Tigers Ride Moynihan Gem to Win at Franklin

Taunton baseball
Taunton starter Jack Moynihan (21) tossed a complete game shutout, striking out 15 batters, as Taunton beat Franklin 2-0.

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – The temperatures may have been hovering around 40 degrees and fans and players alike were bundled up as though it were mid-February rather than the middle of April, but Taunton starting pitcher Jack Moynihan was not bothered by the cold. He came out throwing heat and dominated from the opening pitch of Friday’s early season night game at Franklin.

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Moynihan struck out the first five batters he faced and closed the game by striking out five Panthers over the last two innings. He finished with 15 strikeouts on the evening, allowed only three hits, and tossed a complete game shutout, as Taunton walked away with a 2-0 victory to remain unbeaten.

“Phenomenal,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque of Moynihan’s night. “Getting ahead with his fastball first time around and then mixing it up but getting ahead. He did a great job.”

While striking out the side in the first, Moynihan threw strikes on 10-of-11 pitches. He also retired the first two batters in the second on punch outs before Stephen Luttazi became the first Panther to put the ball in play with a grounder to second. Luttazi injured himself coming out of the batter’s box and was forced to leave the game.

In the third inning, Moynihan struck out a pair before Franklin finally made solid contact, as nine-hole hitter Colby Fitzgibbons broke up the no-hitter with a double to left center. Moynihan came right back with a strikeout of Jack Nally to end the inning.

“We faced him last year and we knew we were in for a really tough test,” said Franklin coach Zach Brown of Moynihan. “He certainly was on, pounding it, and he really threw his breaking ball well for strikes.”

Franklin, which has been struggling at the plate this season with only 10 runs scored in five games, put together its lone rally in the fourth. Scott Elliott took the first pitch to center for a single and Alex Haba lined a twisting drive down the right field line that Griffin Tomaszycki went full stretch to get a glove to but couldn’t haul in. Elliott had to pause in case it was caught and ended up at third on the single.

Haba stole second to put two runners in scoring position and Brown turned to a suicide squeeze with catcher Jake Macchi at the plate. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the sophomore couldn’t get a bunt down and Elliott was easily tagged out by Taunton catcher Ben Joyce. Moynihan ended the threat with a strikeout and a comebacker.

Brown explained, “Today wasn’t going to be the day that we were going to roll out and put up crooked numbers or anything like that, so opportunities to execute and push a run across we knew was going to be big and whoever got that first one was going to be in a good position. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done.”

The Tigers were not able to turn Moynihan’s dominance into a lead thanks to a strong performance from Franklin starter Bryan Woelfel. Using a repertoire of off-speed pitches, he kept the Tigers off-balance and managed to bear down and work himself out of several early jams. He allowed no earned runs and struck out seven in six innings.

“He had that slider going and he was filthy,” said Bourque of Woelfel. “He mixed it up and had our hitters off-balance and he made us look silly sometimes. Just a great game.”

Jacob Crawford drew a walk in the first and advanced all the way to third after a single by Christian Simoes (3-for-4, reached base all four plate appearances) and a stolen base, but Woelfel induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Tyler Medeiros to emerge unscathed. Taunton put two runners in scoring position in the third but again Woelfel escaped, this time with a strikeout.

Brown said, “I don’t necessarily know if Bryan had his best stuff today but one thing we don’t have to worry about is whether or not he’ll be ultra-competitive and he certainly was today. Very different styles, very different pitchers, but both competing hard and it was certainly a pitcher’s duel.”

A breakthrough finally came in the sixth inning. Simoes lined a double to center to leadoff the inning and, after Woelfel fell behind 3-0 in the count, Medeiros was intentionally walked. A wild pitch allowed both runners to move into scoring position, but Woelfel came back with a pair of strikeouts to get on the verge of another big escape.

Tomaszycki hit a slow, bouncing ball on the infield grass that couldn’t be fielded cleanly and allowed the game’s first run to come home. Woelfel limited the damage with another strikeout to end the threat.

The Tigers tacked on an important insurance run in the seventh against Franklin reliever Will Pacheco. With one out, leadoff hitter Trevor Pietrzyk dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line to get on base. After a strikeout and a stolen base, he stood on second with two down. Simoes came through in the clutch with his third hit of the night, driving an RBI-double to right center.

