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High school notes: Despite distractions, Beaver River baseball thriving

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Talk about facing adversity and putting it behind them to have another fine season. That’s the story of the 2014 Beaver River baseball team.

The Beavers faced a daunting task to repeat last year’s magical run to the Section 3 Class C crown and the state playoffs in so many areas even before the season from hell began.

First, they lost their ace, Samuel Widrick, and several other key contributors to graduation. They were main cogs in Beaver River finishing 17-6 and making it to the state quarterfinals.

Then coach Matt Lyndaker decided to step down and concentrate on coaching the football program at Beaver River.

Junior varsity coach Nick Poquette took over the helm. But two games into the season, he took another teaching job outside the district, leaving the Beavers in a predicament.

Fortunately, Don Neddo has two sons, Brett and Dustin, playing baseball for Beavers. He was approached about the job and took it so the team could have some kind of continuity.

“I coached the boys their last couple of years in Little League, but I hadn’t really coached baseball since,’’ Don Neddo said. “But I knew all the kids and I just felt they deserved someone they were familiar with, not somebody new.”

But probably the hardest thing to digest for this year’s Beaver River team was the fact its home field, in need of repair for years, was unavailable for either practice or games. It is being refurbished as part of a capital project that also includes a turf field for the football field and a new track surrounding the football field.

The team has practiced out back or on the modified baseball field. And with the late spring, most of the practices were indoors in the gym.

So instead of just going out the side door and hitting their own field, the Beavers must get on a bus for every home game.

Fortunately, neighboring districts Indian River and Lowville have been generous enough to allow Beaver River to use their fields for baseball.

The Beavers have played several games at Indian River, a couple on Lowville’s turf field and a few more on Bostwick Field in Lowville.

“(Athletic directors) Jay Brown from Indian River and Rob Goss from Lowville have been so accommodating to us whenever possible to use their fields, sometimes at the last minute’’ Beaver River athletic director Wanda Joslin said. “Our kids have made do with what they have and haven’t complained.

With all of that going against them, the Beavers have thrived on the field.

They are currently 12-3 overall, 11-3 in the Frontier League.

After splitting their first two games with Sandy Creek (win) and South Lewis (loss) under Poquette, Neddo took over.

Since losing to Copenhagen on April 23, Beaver River has won 11 of its past 12 games, with the only loss a 2-1 defeat against Thousand Islands on May 5 in the second game of a doubleheader.

Coach Neddo said his players have accepted the fact that every game is a road game and haven’t let that distract them.

“It really hasn’t been that bad,’’ Neddo said. “They are short bus trips and the fields at Indian River and Lowville are usually in good shape. We’ve tried to just go out and play hard every game, and the kids have adapted to whatever comes their way.’’

Junior pitcher Christian Widrick has been a stalwart on the mound. He is 6-1 with a 1.69 earned run average in 41.1 innings.

Overall, the team ERA is a respectable 2.06.

Offensively, the Beavers are hitting a pedestrian .259 as a team. Sophomore Brett Neddo is the team leader at .419. But they have come through in the clutch more often that not.

Defensively, it’s been a solid effort with only 16 errors in 15 games.

“It’s really been a collective effort,’’ coach Neddo said. “The kids knew they had to stick together and they have.’’

Teams gutting it out

With five days to finish Frontier League games before the Section 3 Tournament seeding meeting next Wednesday, area teams have done a remarkable job making up for all the inclement weather to begin the season.

When the decision to cancel the league playoffs was made a few weeks ago, it was with the hope that the extra time would help teams get in as many league games as possible to help with their sectional seedings.

As of today, most teams have achieved that goal. Though several teams will probably not finish a complete schedule, most have come close.

“A’’ Division teams were originally slated to play 12 games, “B’’ Division 16, “C’’ Division 15 and “D’’ Division 14.

Immaculate Heart Central, which played five games in five days last week, then games Monday and Tuesday of this week, has come the closest to completing the schedule with 11 games.

Coach Mike Delaney said it was a tough stretch, but his players didn’t mind.

“They’d rather be playing every day than sitting around like we did most of the spring,’’ he said.

Fortunately, Delaney had plenty of pitching to get through that tough stretch.

That is not the case with some of the smaller teams. Some of the “D’’ Division teams have been forced to use non-pitchers to eat up innings.

Copenhagen, for instance, had played nine league games out of 14 as of Wednesday.

On the other hand, Beaver River has played all but one of its 15 league games.

Umpire Cobb Honored

The first pitch of today’s Sandy Creek at Belleville Henderson baseball game will be thrown out by Mary Jane Dennee Cobb in memory of her late husband and umpire, James Cobb.

Mrs. Cobb has donated $10,000 in her husband’s name to help the district build dugouts for its baseball field. A plaque in Mr. Cobb’s memory will be placed in the home dugout.

Cobb was an umpire for the Pulaski Little League, the Watertown Baseball Association and the National Baseball League in Bristol, Conn. He also was an umpire for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. He died Sept. 25, 2012, at age 67.

Sportswriter John Day covers high school baseball for the Times. He can be reached jday@wdt.net

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