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Baseball preview: Upward trajectory

Bethlehem believes last year’s surge will carry over to 2013

The Bethlehem baseball team has its sights set on winning the Suburban Council South Division and Section II Class AA titles this year after a strong finish to the 2012 season. Among the returning players are, from left, senior captains Nick DiNapoli, Eric Mueller and Pat Rarick.

The Bethlehem baseball team has its sights set on winning the Suburban Council South Division and Section II Class AA titles this year after a strong finish to the 2012 season. Among the returning players are, from left, senior captains Nick DiNapoli, Eric Mueller and Pat Rarick. Photo by Rob Jonas.

The Bethlehem baseball team is hoping for a repeat of its second half performance last season.

After a 1-7 start, the Eagles won seven of their last eight games to qualify for the Section II Class AA playoffs, where they lost to Troy in the first round.

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Which baseball team will win the Suburban Council South Division title?

  • Bethlehem 58%
  • Colonie 26%
  • Columbia 2%
  • Guilderland 13%

53 total votes.

“It will translate over to this season,” said senior outfielder Eric Mueller. “We’re all a year older and a year better.”

“They’re a great team,” said Bethlehem coach Rob Helm. “They’re my favorite team I’ve ever coached here. It’s not going to be like last year. They’ve grown a lot.”

Bethlehem has its entire starting lineup back for the 2013 season, and Mueller will be one of its key players. Mueller has been one of the team’s top hitters each of the past three years, and Helm said he expects more of the same from him.

“He’s hit over .400 all three years and over .500 one year,” said Helm. “It’s a really good start.”

The infield is also set with the return of shortstop Mike Anziano, first baseman Pat Rarick, second baseman Nick DiNapoli, and third baseman Mike Graves.

On the pitcher’s mound, the Eagles have two starters back in Rarick and senior David Miller. Junior Connor Costello has been called up from the junior varsity team to take a spot in the rotation.

Helm said pitching depth will be a key this season, especially if the schedule becomes condensed due to rainouts.

“We have good pitching and good depth, so we can handle that,” said Helm.

Even with a veteran lineup and good pitching depth, Bethlehem will be in a fight with Guilderland, Colonie and defending Section II Class AA champion Columbia for the South Division title. But the Eagles believe they can finish on top -- not only in the division, but also in Sectionals.

“The goal this year is not to (just) make Sectionals. It’s to win Sectionals,” said Helm.

Bethlehem opens its Suburban Council season Friday against neighboring rival Guilderland. The Eagles then host Christian Brothers Academy Saturday in a non-league contest.

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