“Christian Simoes, a senior, came up big,” Bourque said. “He’s in that spot for a reason. That insurance run puts a lot less pressure on in the seventh. You get a runner on and your down just one that’s a lot different. Having that cushion allows us to take a breathe and go get the next guy.”

Two runs was more than enough for Moynihan. He struck out the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh, his 14th and 15th of the night, and got a slow roller to third that looked like it might end the game, but instead the throw skipped away to bring the tying run to the plate. Moynihan got slow bouncing ball to Josh Lajoie at second to end the game.

“From start to finish, he pitched so well and I think getting ahead sets the table for his off-speed pitches and he was able to spot and hit corners,” said Bourque of his pitcher. “Hats off to him.”

He added, “Every team in the Hock is really good and Franklin is up there, so we’ll take them when we can get them.”

Taunton (6-0, 3-0) will stay in the division on Monday when it hosts King Philip, while Franklin (3-2, 2-2) will be right back on the field on Saturday with a trip to Bishop Feehan.

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Franklin Tops Oliver Ames In Extra Innings

Franklin baseball
Franklin junior Scott Elliott hits an RBI double in the third inning against Oliver Ames. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Franklin senior Steven Luttazi hadn’t had his best performance at the plate, held without a hit through the first seven innings. But his day changed with one swing of the bat.

When the Panthers needed him the most, the senior delivered a clutch two-out single to drive in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning. Junior Jake Macchi followed with a monster two-run double and Franklin prevailed from Frothingham Park with a 5-2 decision in eight innings.

“It was a tie ballgame, senior at the plate, a kid who’s worked really hard in the offseason…I feel like he was pressing early on but he let the game come to him and put a good swing on it and sparked us,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “Then Jake followed it up with the big blow.”

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Franklin was three outs from earning a win in regulation, but Oliver Ames rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. But instead of wilting, the Panthers responded — all with two outs.

Senior Colby Fitzgibbons drew a two-out walk from the nine hole, and after stealing second, junior Alex Haba took first after another walk. In stepped Luttazi, who laced a 1-0 pitch into center field to bring pinch runner Shane O’Neil home.

Macchi then launched the first pitch he saw into deep left center field resulting in a two-run double and a three-run lead.

“It was one of those early New England high school baseball games,” Brown said. “OA is really well coached, they play a real sound game. We’re lucky to get out of here with an extra inning win. It was a character win for us. We were frustrated with the way we played in the opener, and we let a two-run lead bleed away here but the guys showed a lot of resolve and a lot of character, and we got a lot of contributions from guys up and down the lineup.”

Sophomore Will Pacheco, who escaped a jam in the bottom of the seventh, retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth to earn his first varsity win.

Franklin built a 2-0 lead by scoring solo runs in the top of the second and the third, but Oliver Ames clawed back with a run in the fifth and the tying run in the seventh. OA senior Matt Muir reached with a one-out single, stole second, and came around to score on a double from classmate Nick Zwerle to tie the game.

OA had runners on first and second with one out, but Pacheco got a big strikeout, and Scott Elliott made a nice catch in foul territory in left field to send the game into extras.

“The kids showed a lot of heart there at the end to rally,” said OA head coach Joe Abarr. “We’ll reset…we’ll try to get our timing right with our hitters and then try to figure out our rotation, and see what happens from there.”

Elliott had a hand in both of Franklin’s first two runs. In the top of the second, the junior led off with a single and took second on a fielding error. He took third on a groundout from Jake Noviello and then scored on a bases loaded infield single from Haba to make it 1-0.

Macchi singled to lead off the top of the third and advanced to second base on a balk. Elliott delivered with an RBI double to bring Macchi home for a 2-0 lead.

“Scott has been doing a real nice job,” Brown said. “He’s been working hard, has had great at-bats, really competitive. He’s a hockey guy so he has that hand-eye coordination and we’re just excited with where he’s at.”

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Oliver Ames cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fifth inning. Muir drilled a triple into center field, through the branches of the tree at Frothingham. Muir came home to score on a groundout from Zwerle.

As a team, Oliver Ames posted just five hits.

