Written by Andy Newman Friday, 22 March 2013 00:00
An obvious goal for Great Neck North High School’s baseball team this season is to wipe away the memory of last year’s 1-18 record and coach James Bailin doesn’t feel that his Blazers will have any trouble doing so.
Bailin, starting his second season as head coach after being North’s assistant for six years, is confident that the team is much improved. “We’ve got a lot of young talent,” he said. “It was no surprise that we struggled last year. We had a rough schedule and we had four freshman and one sophomore starting during the last part of the season.” The Blazers won the second game on their schedule last spring and then lost all of the rest. “We aim to erase that,” said the coach, referring to the losing streak. “ We’d like to put that to rest.” Joining the team this year is assistant coach Lloyd Sussman, a graduate of North and the University of Maryland. Sussman was a first baseman for the Blazers.
“I keep telling my players that we can change,” Bailin added. “We can be a playoff team again soon.” The Blazers last made the playoffs in 2010 with a 12-2 record. “We have a good group of kids who really believe that we can turn it around,” he said. “Now we’re getting the right kids to come out, the ones who are really interested in being here every day even though they’re under a lot of pressure academically. They’re here every day because they want to be. They want to get better. They want to learn and they want to work hard. So many of them play all year round and want to play college baseball too.”
“We have so much talent now in our ninth and tenth graders,” added Bailin. “This team has as much young talent as any team we’ve had in the past nine years. I know we can make it back to the playoffs eventually. It depends on how well they develop.”
Bailin’s No. 1 starter is a senior, right-hander Brad Rutkin, who also plays shortstop. Shawn Kaiman, a junior, is also a starter and was the winning pitcher in last year’s only victory. The third starter is sophomore Zack Schreiber. Jake Guggenheimer, only a freshman, will share catching duties with senior Anthony Solis who also plays outfield. Winston Zhong, David Neissani, Logan Diamond and Mitchell Schwartz are also seniors who fill out some of the fielding positions. Of the six senior players, Bailin says, “I’m depending on them to be great influences on our young kids.”
While Bailin hasn’t decided on who will play second base, he’s well set at the other positions. Tyler Weiss, a sophomore who played every inning of every game last year, will again be at third. Schwartz will play some first base, outfield and also pitch on occasion. Ross Crames, claims the coach, was one of the top center fielders in the county last year as a freshman. He made just one error in 53 chances. Sophomore Troy Fritzhand will be in left and Hunter Bines, a transfer from Manhasset High School, will be in right field. Fritzhand’s brother, Tyler, a junior, will be the designated hitter.