (Jr., P-IF).

“B’’ Division

Outlook: This division has another new look with Altmar-Parish-Williamstown gone and Lowville rejoining the group after a year in the “C” Division. None of the teams had a winning record a year ago, and each is looking for that one pitcher to carry them through the season. Defending champion South Jefferson probably has the best offense, while Lowville is always strong defensively. General Brown is quite young, but the Lions have some talented younger players.

General Brown Lions

Coach: Mike Hartle (4th year, 21-30).

2013 record: 4-15, 3-14.

Players to watch: Dylan Daughan, Sean Shepard, Mark Corey.

Roster: Dylan Daughen (Sr., 1B); Alex Brimmer (Jr., 1B); Alex Carpenter (Jr., OF); Jared Christopher (Sr., OF); Mark Corey (Jr., P-2B); Levi Crestani (Jr., SS); David Davidson (Jr., OF); Dylan Davis (Jr., C); Thomas Gerstenschlager (Jr., C); Michael Sheperd (Jr., OF); Ryan Snow (Sr., OF); Derek Weaver, Jr., 3B); Evan Will (So., SS).

Lowville Red Raiders

Coach: Dan Myers (13th year, 151-104).

2013 record: 13-5, 13-4.

Players to watch: Billy Larkins, Connor Fayle, Jordan Arthur.

Roster: Billy Larkins (Sr., OF); Connor Fayle (Jr., P); Jake McConahay (Jr., OF); Jordan Arthur (Jr., P); Ian Collins (Jr., IF); Ryan Wood (So., OF).

South Jefferson Spartans

Coach: Joe Vaadi (2nd year, 7-12).

2013 record: 7-12, 6-11.

Players to watch: Logan LaFlamme, Cody Modlin, Hunter Gillett, Dustin Sanford.

Roster: Cody Modlin (Sr., IF); Dustin Sanford (Sr., C-OF); Hunter Gillett (Sr., P-IF); Brendon Cataldo (Sr., OF); Logan LaFlamme (Sr., P-IF); Dylan Beckstead (Jr., OF); Ryan Haynes (Jr., IF); Adam Hutchinson (Jr., IF); Tom Pratt (Jr., C); Troy Randall (Jr., P-IF); Scott Richardson (Jr., OF); Brett Lalone (Fr., IF-OF); Bryce Berie (Fr., P-IF); Caleb Beach (Fr., P-IF); .

“C” Division

Outlook: This division was by far the most competitive in the league a year ago, with just two games separating first and fourth place. Defending regular-season champion South Lewis is still the team to beat as long as Jason Martin is on the mound and at the plate for the Falcons. Coach Chad Brown also has plenty of pitching depth and abundant hitting to claim another crown. Beaver River was severely hit by graduation after capturing the Section 3 Class C crown a year ago. However, catcher Erik Lyndaker and pitcher Christian Widick give the Beavers a chance to have another solid season. Thousand Islands could also be in the mix, led by veteran Austin Bach. Sandy Creek is really young and could be on the outside looking in.

Beaver River Beavers

Coach: Nick Poquette (1st year).

2013 record: 17-6, 13-4.

Players to watch: Erik Lyndaker (.406), Christian Widrick (5-2, 2.48 ERA).

Roster: Kaelyn Ferguson (Sr., P-IF-OF); Trevor Kempney (Sr., OF); Erik Lyndaker (Sr., C-IF); Dustin Neddo (Sr., OF); Kyle Steiner (Sr., P-1B); Christian Widrick (Jr., P-3B); Cody Ardison (1B-3B); Alex Behling (OF); Jon Bush (OF); Daniel Erker (P-IF); Deion Jones (C-IF-OF); Nick Mattimore (OF); Brett Neddo (P-SS); Matt Sundberg (OF).

Sandy Creek Comets

Coach: Mike Stevens (1st year).

2013 record: 8-11, 7-10.

Players to watch: Jared Williams, Zac Brown, Dylan Anthony, Zac Akey.

Roster: Dylan Anthony (Sr., IF-OF); Zach Brown (Sr., IF-OF); Shane Rowell (Sr., IF); Jarod Williams (Sr., IF); Zac Akey (So., IF); Nate Anderson (Jr.); Brad Clark (Jr.); Tyler Doe (Jr.); Cameron Hall (Jr.); Reis Harding (Jr.); Josh Lococo (Jr.); Josh Meizlik (Jr.).

South Lewis Falcons

Coach: Chad Brown (4th year, 45-17).

2013 record: 17-3, 15-2.

Players to watch: Jason Martin (8-1, 1.33 ERA, .550, 38 RBIs), Shawn Loomis (.440, 27 RBIs), Lucas Kelly (.480, 46 RBIs), Cody Capron.

Roster: Jason Martin (Sr., P-SS); Lucas Kelly (Sr., C-IF-OF); Cody Capron (Sr., IF-OF); Wyatt Marolf (Jr., P-IF); Nathan Pleskach (Jr., P-IF); Joshua Wheeler (Sr., P-OF); Tristen Bauer; Naythan Cobb; Brett Farr; Nicholas Kraeger; Leif Ostrum; Darrel Roser; Mitchell Sullivan; Dillon Dzewil; Jake Vanbeber.

Thousand Islands Vikings

Coach: Shannon Amo (7th year, 72-57).

2013 record: 15-5, 13-4.

Players to watch: Austin Bach, Brentyn Horton, Sam Ada.