“A lot of is just timing,” Abarr said. “You see it click with some guys, like Muir today, he came on line. But some of the guys we’re dependent on just haven’t picked up the in-season rhythm yet. The kids will come around…Franklin figured it out in the last inning there.”

Franklin senior Bryan Woelfel got into a nice rhythm over his 6.1 innings of work, allowing five hits while striking out seven.

“Bryan worked really hard in the offseason and was throwing a lot,” Brown said. “He did a good job building up his arm so that he can last longer. Then Will Pacheco came in and slammed the door for us.”

Oliver Ames senior Michael Mulrean had a strong outing in relief for the Tigers, striking out four in four shutout innings of work with just four hits.

“He was phenomenal, I was very impressed with him,” Abarr said of Mulrean. “There were a lot of positives that came out of that game, obviously we want the win, but a lot of guys stepped up and showed what they’re capable of. Mike did awesome, he kept us in the ballgame.”

Oliver Ames (0-2, 0-2) looks to bounce back on the same day when it hits the road to play at New Bedford.

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Lancaster Swinging for NEWMAC Title at MIT

Max Lancaster
Former Attleboro star and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Max Lancaster and the MIT baseball team are aiming for a NEWMAC title this spring. (MIT Athletics)

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On Friday afternoon, the wind was whipping, temperatures were in the mid-30s, and snow was blanketing fields across the region. It was April 6. For baseball (and softball and lacrosse) teams across New England, the start of the spring season is about flexibility. Grass fields that are not covered in snow are typically water-logged and teams spend as much time working on drills in the gym as outside on the fields where the games will actually take place.

This is not just a high school problem. College teams also struggle to find a rhythm at the start of the spring as games get spread out and players try to find their swing between soft toss in the gym and live pitching on those rare nice days at the end of March.

“Every New England baseball team, high school or college, knows the struggle,” said former Attleboro standout and current MIT senior Max Lancaster. The former HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, and one of only two players on the MIT baseball team who call New England home, was speaking after finishing up an indoor practice that had to be scheduled when rain forced the postponement of a game against Clark University.

“When we get out there in the spring and these guys from Arizona turn to me and say, you play baseball in this?” Lancaster joked. “Our first game it’s probably snowing or something and they look at us and say, ‘This is not baseball.’ I kind of look back at them and it’s like I’ve been doing this my entire life. This is how we play baseball around here.”

Lancaster and the Engineers started the season slowly, winning the season opener but then losing three straight. MIT has turned it around with four straight wins and now sits at 8-4 on the season heading into Saturday’s NEWMAC doubleheader against Emerson. The winning streak started with a bit of history, as MIT battled through a 17-inning marathon against Springfield College at Fran O’Brien Field that ended on Lancaster’s first career walk-off hit.

“That is the longest game I’ve ever played in in my life,” Lancaster said. He compared it to a similar experience in the final game of his high school career when Attleboro battled Norwood over 14 innings in the Div. 1 South semifinal. “This one obviously blows that one out of the water because we came out on top.”

MIT rallied twice in extra innings to pull out the victory. After Springfield scored a run in the top of the 12th, the Engineers manufactured a run to tie it. “One of the things that a game like that shows is just how contagious hitting is because we were pretty much lifeless offensively the entire game,” Lancaster said.

No one scored again until the 17th, when Springfield put up two in the top half. In the bottom of the inning, MIT scored a pair of runs on single by David Heller to tie the game and then Lancaster doubled to left center to bring in the game-winning run and spark celebrations. It was Lancaster’s third double of the game; he leads the team with seven this season.

Lancaster explained, “Once they went up two we came into the dugout and said, ‘Alright are we really going to play 17 innings of baseball just to lose the game?’ Once one or two hits are strung together than the floodgates are opened. Hitting is so contagious.”

With the weather wreaking havoc on games and practices, a win like that could be the spark that the Engineers, who have played a very difficult schedule so far including three games against the top team in Div. III, Trinity College (Texas), needed to get going.

“One of the things that you need and can be hard to get to in New England when you’re all over the place, indoor, outdoor, really cold, it’s hard to get that swagger that you need to win a lot of baseball games,” Lancaster said. When the team fell behind in game two of the doubleheader (which was eventually delayed by darkness with an inning to play), the Engineers rallied to take a 6-4 lead heading to the ninth.

