-Crush Beat Writer, Michael Knauff
The start of the 2019 New York Collegiate Baseball League season starts in a matter of days, and the Cortland Crush have high hopes for the new season.
Cortland, who finished second in the East division in 2018 with a 24-18 record, return a seasoned staff and roster for the 2019 campaign.
Head coach Bill McConnell is back for another season as the Crush skipper.
“I’m super excited for the season,” McConnell said, “I think we have a very talented team of staff, players and coaches.”
Shawn May will serve as the hitting coach, while also being the director of player development and community relations, for the second straight season. In 2018, May’s offense hit a combined .294 on the season.
The pitching coach position has a fresh face fill its spot as Ryan Stevens will assume the role this season. Stevens currently coaches at Tompkins Cortland Community College and has been at the program for six years. According to McConnell, Stevens brought the Tompkins Cortland program back to competitive levels.
“He comes on board with great credibility in developing pitchers,” McConnell said.
Another familiar face will also be the new General Manager of the Crush. Connor Griffin, who played on the Crush in the team’s inaugural season and has coached for the team for the last five seasons, steps into the management position after having recently received his masters from UMass-Amherst.
Also, Homer, New York native Allie Osterhoudt will serve as the GM for game day operations, while Alan Kress will be the director of baseball operations.
Not only is the staff for the Crush deep with veterans, the players roster is as well.
Senior outfield Alex Flock returns to the Crush for his third season, becoming the first player ever to play three seasons with the team.
McConnell said that Flock is a potential all-league player. Flock hit .292 in 2018 and drove in 32 runs.
The senior outfielder also was recently a member of the Tennessee Wesleyan College baseball team that won the NAIA World Series.
The infield will also feature second year men Anthony Cieszko at second and Hayden Houts at first. Cieszko was recently named to the all-Commonwealth Coast Conference second team while playing at Salve Regina College. According to McConnell, Cieszko is a very good fielder and is very baseball savvy.
Houts is coming off a 2018 season with the Crush in which he hit .299. The slugger had an even more impressive 2019 campaign playing at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He hit a whopping .346, drove in 45 runs and hit five home runs.
“He hits for average, for power and he draws a lot of walks,” McConnell said, “He’ll be our number three hitter this season.”
On the mound, Ben Mack, Jonathan Triesler and Michael Viveiros all return. Mack will serve as a relief pitcher, Triesler comes back as the teams closer, and Rivera is coming off a 2018 season with the Crush in which he had a staggeringly low 1.69 ERA in 26.2 innings of work. Viveiros is also fully recovered from an ACL injury he suffered in 2017 and McConnell said he expects the workload to increase for Viveiros.
The experience for fans at Crush games this summer will also greatly improve. The Crush will play the 2019 season at the brand new, all-turf facility Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex in Cortlandville.
Fans will also be able to purchase beer at the ballpark on select dates this summer. Homer Hops Brewing company will be serving Summer Crush, a light blonde ale especially made for the Crush at various home games this year, along with some of their other beers.
The Crush are also greatly expanding the viewing and audio experience for fans who can’t attend games. This season, the Crush will unveil the Cortland Crush Digital Baseball Network this season through TeamLine. Fans will also be able to pull up Crush games on their TV using Roku and Amazon Fire Stick TV.
If you followed the NYCBL in the past, you’ll notice some significant rule changes for the 2019 season.
For starters, the league has adopted the Cape Cod league point system to determine the standings for the league. This is because the NYCBL has set a one-inning limit on how many extra innings can be played.
In a nine-inning game, only 10 innings are allowed to be played while in seven inning games, only eight can be completed.
The rule change is happening to ensure the long-term health of the pitching rotations and limit injuries throughout the course of the season.
This will result in potential tie games, thus making there a need for a points system. A win earns a team two points, a tie gives both teams one point and a lose results in no points.
There will also be only 10 teams competing in the league, as opposed to the typical 12. The Wellsville Nitros and Rochester Ridgemen are taking a year off from the league, while the Onondaga Flames are no longer a member on the NYCBL.
The league welcomes a new team though as the Mansfield Destroyers will play in its inaugural season.
The Crush will play a scrimmage on Wednesday against the Capital City Reds in a double header with game one starting at 3 pm and game two starting at 5 pm. Cortland then travels to Syracuse to battle the Spartans on Thursday in the team’s season opener with first pitch at 7 pm.