Thirty-seven years. It’s a number that most West Seneca West High School baseball players couldn't care less about. After all, all of them weren’t born back in 1981. But, 37 years is a significant number at West Seneca West.
That was last time the baseball team had 11 wins in a season. Stop and think about how crazy that seems. All the baseball that was played over the years, and decades, at West Seneca West High School and it took this long to get to 11 wins again.
What makes it even more amazing is where this team came from at the beginning of the year. The Indians have struggled on the diamond over the past couple seasons. As the calendar switched over to a new year, the program looked for new leadership.
In walked Jeff Helmbrecht. The former Maritime Charter School baseball coach knows a few things about building up a team. He took a team at Maritime club and in just a couple years had them competing in the Section VI playoffs.
Helmbrecht has away of coaching his players might. His teams might not be the most talented all the time, but they believe they can win. And, once a team believes they can win, they can go a long way.
“I think I follow a blueprint wherever I coach. I feel like I am confident about what I do and that it's been successful,” stated Helmbrecht. “I feel like baseball is routine and I'm all about routine. I'm really heavy on fundamentals and playing the game the right way.”
Stepping into the year, Helmbrecht really didn’t know what to expect from his club. The Indians play in one of the most competitive leagues in Western New York. Taking on talented teams like Lancaster, Orchard Park and Clarence has you grow up real fast.
What led the Indians to grow up even faster was the fact that they stole a couple of games against the heavy hitters. Knocking off a Williamsville North and Orchard Park gave this team all the confidence in the world when they playoffs were about to role around.
“ECIC 1 I believe is the toughest division in Western New York next to the Georgetown Cup,” stated Helmbrecht. “I think for West Seneca is they need kids to start playing. Orchard Park, Williamsville, Clarence and Lancaster all have a ton of kids playing. That's half the battle. Our modified had a record number kids tryout and we have a great coach getting those kids ready.”
Late season success had the Indians felling good about themselves heading into the postseason. No one expected anything from them, but the Indians knew better. Flying under the radar the Indians made a magical post season run knocking off North Tonawanda, Grand Island and Hamburg along the way.
Beating the Bulldogs was a big deal for the program. Hamburg is one of the best teams every year, and was expected to challenge Williamsville East for the sectional title.
“The experience and development you cant replicate,” stated Helmbrecht. “We understand we were never out of any game. We have guys that have bought in and believe …the ingredients to a successful program.”
However, all good things must come to and end, and for WSW that was against Williamsville East. The Flames jumped out to an 11-0 lead after one inning and cruised to a 13-6 victory. They loss was a disappointing way to end the year, but the experience gained through this experience will only help for next season.
“Our team was resilient all season, it was a magical run,” stated Helmbrecht. “We just tried to do our part for West…everyone rode the wave of success.”
Success is something that the school has seen this year in all sports, just not baseball. It started off with a football program that soared to new heights. And continued with basketball and hockey.
Baseball was the team that no one expiated anything from. Instead, they were one bad inning from playing Maryvale.
“I think it starts within the school and administration. It's been a really successful year for multiple sports including football, basketball, hockey,” stated Helmbrecht. “So the belief or talk is called school of champions. Baseball is 90 percent mental. You have to believe. So my job is to develop guys and help and encourage to trust their talent. Getting kids to buy in isn't hard given the success I've had getting guys to the next level.”