New league, new opponents, new class - but it's the same Bishop Ludden baseball team with the same high ambitions to claim Section III and state honors before the spring is done.
At one point in 2010, the Gaelic Knights were the state's no. 1-ranked Class B team. But it could not even get out of the sectional playoffs as neighbor and rival Westhill avenged two regular-season losses to Ludden by winning the sectional final at Alliance Bank Stadium, then winning its second straight state championship.
For 2011, just about everything is different. Ludden has moved from the Onondaga High School League Liberty to Freedom divisions and, at the same time, will move from Class B to A once playoff time rolls around.
This does keep the Gaelic Knights from meeting all of its neighbor schools - though it will play Westhill in the May 21 regular-season finale - but it gains a new set of quality opponents, including "Holy War" rival Christian Brothers Academy, whom it will face April 11 and May 17.
At least Ludden is prepared for the promotion, with most of its lineup back from last season - and it wasted little time showing its new league foes what it could do.
On a chilly, overcast Thursday afternoon, the Gaelic Knights began 2011 by displaying both pitching and power (especially from Mike DePalma in the latter category) in an 11-0 shutout of Fulton.
Ryan O'Kane started on the mound and pitched four innings for the win, striking out seven while allowing four hits. Relievers James Murray and Corey Hunter combined for five strikeouts and just one hit allowed in three innings of work.
Meanwhile, Mike DePalma crushed Fulton pitching, twice going deep for home runs and finishing with seven RBIs. Murray also had a round-tripper, part of a three-hit barrage that included a double, single, four runs scored and two RBIs. O'Kane and Corey Poplawski also drove in runs as Chris Davis added a pair of hits, including a double.
Before the first clash with CBA, the Gaelic Knights are set to face Fowler and East Syracuse-Minoa next week, weather permitting. Westhill, meanwhile, is set to begin its quest for a third straight state title next Friday when it hosts Cazenovia.