Few baseball players would choose to revamp their swings after a spectacular season.
But in Kyle Simmons’s case, he is looking to generate more power and still keep his consistent stroke.
For most players, what Simmons did last season would be enough. The Watertown High School senior not only led the Cyclones with a .479 batting average, he also drove in a school-record 30 runs to earn a spot on the Times All-North first team.
Yet, Simmons is determined to have an even better and more productive senior season. To that end, he’s retooled his swing, hoping a shorter stroke will lead to even more production at the plate.
“That’s Kyle. He’s a die-hard baseball player who is always working on technique,” said WHS coach Matt Covey. “I’m sure he’ll perfect that new swing and be just as effective.”
Simmons began working on a new swing after a visit to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, where former Immaculate Heart Central standout Dustin Exford is now playing. The coaches shot a video of Simmons’s swing, and then gave him some pointers on how to make it even better.
“They wanted me to be shorter and quicker,” Simmons said. “That means keeping my hands back a little longer, and not loading up quite as much.”
Simmons, who has a natural left-handed, opposite-field stroke, hopes to pull the ball a little bit more and increase his power numbers.
Last year, in his third year on the WHS varsity, Simmons had 10 doubles, two triples and three home runs. He also scored 28 runs, in addition to driving in 30, and had 35 hits in 73 official at-bats.
He also struck out just nine times, walked 15 times, had a .795 slugging percentage and a team-leading .633 on-base percentage.
“But I know I can do better than that,” Simmons said.
In his three varsity seasons, Simmons has a .331 combined average and has been among the Cyclones’ top run producers the last two seasons.
As a sophomore, he batted .380 with 17 RBIs, after a freshman year that saw him hit .309 and drove in 10 runs.
Simmons also has worked diligently to improve his fielding. Converted to shortstop last season after two years at second base, Simmons made 10 errors in 21 games. He said a lot of those errors were due to “bad positioning,” and that he learned a lot about playing shortstop last season.
Covey is also counting on Simmons to provide some depth on the mound. Last season in limited action, he pitched 15 innings with a high earned run average.
This season, he will be the No. 3 starter behind Dustin Pond and Caleb Bettis, and is being counted on to give the Cyclones some consistent innings.
Covey said Simmons’s on-field leadership has also been a key to Watertown’s success over the past few seasons.
“His work ethic is something that every young athlete should strive to achieve,” Covey said. “And he’s never satisfied.”
Besides Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Simmons is also considering Jefferson Community College and Finger Lakes CC.
Simmons said his ultimate goal is to lead an experienced WHS squad, which returns eight players from a team that finished 16-5 and won the Frontier League regular-season and playoff titles, to a Section 3 title.
“That would be a great way to finish my career,” he said.
Here’s a look at the Frontier League this season:
Outlook: Watertown, which won the regular season and playoff championships a year ago, is clearly the class of the division with eight returning veterans. The Cyclones not only feature two of the best pitchers in Dustin Pond and Caleb Bettis, but a plethora of bats, led by Times All-North shortstop Kyle Simmons and catcher Josh Belch. Carthage, with seven out of 13 players back, looks to be the Cyclones’ top challenger. Shortstop Ryan Paige and pitcher Tony Bobkoskie will be the Comets’ leaders. For the first time in a long time, Immaculate Heart Central will not be a contender. Not only did the Cavaliers lose most of their pitching, they have only two position players returning in All-North infielder Santino Alteri and infielder Al Davis. With seven first-year players, Mike Delaney’s club will struggle early. Indian River has new co-coaches in Aaron Naklick and Kevin Smith, and some good young talent. But the first-year coaches need Justin Mattingly and Dustin Draper to be strong on the mound and at the plate.
Coach: Joe Sech (6th year, 35-55)
2011 record: 7-11 overall, 4-6 division.
Players to watch: Ryan Paige, Austin Halbleib, Danny Granger, Tony Bobkoskie, Adam Yates.
Roster: Tony Bobkoskie (Sr., P-OF), Brandon Bush (Jr., P-OF), Dan Granger (Jr., P-IF), Austin Halbleib (Sr., OF), Seth McCarty (Sr., P-OF), Devin Myers (Jr., P-OF), Cole Pacella (Sr., C-OF), Ryan Paige (Sr., IF); Cody Rosenberg (Jr., C-IF), Alex Rush (Jr., P-C), Andrew Smith (So., P-IF), Monte Weaver (Sr., IF), Adam Yates (Sr., IF-OF); Tyler Clemons (So.).
Immaculate Heart Central Cavaliers
Coach: Mike Delaney (37th year).
2011 record: 15-6, 8-2.
