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Despite senior losses, Midwood returns with high hopes

Charlie Barbieri was asked what starters graduated and how many of them, and he hesitated. Midwood lost plenty of them. There was his shortstop, his second baseman and his center fielder, his catcher, right fielder, and his entire pitching staff.

“A lot of graduating seniors,” he said after listing them all.

That doesn’t mean Barbieri isn’t excited about the upcoming season. In fact, he is flat-out giddy.

For the first time in his three seasons, he is blessed with speed in outfielders Christian Lopez, a sophomore, and junior Octayvyn Boucaud atop the lineup. A formidable 3-4-5 that consists of junior first baseman Jonathan Gonzalez, who batted .409 with 12 RBIs last year, senior catcher Haris Kolenovic and senior third baseman Michael Esposito is experienced and lethal.

As was the case last year, Midwood figures to do its most damage by playing small ball, with putting runners in motion, moving them over and executing.

“We’re not gonna be a team that will hit a bloop and a blast,” Barbieri said. “We got to throw strikes, we got to play good defense and hopefully the hitting comes around.”

The pitching staff has questions, but there is promise. Barbieri expects senior Kenny Ellis to be his ace. Ellis, who has verbally committed to Post University in Waterbury, Conn., has battled consistency issues, but the 6-foot-2 right-hander throws in the mid 80’s and has a devastating breaking ball that, when he can control it, is effective. Soft-tossing southpaw Matt Caspi is the other starter the Hornets are counting on.

“If he can be consistent, he can be a No. 1 for most teams,” Barbieri said. “He’s made some guys look silly.”

The newcomers have large shoes to fill. Midwood had its best season since 2002 last spring, leading Brooklyn A East much of the year before falling short at 10-6 to eventual semifinalist James Madison. The Hornets nearly upset Staten Island power McKee/Staten Island Tech in the opening round of the playoffs, losing 3-2.

“It’s gonna be tough to replace the guys that we had,” Barbieri said. “Can we equal what [we did last] year? We could.”

Esposito, the three-year starter at the hot corner, likes what he sees so far. The senior said this team works harder than previous squads.

“This team is a lot more dedicated,” said Esposito, who has drawn interest from SUNY Old Westbury and SUNY Farmingdale. “Every practice everybody’s working hard, looking to get better than they were when they came in to practice.”

Midwood would like to build on last year’s success, and perhaps win a playoff game.

“We showed that we have the ability to be an over .500 team, be a contender, be a playoff team,” Esposito said. “Our goal is to get back to that level and improve.”

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