“We went down in the second game,” Lancaster said, “but there was a new kind of confidence that we knew that we could comeback and string a few hits together and being down one, two, three runs, doesn’t really matter that much.” On Thursday, MIT battled back again with a four-run seventh inning to beat Tufts.

He added, “This middle part of the season will be really important for us to get our guys into a groove to take us far into the season. It looks like it’s going to happen. It looks like things are starting to fall into place for us and hopefully we can start to string some wins together.”

It has been a winding road for Lancaster since he came to Cambridge. He was a shortstop as a senior at Attleboro and also played third, but when he got to MIT he was playing behind two-time NEWMAC Player of the Year Austin Filiere, who was picked in the eighth round of last year’s MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs. That forced Lancaster into the outfield for the past two seasons in order to get a regular spot in the lineup.

“I remember, there was a guy on second and I got a fly ball, I was in rightfield, and I was camped under the ball ready to throw the guy out tagging from second to third and I just completely missed it,” he recalled. “I didn’t even touch the ball, just completely whiffed on it. It was my first time ever stepping foot in the outfield.”

Things improved from that first attempt at playing outfield, but this season Lancaster is back in familiar territory as a second baseman, while also batting cleanup for the Engineers. The two-time NEWMAC All-Academic honoree is a career .285 hitter and has hit eight homers and driven in 64 runs during his first three years at MIT, including a career-high 27 RBI in 33 games last spring.

“The biggest challenge for me was just how to fit baseball into the myriad of things I had to do all the time, including classes and extracurriculars and stuff like that,” Lancaster remarked. “It was the first time where baseball didn’t feel like the absolute top priority.

“One thing I’m grateful for is this place has taught me to take ownership for what I want to achieve and to really work as hard as I can towards the success I want to have.”

During his freshman season, MIT came within two wins of reaching the Div. III College World Series. Lancaster believes this year’s team is good enough to make a similar run and, after being a bench player his rookie season, he is thrilled at the chance of experiencing a tournament run as a starter.

“I was a freshman, wasn’t even playing at the time, and I had a ton of fun being with the entire team in that atmosphere, so that’s exactly what we want to get back to this year,” he said. “I can’t even imagine how I’d feel this year being in the thick of things in each of those games.”

Unlike his former teammate, Lancaster is not expecting major league baseball to come calling at the end of his collegiate career. In fact the computer science major has already lined up a job with a startup in New York City once he graduates and he joked that “maybe some beer league softball” is probably as close as he will get to playing after college. So, he is enjoying one last competitive season on the diamond.

“I like the way we’re playing and things are starting to click for us,” he said. “I’m counting down my swings now. My swings are limited so I’ve got to make the most of each one.”

(Editor’s Note – MIT extended its win streak to six games with a sweep of Saturday’s doubleheader against Emerson (11-1 in game one and 4-1 in game two) and is now 10-5 on the season. Lancaster belted his first home run of the season in game one and went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI. He added his second homer of the season and the day in game two, driving in three of MIT’s four runs with another 2-for-4 game.)

2018 Hockomock League Baseball Preview

2018 Hockomock League Baseball Preview

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2018 Hockomock League Baseball Preview

Attleboro

2017 Record: 6-14
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Matt Bosh

After missing out on the postseason a year ago, Attleboro head coach Matt Bosh believes his team’s depth and versatility will help the Bombardiers get back there.

Junior Eoin Kelleher is back to lead the pitching staff after a stellar sophomore season in which he earned HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year honors. Kelleher posted a 1.00 ERA in 35 innings of work, including throwing a no-hitter against rival North. Senior captains Jason Weir and Jon Candiales, senior Drew Pagano along with junior Sam Larkin will all see time on the mound for Big Blue as well.

Candiales and Weir also anchor the offense with the former patrolling shortstop and the latter seeing time in both the outfield and first base. Candiales gives the Bombardiers power from the left side of the plate while Weir is a three-year starter that gives Bosh flexibility in the lineup. Larkin will be in the outfield when he isn’t pitching and can use his speed to hurt teams. Corey McKenna returns as the starting second baseman while senior Dakota Kirby is back behind the dish after a year off. Kirby will add pop to the lineup as he hit 0.425 as a sophomore with 10 RBI.

