Even in defeat, West Hempstead is finding positives as it looks to build its baseball program.
The Rams rallied from a four-run deficit April 25 to lead Uniondale by two in the seventh inning before suffering a 7-6 walk-off defeat in a Countywide Conference 1 matchup. While it was a heartbreaking loss, second-year coach Ronald Bauer said the bus ride back to West Hempstead allowed for some encouraging reflection.
“Even though we lost, there were way more positives than negatives to take away,” Bauer said. “The kids showed fight despite not playing our ‘A’ game. We were down 4-0 after the first inning and chipped away. We led 6-4 but couldn’t close it out. That’s baseball sometimes.”
Junior Niko Adikimenakis, the Rams’ No. 1 pitcher in 2022 and again this spring, settled down after the rough start and struck out 11. He didn’t factor in the decision. The setback was West Hempstead’s fourth in a row and dropped its record to 5-4-1.
Last season, Bauer’s first at the helm, the Rams closed with a flurry to finish 8-7. They started 1-6 and had four seniors. This year’s roster has none. “We flipped the script pretty strong last year,” Bauer said. “It was tough to lose those seniors. Now we have no seniors and only four juniors, but we’re not lacking any leadership.”
Adikimenakis opened the season with a bang, firing a no-hitter against Lawrence and fanning 13 of the 15 batters he faced in the five-inning, 15-0 mercy rule victory. He also won his next start against Elmont and drove in three runs to help his own cause. On non-throwing days, he’s at shortstop or catching. “Niko is leading us on the mound and offensively,” Bauer said. “He’s competitive every time he pitches and he’s usually our second or third hitter.”
Another junior, Joey Thomas, ignites the offense from the leadoff spot and patrols center field, though Bauer hinted he’ll try third base. “He’s one of our vocal leaders,” Bauer said. “He locks down the outfield, but we’re going to give him a look at third base. He’s a smart hitter who’s a major threat on the bases.”
Additional keys to the lineup are returning award winners Mason Sturm and Kyle Johnson. Both were All-League selections a year ago. Sturm, a junior, pitches and plays left field. He batted .550 last season and is hitting over .400 so far this spring. Johnson, a sophomore, is a power bat and reliable first baseman.
Eighth-grader Timothy Pendergast is proving he belongs at the varsity level after making the jump from middle school. He’s the primary catcher, hitting over .400 and the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation. “He’s maturing every outing and impressing at the plate,” Bauer said.
Timothy’s older brother, sophomore Tommy Pendergast, is a returning varsity starter mainly at second base. Sophomore Bryan Tator is the primary left fielder. Freshman Ryan Mitchell sees some action at second and shortstop, and is the top relief pitcher.
In addition to the 13-deep varsity roster, the Rams are fielding a 13-member JV squad. “We had a big boost in numbers after a great turnout for winter intramurals,” Bauer said.