Ryan Murphy took the offseason seriously.
The senior pitcher put on 15 pounds and worked on developing his slider and changeup, in preparation for the Roy C. Ketcham High School baseball team’s season.
The results? So far, so good.
“I’m feeling a lot better than I did last year,” Murphy said. “My stuff has been sharp. I have a lot more velocity on my pitches.”
As for the rest of the team, Murphy added, “Things are looking good.”
The Indians enter this season coming off a run to the New York State Class AA semifinals. Ketcham graduated a significant amount of talent, but it has a crop of kids who coach Pat Mealy feels can carry the load.
And, Mealy hasn’t changed his expectations. He wants his team to go as far as it did last year, and perhaps further.
“We obviously lost a lot of kids from last year, going into this season. But the expectations for our program are at the state level every year, and there is no difference this year,” Mealy said. “Their attitude has been great. However, there is a lot of work ahead of us.”
They recognize the expectations, too. The Indians have reached the sectional final each of the last three seasons, winning twice.
“We all have very high goals,” Murphy said. “No one likes to lose. Our attitudes and our work ethic is what pushes us over the top.”
Last year, Ketcham defeated Mamaroneck, 4-3, to win the Section 1 Class AA championship — avenging its loss in the final to the Tigers a year earlier. The Indians ran to the state semifinals, where they were ousted by Section 5’s Webster Schroeder, 7-4.
Although the season didn’t end with a state crown, Ketcham finished the season 24-2, doing so with a batch of seniors leading the way. Among the departing upperclassmen were right fielder Erik Merrill, first baseman Stephen Merrill, shortstop Jonathan Cepeda, outfielder Nick Shepheard and pitcher Greg Blum.
This year’s group includes returners Murphy, Brandon Chavarria and Nick Nevins. The Indians also bring back David Henry, who emerged as a solid pinch-hitter last season. Tyler Viscusi is in a battle with Riley Wilson for the No. 2 starting pitching slot behind Murphy, Mealy said, while Jack Simonetty and Tim Nardelli are also touted by the coach to produce.
“These are some key kids we’re expecting some great things from. All are coming back and we’re expecting them to fill in nicely,” Mealy said. “Hopefully, they’re going to take on the attitude teams of the past have had and continue along those lines.”
Murphy believes they can, as he called this year’s bunch “a talented group.”
A group the coach expects a lot from.
“The bar has been set high by the teams of the past,” Mealy added. “We are everybody’s World Series. The sooner they understand that, the better we’ll be.”
Ketcham was slated to begin its season Thursday against Mamaroneck, but because of the lingering snow, neither team held enough preseason practices to play a game. The state mandates that each team must practice 15 times before a game can be played.
Therefore, the Indians will start on Monday, at 4:30 p.m. against visiting North Rockland.
“The kids are enthusiastic,” Mealy said. “There are a lot of variables to overcome. We’ll be ready to go, though.”
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports
Ketcham’s first 5
Monday: vs. North Rockland, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday: at Arlington, 4:30 p.m.
April 11: vs. John Jay-Cross River, 11 a.m.
April 15: vs. Mount Vernon, 2 p.m.
April 17: vs. Arlington, 4:30 p.m.