Varsity baseball off to strong conference start; Seniors Bryce Keller, Nick Duarte provide leadership to younger squad

Max Miranda, Staff Writer

It was a cold, dark night, but the spectators did not care.  The April 2 game that they had been watching was jam-packed with highlights. Senior catcher Nick Duarte, had gone 3-for-3 that day with a home run, and senior pitcher Bryce Keller, had pitched seven innings and struck out 15.  But none of it mattered in the bottom of the eighth.  The game came down to one underclassman when sophomore Erik Klug hit a walk-off single, scoring junior Ryan Bollerman to carry the Vikings over the Long Beach Marines.

“That was definitely the best game of the year.  Klug really came through for us, it was great,” said senior Zach Baer.

This type of electrifying game can serve as an accurate description of how the team’s experience this year.  The players’ performances have led them to already have more wins than last year’s 3-12 team with a solid 4-3 conference record this year (will have played two more games).

“This team has certainly exceeded my expectations. Compared to some of my previous teams, these guys are really strong,” said Coach and Weber teacher Mr. Matthew Holzer.

This turnaround could be due to a number of factors.

“Despite all the different personalities, we all pick each other up, and encourage each other.  We all love the sport and know that it’s not all about one person.  We also have good relationships with one another both on and off the field,” said Klug.

However, there is one reason for this rapid change in record which seems to stand alone for most of the team members: pure effort.

“I believe that we’re so much better this year because everyone on the team just works so much harder and puts their heart into it for the team,” said Keller.

“These guys, I just really have no complaint about, they give their all day in and day out, this is one of the best groups of kids I’ve ever had,” said Coach Holzer.

Although the team seems to be succeeding because of their unity, it is star power that is leading the way.  Specifically, Duarte and Keller, both of whom grace MSG Varsity’s 2013 Top 106 players on Long Island.

In addition, Duarte was ranked as one of the top 25 catchers on Long Island, according to MSG Varsity.  He has committed to Siena, a school that has produced several Major League Baseball players.

“Everyone has just stepped up a lot this season, including players like Nick,” said Baer.

Keller certainly shows equivalent if not more promise as a pitcher.  Through Bryce’s first three starts he has pitched two games with more than 15 strikeouts and two complete games.  Keller is committed to play for Princeton and pitches as fast as some Major Leaguers, having been clocked at higher than 90 miles per hour.

“Bryce and Nick have really been two of the hardest working players, their strength at hitting and their position is just great,” said Holzer.

A notable similarity between the two players is that they both played on the team as sophomores.  This year there are five more players looking to follow in these veteran’s footsteps.  The four underclassmen on the team are Klug, Andy Varvaro, Andrew Chou, Sam Timothy and Issei Kohama.  Varvaro, a pitcher, has already racked up two wins.

“The underclassmen have had an amazing impact.  They are always making plays and are really helping the team win.  They work really hard,” said Keller.

They face a tough road, as teams like Calhoun and MacArthur are currently two of the top 10 teams on Long Island.

“To get to the playoffs is going to be tough, but we’ve got some great guys, and it’s definitely possible,” said Holzer.