It took about a week to show that things were going to be a little different for the Seton Catholic Central baseball team this season.
Not so much with regard to results, as the reigning state Class C champions have opened this year with a pair of victories, but more so with how it went about getting those wins.
A year ago, the Saints’ state title run was fueled largely by the pitching duo of Patrick Gosney and Michael Korchak, the pair essentially co-aces, generally alternating starts all season. They shined brightest in the state playoffs, as the Saints didn’t allow a run over their last three games, among those contests Korchak’s four-hit shutout of top-ranked Pierson-Bridgehampton in a 1-0 semifinal victory.
But with Gosney now playing at SUNY Cortland, Korchak is now the undisputed leader of the Seton CC pitching staff.
Seven days after tossing five innings of two-run ball and hitting a grand slam, in a season-opening 4-2 victory over Chenango Forks on April 3, Korchak was on the hill again for the Saints’ next contest against Norwich. In that one, Korchak tossed a four-hitter with 13 strikeouts as the Saints topped the Purple Tornado, 5-1.
“It feels good,” Korchak said of handling a bigger role this season. “Last year, splitting time I had eight (actually nine) wins. Already this year, the first two games I’ve pitched twice.
“It’s great to be out there every time,” he said, “not that they’ll need me all the time, but that they can go to me when they do need me.”
There’s little doubt that Korchak is capable of leading the Saints. After all, he is the reigning state Class C Player of the Year after a junior season in which the pitcher/first baseman went 9-0 with a 0.47 earned-run average, and hit .448 with 20 RBIs.
But even Korchak acknowledges it’s a little different with Gosney gone. The pair routinely threw to each other in practice, both helping each other — and the Saints — reach remarkable heights.
“Last year, it was like split-No. 1s, we were both (No. 1 pitchers),” Korchak said. “Now I guess I’m the No. 1 starter, but we definitely have some young arms that will hopefully step up this year, like David George and Matt Ogozaly.”
Korchak, though, is the top dog. A 6-foot-2 left-hander with a mid-80s fastball and a circle change-up and slider in his arsenal, Korchak is an intimidating presence on the mound. He’s likewise at the plate, where his ability to make contact and hit to all parts of the field — Korchak only struck out six times in 67 at-bats last season — make him tough to stop.
With his teammates, however, Korchak is just another one of the guys, a country and rap music fan who doesn’t have an ounce of “big time” in him.
“The kids love him, there’s not anyone that I recall the last few years on the team that didn’t like him,” Saints coach Jim Miller said. “He’s a great kid, he’s always been a great kid.
“He works very hard, too, and he has great composure out there, he understands what he’s doing,” Miller said. “Awareness is one of our key words, and he’s one of the best leaders in that regard.”
Korchak committed to Bucknell University this past fall, where he has been told he will have the rare opportunity among Division I players to hit and pitch. Having his college destination already determined eases some of the pressure he might have put on himself this season.
“It’s definitely a relief,” Korchak said. “I personally don’t like to worry about my numbers, but when colleges are looking at you, you have to give them a number to tell them how you are doing because they can’t get to every game.
“Now that the numbers don’t really count for anything, you’re just trying to go out and help the team,” he said.
As for defending a state title, Korchak knows it won’t be easy. But he sounds very reassuring when says he and his teammates won’t just go through the motions, after last season’s memorable run.
“Last year, obviously, it was a great year,” Korchak said. “I’d have been perfectly fine ending my (high school) career off of that. There’s a lot more pressure now, people are paying more attention to us.
“We aren’t satisfied, though, we want to make another run,” he said. “We definitely want to get where we were last year, get to the last day and have a chance to win a state championship.”