By Mackensey O'hara
---- — As a first year college athlete, Sawyer Haney said he was hoping to get some valuable experience on the mound at SUNY IT. He didn't imagine his experience would include pitching in the championship game as a freshman.
“Being able to pitch in the championship game was a privilege,” said Haney, a former Cooperstown Central School pitcher and 2013 graduate. “I obviously had some nerves, but having some starts before that game brought them down.”
In game two of the NEAC Championship, Haney was the starting pitcher and held Penn St. Berks to just one run over five innings before having some trouble in the sixth and forcing a change up on the mound.
“He did his part for that game,” said SUNYIT head coach Kevin Edick. “He did a good job.”
Edick, who recruited Haney, said that the improvement in his freshmen season alone was very evident.
“We saw a lot of potential on the mound (when recruiting him),” said Edick. “He improved all the way through fall ball, jumped right into the fire this spring season, and was one of our top four pitchers.
“He’s got some good stuff, he hits his spots, and he has the attitude to achieve,” continued Edick.
Haney, who finished his senior season at CCS with a 2.57 ERA, said that he noticed some improvement in his pitching once they hit the spring season.
“I saw a few mph added to my speed after winter and I saw myself getting more accurate,” said Haney.
“It really helped having a great pitching coach in Pat Baker,” Haney continued.
Haney finished the season with a 1-4 record, having pitched in 8 games and just over 37 innings. He had a 7.88 ERA.
What Edick stressed as one of Haney’s best attributes was his composure on the mound, a quality that is crucial for any pitcher to succeed.
“He is very composed on the mound,” said Edick. “His first outing he had typical freshmen nerves, but after that he settled in quite well for us.”
Haney said that composure has always been with him throughout high school, where he also played basketball and football. In regards to baseball, he said it all boils down to relaxation, focus, and taking it one pitch at a time.
“When I go back up to the mound, I just relax, close my eyes, and take a deep breath,” said Haney. “It helps me focus in on what I need to do. It helps me focus in on just the next pitch and not the whole big picture.”
That focus should help Haney excel, as he continues to want to improve by playing summer ball and increasing his strength.
“I met with someone last week about making a workout plan for the year so I’m hoping to start that up this summer and continue through the year,” said Haney.
Added Edick, “He needs to get stronger and I think if he does, he will be an exceptional pitcher for us.
“Of course, you’re better when you’re stronger and I think he’s buying into that,” Edick continued.
With a .353 batting average in his senior season of high school and the versatility to play multiple field positions, Haney is also hopeful that he can contribute in the batter’s box as well as on the field for the Wildcats.
“I’m hitting now in summer league and pitching and I’m hoping that I could get in there next year,” said Haney. “I feel like I could help if I was able to play the field and hit as well as pitch.”
Whether or not he will be utilized as a hitter on the college field, it’s clear that his presence on the mound will be a regularity in the years to come, something that both player and coach are happy about.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the mound,” said Haney. “I love being out there with the spotlight right on you.
“It’s a position that has a lot of pressure, but I feel like I can keep my composure pretty well out there,” Haney continued.
“He is very effective for five innings and now we want him to be able to go for seven,” said Edick. “The experience he got this year will make him that much better.
“We want to get him back to being able to pitch in the championship games for us again next year,” Edick continued.
Haney said he is fitting in on campus and in the dugout.
“All the guys are great,” said Haney. “We lost our top hitter, two of our fastest guys, and a pitcher so we are going to have a tough time, but we also have a lot coming back.
“I love the campus, it’s beautiful,” continued Haney, who is majoring in computer design. “I couldn’t ask for a better school.”