“The biggest improvement that I see from last year is our team speed and athleticism,” Bosh said. “We have a lot of guys that can play multiple positions and we’re very athletic. We have a high number of kids who can play anywhere.”

Canton

2017 Record: 6-12
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Greg Digirolamo

A strong core of returning players and a good amount of depth will be keys for the 2018 Canton Bulldogs baseball team.

After losing just four players from last year’s team, there is a good mix of experienced players and talented youth for head coach Greg Digirolamo to work with. The Bulldogs will look to three senior captains to the lead the way: Matt Casamento, Robbie Wilkinson, and Tommy DeLello. Casamento is a three-year starter in center field, DeLello will man first base and Wilkinson will try to carry over the momentum from an impressive junior year into 2018. Wilkinson went 3-1 last year with a 1.58 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched.

Wilkinson will be joined in the pitching staff by seniors Austin Maffie, Niko Donovan, and Ryan Hickey, along with juniors Paul Corcoran, Robbie Sullivan, and Kevin McGonigle. Freshman Matt Connolly will also figure into the mix on the mound.

Casamento anchors the defense from the center field spot while junior catcher Matt Pigeon and sophomore shortstop Nate Quan bolster the defense up the middle.

“It’s a good group of kids that like to compete every day, what else can you ask for as a coach?” Digirolamo said. “For us the biggest thing will be seeing live pitching. If we’re to have any success this year we’ll need to do a better job at the plate.”

Foxboro

2017 Record: 7-14
2017 Finish: Reached D3 South First Round
Coach: Derek Suess

New Foxboro head coach Derek Suess sees a little bit of the past in his first team as head coach. Suess, a former Warrior himself, said the 2018 version of Foxboro reminds him of a team that won 15 games during his senior year just over a decade ago.

“This team is hungry to put the program back on the map,” Suess said. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior group to lead us. They remind me of the senior group I was a part of in 2007 in which we won 15 games. With a good mix of underclassmen, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s hard work pay off on the field.”

After losing a painful eight games by just one run a season ago, including a near upset of third-seeded and D3 South Finalist Norton in the playoffs, the Warriors will be looking to turn those losses into wins this time around.

“We need to make more winning plays to put those tallies in the win column,” Suess said.

Junior Anthony Mollica will spearhead the offense after leading the Warriors with a 0.367 batting average a year ago. Senior Chad Bearce and sophomore Joe Cavaleri will bolster the middle of the lineup, freshman Sean Yoest has shown flashes early on at the dish, and seniors Joe Freitas, Matt Rongione, and Jack Franceschelli provide the Warriors with some speed.

Senior Steve McLaughlin returns after an impressive 2017 season. Despite posting an 0-6 record, McLaughlin struck out 24 batters in 32.2 innings of work and posted a 1.73 ERA. McLaughlin will be joined by Cavaleri, Yoest, and junior Guy Quartarone in the rotation while senior Robert Theriault returns behind the dish after getting a year of experience last season.

Franklin

2017 Record: 18-6
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Zach Brown

Focusing on pitching and defense, the Panthers will be looking to get better each and every day as they try to replicate the success from a season ago.

Franklin won the Kelley-Rex division last year, its first league title since 2012. And the mix of pitching and offense put the Panthers in some conversations for Super 8, but the Panthers ended up in the D1 South and bowed out in the quarterfinals after being forced to play on back to back days.

The arms that helped the Panthers have so much success last year as almost all back, starting with staff ace senior Jake Noviello. The Fairfield-commit struck out a Hockomock-best 61 batters a year ago, going 6-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 55.1 innings of work. Noviello is complemented by lefty Jason Ulrickson (7-0, 0.80 ERA, 35 K), Bryan Woelfel (3-2, 0.91 ERA, 4 SV, 31 K) and senior James Leofanti.

The defense will be anchored by a pair of returning starters in junior shortstop Alex Haba (0.360, 12 runs) and junior catcher Jake Macchi.

