BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — Instinctively, Matt Toy took a couple of steps back toward first base. Maybe on this long flyball off the bat of Niskayuna baseball teammate Tyler Senecal, there was a chance to tag up and advance a base.
Then, Toy got a better look at the ball Senecal had launched.
“Yeah,” thought Toy, as he started to break into a trot, “there’s no way that one’s coming back.”
It didn’t. This particular home run for Senecal, a senior, just kept going. Slugged a couple weeks ago in a game against Albany at Plumeri Complex, Senecal’s blast didn’t land as much as it hit. The home run knocked into a white house dozens of feet beyond the fence, which is 327 feet down the foul lines and 406 to center. Senecal’s slam went over the fence in left-center field and sounded like a “clap of thunder” when it connected with the building.
“It had to be, like, a 420-foot home run,” Niskayuna head coach Chris Bianchi said.
A couple of years ago, months before he was a first-round pick in the 2015 MLB draft, Niskayuna’s Garrett Whitley swatted a legendary shot of his own. But Whitley’s fabled blast, measured to have landed 497 feet from home plate, was controversially ruled foul.
Senecal’s home run left nothing to doubt, just as so many of his have done this season. In Niskayuna’s first dozen games this season, Senecal has hit six home runs. His monster slam against Albany was part of a stretch in which he hit home runs in four consecutive games.
“He’s extremely strong. He works really hard in the offseason, but he’s always had great bat speed,” Bianchi said. “He’s made a lot of loud outs, too. Everything is from one gap to the other for him. He’s just locked in right now.”
It’s hard to miss signs of Senecal’s strength. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound first baseman looks the part of Section II’s top slugger.
“Lifting weights is my pastime,” said Senecal, who benches 265 pounds and has reached base in about half his plate appearances this spring. “I live in the weight room during the offseason.”
Senecal didn’t hit any home runs during his junior season, but the experience he gained in 2016 against Suburban Council pitching helped him refine his approach. That, combined with his physical gifts, has helped Senecal become one of the area’s most-feared hitters.
“I knew coming into this season that I could put it out, that I had that type of power,” said Senecal, who will play next year at Division II Coker College. “But I really didn’t think I’d hit four [home runs] in four games or anything like that.”
It’s helped that Niskayuna, one of the favorites this season in Section II Class AA, boasts a deep lineup that keeps Senecal getting pitches to hit. Through the team’s first 12 games in which it only lost once, Niskayuna averaged 9.0 runs and non-Senecal hitters hit eight home runs.
“It’s a matter of continuing to have the same approach, trying to drive the ball gap to gap,” said Toy, the team’s senior catcher. “We’re not getting pull happy.”
Senecal isn’t falling in love with swinging for the fences, either. If he doesn’t hit any more home runs — or houses — this season, he’d be OK with that. His senior season, he said, is not about statistics.
“I really don’t think about it,” Senecal said. “I don’t care, really. I’m just out there to play and to win, you know?”