Much has changed for the Marlboro High School baseball team in the 10 months since capturing its first state title in program history.
The Iron Dukes graduated senior leaders who helped fuel their resilient run through the playoffs. They also lost their longtime coach, Dave Onusko.
And yet, the Iron Dukes’ resolve to defend that Class B crown is undaunted, thanks to 10 returning seniors and a new coach with a familiar philosphy:
“What we emphasize is quality at-bats over batting average,” coach John Morrissey said Thursday. “Move guys over, hit behind runners.”
If that sounds like a strategy Onusko has preached, it’s no coincidence.
Morrissey graduated from Marlboro in 1995, played for Onusko and went on to coach baseball at the school’s modified level for 17 years.
That connection has helped create a seamless transition, and has helped comfort the returning Iron Dukes, who are preparing for life in the perennially competitive Section 9 Class B.
“It’s awesome. He (Morrissey) knows how I play, knows how everyone plays,” said Austin Casey, a senior pitcher. “He’s done this for a while and we have that chemistry.”
Onusko, who departed to become an assistant at Vassar College, called hiring Morrissey the right move for the program, and Morrissey has embraced the opportunity.
“I don’t have any kids of my own, but right now, I have 18 sons,” Morrissey said. “I love the family concept at Marlboro and I feel right at home here.”
Casey helped lead Morrissey to his first win as varsity head coach: a 10-0 win over visiting Highland in the season opener on Thursday. Casey pitched five innings of no-hit ball, struck out three and walked three. At the plate, he smacked a triple and a double, and drove home two runs while scoring three.
He called Morrissey’s first win “a great moment.”
A moment, in fact, that followed many fantastic times a year ago.
Marlboro beat Fredonia of Section 6, 8-7, in the state final. The Iron Dukes mounted a furious comeback to win, scoring all of their runs after the fourth inning, for one of several come-from-behind triumphs through the second half of the season. They won with the strong pitching of players like ace Nick Mongelli and the hitting of free-swingers Cole Nicolis and John Mooradian, among others.
But, returning Iron Dukes also had memorable moments in that state final. Casey’s sixth-inning run put his team ahead for the first time, and catcher Hayden Toussaint’s two-run single gave Marlboro a 6-3 advantage.
Now the team is in the hands of Casey, Toussaint and fellow upperclassmen Philip Janeiro, Connor Corrado, Joseph Canosa, Paul Evans, Daniel Gattuso, Justin Conte, Jacob Dreyer and Tristan Ceriello.
And the new many in charge has the validation of his predecessor.
“I’m extremely happy for John. I think he’ll do a fabulous job,” Onusko said. “I think the young men playing baseball at Marlboro are in good hands. I’m so glad an alumni and former player has been able to take it over.”
Onusko said he will continue to support the team from afar.
“I’ll always be a fan and I’ll keep an eye on them.”
Marlboro (1-0) will look for its next win on Wednesday, when it visits Red Hook.
“We’re looking to stay consistent,” Morrissey said. “After (Thursday) I’m happy with what I see, and we can’t take any opponent lightly.”
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports
Marlboro’s next 5
Wednesday: at Red Hook, 4:15 p.m.
Thursday: vs. Rondout Valley, 4:15 p.m.
April 10: at Wallkill, 4:15 p.m.
April 12: vs. Pine Plains at noon
April 13: at Minisink Valley, 1 p.m.