ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The time is almost here for Elmira Pioneers baseball.

The 2022 season begins Friday night at Dunn Field when the Pioneers welcome rival Batavia. First pitch is slated for 7 pm with fireworks following the game. 18 Sports will be on-hand for highlights and a recap of the action Friday night at 11.

Elmira brings plenty of local talent to the squad under manager Andy Drum, an Elmira native. Drum takes over full-time for the second consecutive season after longtime bench boss Matt Burch stepped down due to new work commitments at Corning High School.

Friday night’s opener between the Pioneers and the Muckdogs has a unique storyline to it, even before the first pitch. Both Elmira and Batavia are owned by CAN-USA, guided by the Nichols family who have brought great success to both cities in sports entertainment.

For the players, Friday is all about putting on a good show and ultimately come away with a season-opening victory.

“Everywhere I hear people go, it’s been we’re coming to the game on Friday night,” Pioneers outfielder and Elmira Notre grad Erik Charnetski said. “Hearing that has been overwhelming for me, it’s been a blast and I’m looking forward to starting up.”

The emotionally charged start to the season is also special for Edison grad Xander Burch, who will pitching this season for the hometown Pioneers. A team that both Charnetski and Burch watched growing up as kids.

“The excitement has been building up since the beginning of this week,” Burch said. “Meeting all of the guys and getting good practices in this week has been exciting.”

For Drum, who also spent several summer nights as a fan at Dunn Field growing up, this year is a year to watch.

“The energy here has been different this year,” Drum said. “Sometimes you get these guys here, some of the D-I guys are almost forced to be here by the coaches but we have a group of kids that all want to be here.”

Drum also says Elmira’s approach to the game and practices have been uplifting for success.

“The pitchers show up and they’ve done their work every day, the hitters just have a great approach in batting practice. It’s just a different approach this year and I love it.”

Stay with 18 Sports all season long, your home for Elmira Pioneers baseball.