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Senior Laden: Ossining Baseball on the Rise

OSSINING, N.Y. – The Ossining varsity baseball team had just concluded the 2011 season when it immediately began thinking about 2012.

The Pride, who had opened the Section 1 Class AA baseball championships with a win over fourth-seeded John Jay-East Fishkill before a loss to Fox Lane in the quarterfinals, had good reason to be overanxious.

Ossining continued its steady progression under former Pleasantville standout and coach Bill Casey. In his first three seasons, Casey has reshaped the baseball program and established a budding power. The Pride has qualified for sectionals, and won games, in Casey’s first three years.

Last year, Ossining went 14-9, including 9-1, to win its first league title in 21 years. The Pride did so with an underclassmen-oriented group. This year, Ossining has 12 seniors who are primed to continue the program’s rise.

“Last year was a big accomplishment for us,” said senior James Laitman, the starting third baseman and pitcher. “It’s special to win a league title because when you look at the baseball banner, there was a gap so it’s nice to know we were the team that won the league title.

Laitman will be joined by classmates Rashawn Armstrong, Matt Belitz, Mike Haag, Jon Circosta, Zack Giusta, Ronald Del Cid, Jason Tierney, Derek Badger, Eddie Matos, Brandan Adames, Jon Scorcia and Michael Schwartz. Armstrong is Ossining’s No. 1 pitcher. An all-section pick last year, Armstrong hit a team-leading, 480.

“This senior class does not take a back seat to any senior class in our section,” Casey said. “They have as much talent as any senior class in our section.”

Casey said Belitz, who will play at Marist next year, is one of the top five defensive shortstops in Section 1. Haag and Laitman, an all-league pick last year, round out the starting staff. Circosta will catch the staff, Giusta and Del Cid man the corner outfield positions and Armstrong and Haag will be in center field and first base, respectively, when not pitching.

“We have three good starting pitchers and pitchers out of the bullpen who can throw strikes, and our lineup is pretty strong,” Laitman said.

Once practice opened, Ossining returned with a deeper drive and determination, based on last year’s breakthrough.

“We came back with a stronger desire and a lot hungrier,” Laitman said. “Last year we went 14-9 and this year we want to pick up at least 16 or 17 wins. This is our senior year. It’s a big year and one we’ve been waiting for.”

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