Players to watch: Santino Alteri, Al Davis, Shane Garrabrant, Robin Massey.
Roster: Santino Alteri (Sr., SS), Cyrus Beckman (So., P-2B), Al Davis (Sr., P-2B), Austyn Frechette (So., P-3B), Louis Freda (Jr., P-1B), Jake Fusilli (8th, OF), Shane Garrabrant (Sr., OF), John Hornbarger (Sr., OF), Robin Massey (So., P-OF), Noah Murrock (So., OF), Miles Sexton (So., C).
Indian River Warriors
Coach: Aaron Naklick, Kevin Smith (1st year).
2011 record: 4-9, 3-7.
Players to watch: Justin Mattingly, Dustin Draper, Kody Smith, Dan Iles.
Roster: Edward Malinowski (Fr., IF), Dan Angelo (So., IF), Joe Roger (Sr., P-OF), Nic Torres (Sr., OF), Justin Mattingly (Jr., P-IF), Dustin Draper (Sr., P-IF), Dan Iles (Sr., OF); Kody Smith (Jr., C), Brady Bombard (Jr., IF-OF), Alex Whetstone (Jr.), Brandon Hartlaub (Jr.), Brett Shippee (Jr.).
Coach: Matt Covey (5th year, 61-23).
2011 record: 16-5, 9-1.
Players to watch: Kyle Simmons (.479, 30 RBIs), Dustin Pond (.444, 30 RBIs, 5-2, 3.13 ERA), Josh Belch (.464, 22 RBIs), Caleb Bettis (.381, 19 RBIs).
Roster: Kyle Simmons (Sr., P-IF), Jared Bellinger (Fr., P-IF), Caleb Bettis (Sr., P-OF), Alex Ward (Sr., OF), Collin Jorden (So., P-IF), Sam Maphey (Jr., P-IF), Lucas VanCoppenolle (Sr., OF), Joshua Belch (Jr., C), Anthony Shepard (Jr., C-OF), Kyle Westlake (Sr., P-IF), Tyler Collette (Sr., OF), Dustin Pond (Sr., P-OF), Ryan Bajjaly (Jr., IF), Christian Jorden (So., P-IF).
Outlook: After a season in which it won the regular season and playoff championships, South Jefferson is the team to beat again. Despite losing all-star Tyler Decker, coach Todd Kirkey is strong on the mound with Mitchell Modlin and Logan LaFlamme, and has some potent bats in Modlin, LaFlamme, Joe DeFranco and Matt Bero. General Brown has a couple of strong pitchers in Jordan Delaney and Bucky Bordeau, and enough bats to contend. Lowville has shored up its pitching and will contend if it can find a way to score some more runs. The sleeper could be Altmar-Parish-Williamstown, which won only three games a year ago, but has a strong nucleus returning, led by Greg Palmer and Skylar Wheeler.
Coach: Ryan Cobb (6th year, 32-55), Jerry Cole (12th year, 90-112).
2011 record: 3-11, 3-10.
Players to watch: Greg Palmer, Skylar Wheeler, Mike Pastella, Ronnie Priest.
Roster: Mike Pastella (Sr., P-C-IF), Skylar Wheeler (Sr., P-SS), Steve Isabell (Jr., C), Chris Mitchell (Sr., IF-OF), Austin Appleby (Fr. IF-OF), Kyler Sheehan (So., P-C), Greg Palmer (Sr., P-SS-CF), Liam Dolan (So., IF-OF), Curtis Toe (Jr., OF), Tom Canfield (So., OF), Tylor Skellington (Jr., P-IF), David Redford (Sr., P-3B), Ronnie Priest (Jr., P-OF), Ty Christian (So., IF-OF), Jesse Buchanan (Sr., P-OF).
General Brown Lions
Coach: Mike Hartle (2nd year, 9-10).
2011 record: 8-10, 6-8.
Players to watch: Jordan Delaney, Danny Phillips, Bucky Bordeau, Peter Will.
Roster: Ryan Amell (Sr., 1B), Bucky Bordeau (Sr., P-2B), Jordan Delaney (Sr., P-IF), Joe Loftus (Sr., CF), Tyler Parks (Sr., P-SS), Danny Phillips (Sr., OF),David Shumacker (Sr., 3B), Colin Lutz (Jr., C), Peter Will (Jr.).
Lowville Red Raiders
Coach: Dan Myers (11th year, 124-94).
2011 record: 7-12, 5-9.
Players to watch: Alex Clark, Calder Roggie, Brett Golas, Billy Larkins.