“While we are returning a number of experienced arms we are also turning over a number of positions last season,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “So, we will be young or inexperienced at a number of positions. Offensively, my hope is that as the season progressing we will be able to develop an identity and find a way to manufacture runs.”

King Philip

2017 Record: 10-11
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Greg Kessler

After just squeaking into the postseason a year ago, first-year KP head coach Greg Kessler is hoping his team will be in contention for a Kelley-Rex division title in 2018.

One reason for that is the senior class and the handful of returning players that have plenty of experience at the varsity level. Ben Furfari returns as a key piece of the Warriors’ outfield and lineup. He hit 0.298 last season and will provide the power on offense. Senior Pat Limerick, committed to play at St. Joseph’s (ME), will set the tone as the leadoff hitter.

On the mound, senior Jeremy Rhines (2-1, 1.45 ERA) and junior David Morganelli will be the main options while hard-throwing senior Liam Rohan will also be in the mix. Nolan Bradley returns behind the plate as one of the top catchers in the league while sophomore Robbie Jarest will step in to take over at shortstop.

“We have a great group of senior this year,” Kessler said. “They have been dedicated to the weight room and leading our underclassmen. They continuously strive to build a team that will compete for the Hock championship. They deserve to have a great year. I guarantee that will be the most vocal and most energetic team in the Hock. We pride ourselves on being positive and enthusiastic every pitch.”

Mansfield

2017 Record: 14-8
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Joe Breen

There is a lot of optimism surrounding the Mansfield baseball program this season. And with the arms they have back, there’s good reason for it.

Senior Tyler Dalton, a UMass Amherst commit, returns after missing the majority of his junior year with an injury. Dalton was tremendous during the 2016 season as a sophomore, posting a 6-2 record while striking out 35 batters and posting a 1.78 ERA. He will be joined on the Hornets’ staff by senior Kevin Dow (UMass Amherst commit, 4-1, 1.93 ERA), junior lefty Connor Sheehan (2.82 ERA, 28 K), and junior Kyle Moran (three saves). Sophomore John Carney will also likely see time on the mound for the Hornets.

Senior catcher Cullin Anastasia returns after being named to the 2017 HockomockSports.com Second Team. Anastasia had 19 hits a year ago, knocking in 10 runs and scoring 10 runs as well. Sam Nugent will give the Hornets a spark in center field and on the base path with his speed, Moran picked up plenty of experience at third base last season, and Eric Longley will provide Mansfield with some pop in the middle of the lineup.

“We will rely heavily on our pitching staff this season to keep us in games and look to make the plays behind them and be aggressive with our offensive and baserunning approach to get those guys a few runs per game,” said Mansfield head coach Joe Breen. “As always, we will turn to our senior class to set the tone and for our underclassmen to blossom under their leadership.”

Milford

2017 Record: 12-10
2017 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Alex Dion

Milford baseball starts a new chapter in its historic history as longtime assistant Alex Dion takes over the reigns of the program.

Dion’s first challenge will be having to overcome the loss of a dozen seniors, including team ace Alex Macek, reliable infielders Zack Tamagni and Anthony Arcudi, and hard-hitting outfielder Ryan Goncalves. However, the good news is that Dion has one of the best players at his disposal in Stonehill-commit Aidan Wilde. Wilde had 59 hits between his freshman and sophomore years and added 21 more in the regular season a year ago. After seeing time as a catcher last season, Wilde will mainly man the corner infield positions in 2018.

Wilde will be complemented by junior Matt Shaver, who picked up some experience a year ago at both shortstop and on the mound. The Hawks will rely on Shaver to anchor the defense from short and give the offense a spark from the leadoff position. Junior Tyler Almeida will step in behind the dish and will provide some offense from the left side of the plate. Sophomores Luke Rosa and Colby Pires look to be in the mix as well as junior Nick Marcolini, who will pitch and patrol the outfield.

“We graduated a strong senior class this past year and are now in a situation where we have a lot of new players who we will look to take advantage of new opportunities,” Dion said. “I am excited about the athleticism that we have on our roster and the energy that these guys bring to practice each day. I think our philosophy is simple, but we preach a team-first mentality to our guys and strive to get quality pitching, play clean defense and get timely hits to win games.”

