By Sam Wilson

 There’s no denying it for Chris Mendell: his Ellicottville varsity baseball squad is young and inexperienced.

The Eagles return four starters, and two other letterwinners, from last season’s team, which went 7-10 with a first-round playoff loss. In their its two games, Ellicottville started five sophomore and two freshman.

“We definitely lack in experience and that’s something we’re going to have to continue to work on,” Mendell said. “I think as they continue to get more reps under their belt, pitching, batting, just normal baseball situations, the better we’ll be. But a lot of these kids are seeing it through their eyes, through their lens for the first time so there’s a bit of a learning curve there. But I’m real happy with the work ethic. They’re eager to learn, which is nice, and they seem interested in baseball.”

Those four returning starters are seniors Steven Rowland and Kaleb Pierce and sophomores Wyatt Chudy and Clayton Rowland.

And so far, Mendell’s team doesn’t appear intimidated by the adjustment to varsity play.

“They have experienced it in other sports, whether it be at the varsity or JV level,” he said. “They’re young, but there are some good athletes there. Chudy has played varsity sports already, as well as Clayton Rowland, Logan Grinols did a bit in basketball. They’ve had a little taste of varsity experience (in other sports), but baseball is something where there’s a lot to the game and a lot to learn. So there’s going to be a bit of learning curve for sure.”

Senior Steven Rowland, a first/third baseman and pitcher, hit .324 last season and starts the year as Mendell’s most reliable hitter and a leader.

“Steven would be the overall leader of our team,” he said. “He’s been with me since (the longest), he’s definitely someone the kids can look up to in that regard. He certainly has the most experience.

“As far as stats go from last year, what he’s bringing to the table, we’ll look for him to lead us on offense, that’s for sure.”

Meanwhile, a youngster, freshman Lucas Marsh, appears to be Ellicottville’s top pitcher.

“The biggest thing, as it is in any season, is pitching,” Mendell said. “We lack big time in that category as far as experience, but I think we’re going to play good defense for the most part. Hitting, we just playe Clymer/Sherman and they had some really good pitching. Just catching up with the speed of the game as far as they’re a little bit behind in that aspect of it. I guess if I say the key to our season, it would be how well our pitching staff develops.

“Defensively, our starting nine is pretty solid out there. I’m pretty confident in us defensively, it’s just how quickly we get our feet underneath us pitching-wise.”

After its two seniors, Ellicottville has five juniors: Gabe Hauri, Nate Ploetz, Dan Young, Caleb Adamic and Jordan Peplinski. Ryan DeKay, Harrison Newark, Braedyn Palmatier, Lucas Adams, Brett Kryniski, Wyatt Chudy and Clayton Rowland are the seven sophomores, while Grinols and Marsh are the two freshmen.

At 1-4 so far with a split of two games against Cattaraugus-Little Valley and losses to Clymer/Sherman, Randolph and Salamanca, the Eagles’ youth leads Mendell to say he doesn’t have a defined goal for the season, just to continue improving throughout the spring.

‘Just keep on moving,” he said. “I just told the kids we’re young and our goal is to come to practice hard, work every day and see what we can improve and see where we can land at the end.”