Roster: Jordan Arthur (Fr., P), Ryan Birchenough (Sr.), Alex Clark (Sr., C), Brett Golas (Sr., P), Mike Hanno (Sr.), Jeremy Kingsley (Sr.), William Larkins (So., OF), Curtis Lehman (Jr., P), Calder Roggie (Sr., SS), Logan Rohr (Sr.), Jordan Tuttle (Sr.), Jeremiah Zehr (Sr.), Jordon Zehr (Sr.)
South Jefferson Spartans
Coach: Todd Kirkey (3rd year, 20-19).
2011 record: 12-8, 9-4.
Players to watch: Mitchell Modlin, Joe DeFranco, Aaron Knapp, Matt Bero, Logan Laflamme.
Roster: Nick Barker (Sr., OF), William Beese (Jr., IF), Matthew Bero (Sr., SS), Ryan Broadhurst (Jr., P-IF), Joe DeFranco (Sr., C), Tom Gordonier (Sr., OF), Gray Haldeman (Jr., C-OF), Nick Hallett (Sr., 1B), Cameron Heasley (Jr., 2B-3B), Cody Jones (Jr., OF), Aaron Knapp (Sr., 1B-OF), Logan LaFlamme (So., P-OF), Brandon Lloyd (Jr., P-IF), Mitchell Modlin (Sr., P-IF), Tyler Palmer (Jr., P-OF), Jacob Perry (Jr., P-1B), Marcus Shelmidine (Jr., P-1B), Taylor Thomas (Jr., OF).
Outlook: Expectations are high at Beaver River, where 10 players with varsity experience return from last year’s playoff champions and regular season co-champions. Pitching will be strong with Evan Lyndaker, Justin Bush and Samuel Widrick leading the way. South Lewis, which had an off-year in 2011 and finished in last place, should return to form, led by Jason and Elliott Martin. Sandy Creek has a standout pitcher in Jared Soule, while Thousand Islands is the youngest team in the division with just two veterans returning.
Beaver River Beavers
Coach: Matt Lyndaker (4th year, 31-30).
2011 record: 12-7, 11-5.
Players to watch: Evan Lyndaker, Samuel Widrick, Justin Bush, Brandon Widrick.
Roster: Erik Lyndaker (So., C), Jordan Boliver (Jr., OF), Brandon Delong (Jr., P-IF), Samuel Widrick (Jr., P-IF), Justin Bush (Sr., P-IF), Evan Lyndaker (Sr., P-C), Cody O’Donnell (Sr., OF), Brandon Widrick (Sr., P-2B), Caleb Zehr (Sr., OF), Trevor Zehr (Sr., P-SS), Tarren Farney (Jr., P-IF), Matthew Johnson (Jr., OF), Seth Lapp (Jr., P-IF), Justin Hulbert (Sr., OF), Matthew Lee (Sr., C-IF).
Sandy Creek Comets
Coach: Ben Archibee (7th year, 59-56).
2011 record: 9-9, 8-8.
Players to watch: Jared Soule, Adam Fox, Wyatt Bush, Derek Pfluger.
Roster: Not available.
South Lewis Falcons
Coach: Chad Brown (2nd year, 8-11).
2011 record: 8-11, 7-9.
Players to watch: Hunter Chruscicki, Elliott Martin, Jason Martin, Josh Stoffle).
Roster: Hunter Chruscicki (Sr., P-IF-OF), Elliott Martin (Sr., P-C), Jason Martin (So., P-IF), Josh Stoffle (Sr., P-IF), Jordan Andre, Cody Capron, Ryan Hall, Hunter Jones, Luke Kelly, Garrett Kubinski, Shawn Loomis, Dominick Ventura.
Thousand Islands Vikings
Coach: Shannon Amo (6th year, 47-47).
2011 record: 8-11, 7-9.
Players to watch: Joe Knapp, Ethan Whitton, Cameron Robbins, Reed Donnelly.
Roster: Joe Knapp (Sr., Utility), Ethan Whitton (Sr., IF), Reed Donnelly (Jr., P-IF), Cameron Robbins (Jr., (P-IF), Matt Julian (Jr., P-C), Austin Bach (So., P-IF), Morgan Earp (So., IF-OF), Chase Boyer (So., OF), Breytn Horton (So., OF), Dilan Pena (So., OF), Michael Pena (So., OF), Bennitt Donnelly (Fr. IF).
Outlook: Sackets Harbor will rely on several of the players from the state championship basketball team to lead the Patriots to another divisional crown. Led by All-North standout Cameron Allen, Zach Allen and Zach D’Alessandro, the Patriots have the pitching and hitting to repeat. The rest of the division looks pretty equal. Belleville Henderson received a blow when senior pitcher Brandon Harmych decided not to play. That leaves the Panthers in a big bind, trying to replace their best player. The other teams, Copenhagen, LaFargeville, Lyme, Alexandria are pretty young and need to show significant improvement. Cory Edgar takes over as coach for Ron Hazelton at Alexandria.
