Last season is one the East Hampton baseball team would like to forget.
The Bonackers finished tied for last place in League VII with Amityville with a 2-18 record, but the good news for the team this year is that just one senior, centerfielder Pete Vaziri, was lost to graduation. With a strong group of players with varsity experience returning, plus a new head coach, East Hampton is hoping for vast improvement on the diamond this spring.
R.J. Etzel is taking over the program, and while he’s new to the head coaching position, he’s certainly a familiar face. Etzel, a Montauk resident, graduated from East Hampton in 1997 and went on to play baseball at Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook University. Etzel was a volunteer assistant coach for former head coach Ed Bahns in 2004 before moving to Miami, Florida, where he coached youth baseball and also taught phys ed.
Etzel said he expects the team to have a strong pitching staff this year, led by seniors Maykell Guzman and Pete Shilowich, as well as juniors Jack Abrams-Dyer and Max Lerner, and sophomores Will Mackin and Kyle McKee.
Junior Pat Silich will start behind the plate and should be a strong hitter as well, while senior Brendan Hughes will start at first base, sophomore Dylan Lynch will start at second base, and McKee will start at third when he’s not pitching. Guzman will be the shortstop when he’s not on the hill.
Senior Ben Newbery and junior Joseph McDonald should anchor the outfield, while Guzman, Abrams-Dyer and Lerner can play a variety of different positions when they aren’t pitching.
Etzel said that in addition to Silich, Guzman and Hughes should lead the Bonackers in the hitting department.
East Hampton will play in League VII along with Westhampton Beach, Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Shoreham/Wading River and Bayport/Blue Point. Etzel said that Shoreham is expected to be one of the top teams in the league this year. The Bonackers are a Class A school, and all their opponents in League VII are Class A squads as well. If they make the playoffs, they could potentially face other Class A teams that compete in League VI, including Harborfields, Islip, Rocky Point, Sayville, Amityville and Elwood/John Glenn.
Etzel said that while depth is still an issue for the program, he feels that the future is bright.
“Although our numbers are low at the varsity level, I am excited about the group of players we have at both the varsity and JV level,” he said. “We have a solid group of pitchers throwing right now, as well as eager sophomores and juniors competing for starting roles.”
East Hampton was scheduled to play two scrimmages with Hampton Bays, one on the road on March 20 and another at home on March 22. The Bonackers will open with a non-league home game against Greenport on March 26 at 4:15 p.m. and will host Pierson for another non-league game on March 28 at 4 p.m. before a non-league game at Harborfields on March 31 at 4:30 p.m. East Hampton will visit Islip for a non-league game on April 2 at 4:30 p.m. and will travel to Rocky Point for a non-league game on April 3 at 4:30 p.m. before a final scrimmage, at home against Mattituck, on April 5. The league season will get underway on April 8, when the Bonackers host Miller Place at 4:30 p.m.