By Greg Klein
---- — Milford returns six starters and 10 key players from last year’s strong team, but that doesn’t mean coach Andrew Griffiths knows exactly what he has to work with for this year’s squad.
“There’s still so much up in the air,” Griffiths said despite the Wildcats’ win Tuesday at Morris to start the season. “(As of Monday), we’d had one practice on the field, and just two or three other practices outside. I just don’t know what I’m looking at yet.
“We have great depth,” he continued. “To an extent that is a curse and a blessing. I have a lot of guys that can play a lot of places well. But I still have to figure out where to put everybody that is best for the team.”
Griffiths’ son, sophomore Peyton Griffiths will play a big part on the team after a big freshman season. Griffiths is the leading contender to be the No. 1 pitcher on the team and will also get looks at catcher and shortstop. Last season, he often started in center field when not pitching.
“Peyton is looking like the No. 1 right now, but we will see,” Griffiths said. “I have five or six guys that can pitch, but I am not sure yet if we have that one or two guys who can go out there and win by shutting down other teams.”
Sophomore Paul VanWarner, who also had success pitching as a freshman, will likely not pitch this season because of shoulder problems.
“I’ve been suggesting, and his family has been suggesting, that he take a year off from pitching,” Griffiths said. “He’s only a sophomore and we don’t want him to do lasting damage to his arm. Some things are more important than baseball.”
Griffiths said that VanWarner will play shortstop this season or perhaps DH and play first base if his arm can’t handle the throws from the right side of the infield.
“Certainly he is going to play every game for us somewhere,” he said.
The Wildcats are a sophomore-dominant team. Of the two seniors, only Kevin Musser started last year. Jordan Colone did get some time as a utility player. Griffiths said Musser will pitch, catch and play in the infield this season.
“Kevin is our most reliable senior,” Griffiths said. “He has been a good soldier for us for four years, and has always put the team first above everything. He always wants to help this team and this program, and baseball is his first love among sports.”
Although CV-S has a new coach and lost the bulk of its bullpen, Griffiths said it is still the team to beat in the Tri-Valley League.
“Until someone beats them and takes it away, I think CV-S is always the king of the hill here,” he said. “Sometimes it is just because of the name on the jersey and it doesn’t matter who is in the jersey. They are the team with the titles.”
Last season, the T-V East title went down to the final week of the season, with the Patriots winning a three-way rivalry with Richfield and Milford.
CV-S then won its third cross-over title and fifth in 10 years. The Wildcats and the Indians outlasted CV-S in the Section Four playoffs; with Richfield beating Milford 5-3 in the Class D semifinals before losing to defending section champs Hancock. The Wildcats, who were the No. 2 seed in the section, finished at 12-4.
“Richfield Springs is still very solid,” Griffiths said. “They are a senior-heavy team and they know how to win. I think Schenevus is going to be tough, too.
“I think the way our league is, we are going to have to grind it out and battle every game,” he continued. “I don’t foresee any easy games.”
Milford is at Richfield Springs today. Last week’s baseball and softball games against CV-S that were postponed will be played Tuesday at Milford.
The home opener will be played on Monday against Schenevus.