Roster: Austin Bach (Sr.); Chase Boyer (Sr.); Brentyn Horton (Sr.); Sam Ada (Sr.); Dilan Pena (Sr.); Tom Stevenson (Sr.); Waldo Munez (Sr.); R. J. McIntire (Jr.); Brandon Belleville (Jr.); Christian Shaw (Jr.); Dylan Wiley (So.); Travis Docteur (So.); Zach Mason (So.).

“D’’ Division

Outlook: The return of Ryan Allen to the mound after missing all of last season with an injury gives Sackets Harbor a slight nod. The Patriots also have a veteran-laden lineup. Last year’s surprise team, LaFargeville, will be back in contention as long as left-hander Matt Valin stays healthy. He was the division’s most dominating hurler a year ago. Copenhagen has been the division’s most consistent team over the past several years, and Jim Spaulding’s defending playoff champions should be competitive again. The fourth and final playoff spot could be up for grabs between Alexandria, Belleville Henderson and Lyme.

Alexandria Purple Ghosts

Coach: Cory Edgar (3rd year, 11-23).

2013 record: 4-12, 3-12.

Players to watch: Dylan Delosh, Colby Hunter, Bryn Erck, Miles Kearns.

Roster: Dylan Delosh (Sr., P-SS); Miles Kearns (So., P-C); Colby Hunter (Sr., 1B); Bryn Erck (Sr., OF); Ryan Tebo (So., IF); Maverick Hunter (So., IF-OF); Jeremy Johnson (So., IF-OF); Josh Tebo (Sr., OF)); Jesse Bearup (Jr.); Justin Robbins (So., P-IF); Daniel Hull (So.); Kolby Utterback (So.); Coltin Sochia (Fr.); Kaleb Weller (Fr.); Dylan Matice (8th, P-IF).

Belleville Henderson


Coach: Ron Whitney (7th year, 28-66).

2013 record: 5-12, 5-10.

Players to watch: Tyler Bast, Colton Ramsdell, Jordan Shepard.

Roster: Tyler Bast (Sr., P-IF); Alan Disbro (Sr., 1B); Colton Ramsdell (Jr., P-IF); Conrad Gehrke (Jr., 1B); Tom Desormeau (Jr., OF); Jordan Shepard, (Jr., OF); Brendan Moore (Jr., P-IF); Trevor Contryman (Jr., C); Tyler David (Jr., OF); Hunter Benjamin (Fr., P); Seth Jones (Fr., P-IF); Jacob Hatch (So., P-OF); Ryan Sheehey (Sr., OF); Timothy Reardon (So., OF).

Copenhagen Golden Knights

Coach: Jim Spaulding (15th year, 178-100).

2013 record: 13-7, 9-6.

Players to watch: Antonio Figueroa, Greg Kunert, Brandon Moser, Nathan Freeman.

Roster: Antonio Figueroa (Jr., P-IF); Greg Kunert (Sr., P-OF); Brandon Moser (Sr., P-IF); Nathan Freeman (Jr., P-UT); James Uhlinger (Fr., IF); Kevin Carroll (Jr., OF); Caleb Hatch (Jr., OF); Corey Moser (Jr., C-UT); Garrett Munden (Jr., OF); Connor Eddy (So., OF); Brandon Buckley (So., IF-UT).

LaFargeville Red Knights

Coach: Bret Robbins (6th year, 19-58), Scott Parliament.

2013 record: 9-9, 8-7.

Players to watch: Matt Valin, Thomas O’Driscoll, Ethan Johnson, Colton Klock.

Roster: Matt Valin (Jr., P-1B); Tavis Anderson (So., CF); Devon Chapman (So., OF); Austin Davis (So., LF); Williams Foisy (Sr., 3B); Andrew Gray (So., OF); Patrick Healy (So., OF); Ethan Johnson (So., C); Thomas O’Driscoll (So., P-1B); Brodie Price (8th, 2B); Kelly Ryan (Sr., P-SS); Wyatt Yerdon (So., LF-3B).

Lyme Indians

Coach: Mark Wilson (3rd year, 3-24).

2013 record: 1-12.

Players to watch: Troy Wilson, Caden Sanford, Forrest Stafford, Donovan Marchiony.

Roster: Troy Wilson (Sr., P-SS); Forrest Stafford (Sr., P-OF); Donovan Marchiony (Sr., C-IF); Darius Gamel (Jr., 1B-3B); Riley Schwind (Jr., C-IF); Joseph Paladino (Jr., P-OF); Tyler Davis (Jr., UT); Austin Harvey (Jr., UT); Caden Sanford (So., P-1B); Tristen Walker (So., P-3B); Patrick Thompson (So., OF); Cody Lothrop (So., IF); Jordan Bancroft (So., C-UT).

Sackets Harbor Patriots

Coach: Paul Gibbs (10th year, 94-68).

2013 record: 6-11, 6-9.

Players to watch: Ryan Allen, Josh Keruski, Colton Belcher, Ethan Meeks.

Roster: Josh Keruski (Sr., P-IF); Shaun Cuddeback (Sr., P-UT); Ryan Allen (Jr., P-IF); Colton Belcher (Jr., P-IF); Ethan Meeks (Jr., P-IF); Dakota Brown (Jr., OF); Gino Santamarina (Sr., UT); Dom Derrigo (Sr., OF); Tom Burch (Jr., P-IF); Eric Chrystowski (Jr., UT); Matt Stackel (Jr., IF); Chase Urbanowicz (So., P); Nathan Fillingham (So., IF-OF); Alex Keegan (Fr., P-OF); Eric Fillingham (8th, C); Brad John (Jr., P).

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