VALATIE — Losing a player the caliber of Class B State Player of the Year Calista Phippen to graduation would more than likely cause even the most successful programs to take a step back. But Ichabod Crane is not like most programs.
The loss of Phippen will no doubt be felt, but don’t shed any tears for ICC. Last year’s Class B State Coach of Year welcomes back two All-State players in Gabbie Cox and Jenna Downey along with several other key players from last year’s state championship team that finished with a 22-1 overall record.
Perhaps the biggest question facing Nytransky is who will take over mound duties now that Phippen has moved on to Division I Marist College.
“Although we lost a big part of our pitching staff who led us to two state championships in the past four years in Calista Phippen, I believe our new pitchers are ready to fill those shoes and take on the challenge and responsibility of helping this team win,” Nytransky said. “Those two are junior Marissa Wheeler and Sophomore Bella Milazzo. Both of these girls have been putting in a lot of work over the winter to prepare themselves for their travel ball teams and the upcoming season."
Nytransky has a good mix of veterans and newcomers to work with. Returning seniors are Cox, Downey, Lauryn Heffner, Kylie Rivers, Brittany Futia and Kayla Walsh. The only returning junior is Kaili Saccento. Junior newcomers are Wheeler, Rachel Walsh and Cameron Phippen. Also new to the team this year are sophomores Milazzo, Cali Ringwood, Laney Altomer and Mackenzie Wendelken. The lone eighth-grader on the team is Emma Scheitinger.
“We are looking for some senior leadership this year,” Nytransky said. “All of the seniors have experience at the top level of competition, and I think that will help us prepare everyone for the season ahead.”
Nytransky is looking for big seasons from Downey and Cox.
“Jenna Downey will anchor the catcher position for the third year in a row and after catching Calista for the past three years, she has the experience of calling a game and handling different pitching styles,” Nytransky said. “Gabbie Cox will spend the majority of her time at SS, where she led the team to the state championship with a huge double in the sixth inning to get the scoring going. Gab’s speed will be a huge asset to the team this year.”
Downey and Cox will have plenty of help from the other returnees.
“Kylie Rivers and Lauryn Heffner were starters in the outfield last year, where they will spend this season as well,” Nytransky said. “Brittany Futia was our leadoff batter and second baseman last year, and she will also be used at third base. Kayla Walsh will be vying for time in the outfield this year as well. Junior Kaili Saccento had a good year at the plate last year and will be at the hot corner again.”
Nytransky also has high hopes for the newcomers.
“Our new players should make an impact immediately,” Nytransky said. “I think we are going to hit very well this year and we have definitely upgraded our defense as well. The starting lineup is going to be very competitive to get into this year.
“Many of our players play year round, and they have become better players for that reason. I think we will see big seasons at the plate from Mackenzie Wendelken (1B, C, DH), Cameron Phippen (2B, OF, U, DH), Laney Altomer (OF, C, U). Rachel Walsh (1B) has looked good at the plate so far and our pitchers (Marissa and Bella) are strong hitters as well.
Scheitinger, while just an eighth-grader, is expected to see plenty of playing time this year.
Emma Scheitinger (2B, SS, OF) is a young player, but she has a great bat and brings a lot of speed to the team on the bases and in the field,” Nytransky said. “She will be looking to claim a spot in the starting lineup as well.”
Nytransky isn’t one to make predictions, but is excited about her team’s potential.
I’m looking forward to what this team can do this year and hoping to get back to that top level competition we’ve been facing for the past few years,” she said.
The Riders have a non-league home game scheduled for April 1 against Columbia, before opening up Colonial Council play at home against Holy Names on April 4.