Alexandria Purple Ghosts
Coach: Cory Edgar (1st year).
2011 record: 6-10, 5-9.
Players to watch: Gannon Beach, Tyler Edgar, Brandon Pierce, Zach Walti.
Roster: Gannon Beach (Sr., SS), Tyler Edgar (Sr., P-2B), Brandon Pierce (Sr., P-C), Ryan Foster (Sr., P-OF), Jared Trickey (Sr., OF), Kenny Lusk (Sr., C-3B), Zach Walti (Jr., P-OF), Ian Kearns (Jr., IF).
Belleville Henderson Panthers
Coach: Ron Whitney (5th year, 20-42).
2011 record: 9-7, 9-5.
Players to watch: Tom Leen, Spencer Stuckey, Jake Arnold.
Roster: Tom Leen (Sr., P-C-OF), Spencer Stuckey (Sr., P-2B), Jake Arnold (Sr., P-IF), J. W. Allen (Sr., 1B), Adam Durham (Sr., C-1B-OF), Corey Morris (Sr., C-OF), Adam Folk-Passage (Sr., Of), Charlie Moore (Jr., IF-0F), Kyle Hallett (Jr., IF-OF), Tyler Bast (So., P-IF-OF), Jamez Lashway-Voytko (So., C-OF), Alan Disbro (So., IF-OF), Colton Ramsdell (Fr., P-IF-OF), Thomas Desormeau (Fr., C-OF).
Copenhagen Golden Knights
Coach: Jim Spaulding (13th year, 156-85).
2011 record: 11-7, 8-6.
Players to watch: Connor Berrus, Kyle Clarke, Collin Hess, Justin Selley.
Roster: Connor Berrus (Sr., OF), Kyle Clarke (Sr., Utility), Collin Hess (Sr., C-IF), Justin Selley (Sr., P-IF), Kody Petrus (Jr., P-IF), Logan Marolf (Jr., OF), Jake Nadelen (Jr., IF), Matt Schweinsberg (Jr., OF), Brandon Selley (Jr., Utility), Derek Sullivan (Jr., C-Utility), Andy Freeman (Jr., OF), Greg Kunert (Jr., OF), Brandon Moser (So., IF), Antonio Figueroa (Fr., IF).
LaFargeville Red Knights
Coach: Bret Robbins (4th year, 8-36).
2011 record: 0-15, 0-14.
Players to watch: Wayne Aldrich, Matt Valin.
Roster: Wayne Aldrich (Sr., P-SS), Brandon Derosia (Sr., C-3B), Kevin Stevens (Jr., 2B-OF), Zach Baughn (Jr., 3B-OF), Matt Strader (Jr., C), Matt Valin (Fr., P).
Coach: Mark Wilson (1st year).
2011 record: 6-11, 5-9.
Players to watch: Dakota Booth, Jeremy Tarwater, Keith Goutremout, Shelby Mellon.
Roster: Jeremy Tarwater (Sr., 2B), Dakota Booth (Sr., P-SS), Keith Goutremout (Sr., P), Shelby Mellon (Sr., C), R.J. Strasser (Sr., OF), Brandon Mac (Sr., OF), Brian Pawlin (Sr., OF), Tanner Blank (Sr., OF), Gabe Franchi (Sr., Utility), Gunnar Blank (Jr., 3B), Kody Goutremout (Jr., 1B-OF), Shane Millington (Jr., OF), Gang Chen (Jr., OF), Christian Sanford (So., IF), Donovan Marchiony (So., C-IF), Forrest Stafford (So., OF), Joe Paladino (Fr., P-Utility).
Sackets Harbor Patriots
Coach: Paul Gibbs (8th year, 73-53).
2011 record: 13-7, 10-4.
Players to watch: Cameron Allen (.556, 1.81 ERA), Zach Allen (.343, 3-1), Zach D’Alessandro, Billy Newcombe (.300).
Roster: Cameron Allen (Sr., P-C-OF), Zach Allen (Sr., P-IF), Zach D’Alessandro (Sr., P-IF-OF), Billy Newcombe (Jr., C), Ryan Allen (Fr., IF), Colton Belcher (Fr., IF), Dakota Brown (Fr., OF), Ethan Meeks (Fr., IF), Jacob Flagg (Jr., IF), Chris Thompson (Jr. OF), Josh Keruski (So., IF).