North Attleboro

2017 Record: 8-10
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mike Hart

North Attleboro didn’t have to go far to find its new coach. Mike Hart takes over for Paul Tobin and Hart truly bleeds Big Red – a graduate from the school and three-sport coach.

And expectations are high for the Rocketeers after just missing out on the postseason a year ago. Senior captain Nick Sinacola returns after having an MVP-caliber junior season. Big Red will rely on Sinacola on both sides of the plate, leading the offense (he batted 0.415 last year with 15 runs scored) and being the ace of the staff (48.1 IP, 49 K, 2.01 ERA). Senior captain Zach DeMattio is also back after being named to the 2017 HockomockSports.com First Team, batting 0.333 with 15 RBI and three home runs. Big Red also gets senior Nate Pearce (0.371) back after a strong junior year.

Senior Peter Cohen (24 IP, 0.29 ERA) will look to build upon a superb junior year while Nolan Buckley and Jeff Gale bring experience to the outfield. Aidan Harding also has varsity experience and will be in the mix to get innings on the mound along with juniors Matt Wanless, Jake Palmer, Matt Seavey, Nick Raneri, and Ben Arrighi.

“We have a truly industrious group of players,” Hart said. “We’re going to keep moving guys around until we find the lineup that works for us. Some may have to play multiple positions, depending on whose pitching on any given day. We had a decent season last year, with many guys getting some varsity time, but we’re still unproven. We need to continue to improve every day and only worry about the things we can control. Guys will be competing every day all season, which will only make us better. We will approach each day, with a great attitude, high effort, and a steadfast approach.”

Oliver Ames

2017 Record: 14-9
2017 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinals
Coach: Joe Abarr

A lot of the players that helped Joe Abarr have a successful first season as head coach last year are back, which means the Tigers are aiming to replicate that success.

Despite finishing in a tie for third in the Kelley-Rex, the Tigers put together the best playoff run of any Hock team, knocking off #2 Dighton-Rehoboth on the road to reach the sectional semifinals. Junior Matt McCormack is back after earning a spot on varsity late in the season this year, and along with classmate Tom Parker, should give OA a solid 1-2 punch. With a handful of capable arms in the mix, the third spot in the rotation is still up for grabs.

Abarr won’t have to worry much about anything hit to the left side of the infield as the Tigers return third basemen Chris Pearsons and shortstop Matt Muir, two of the top defensive players at their positions. Both are capable hitters as well and will provide some pop to the lineup. Another returning starter is senior Mitch Goulet. Goulet had a breakout junior campaign in center field (0.347, 7 RBI), catching fire in the second half of the year. Abarr is hoping that momentum will carry over to this season.

The Tigers have a battle for the spot behind the plate as both junior Jake Erlich and junior Reid Latham are back, both with experience behind the dish.

“We have a great core of returning players that will be the backbone of the program,” Abarr said. “We have to fill positions in the outfield and at first. If we have some guys step up in that role we should have a decent lineup from top to bottom.”

Sharon

2017 Record: 6-14
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Kee Arguimbau

Sharon is aiming to improve on its six-win season in 2017, and will be looking to ride its senior leadership to do so.

Senior captains Max Tarlin and Drew Naisuler are two of the most experienced players in the league and will be spearheading the Eagles’ offense and defense this year. Tarlin (5-4, 46 K, 1.11 ERA) is the anchor of the pitching staff, picking up five of Sharon’s six wins last season. When he’s not on the mound, expect to see Tarlin patrolling shortstop. Naisuler returns as the team’s No. 4 hitter to provide some pop to the lineup and will be a key defensive piece at both center field and first base.

The Eagles will also rely on senior Ben Schwartz, who will mainly be catching this year as well as being a major offensive contributor. Junior Noah Kamens will be a major piece of the pitching puzzle after impressing during his sophomore year. Similar to Tarlin, Kamens will be a major player in the offensive lineup and will see time off the mound spent in the outfield. Spencer Singer is transitioning to the outfield and will continue to be one of the players the Eagles look at for offensive production.

“I have a lot of guys who are multifaceted baseball players and I can foresee a lot of games being played with straight nine in the lineup,” Arguimbau said. “We have great senior leadership and some very promising sophomores that are going to play a major role in our season’s success.”

Stoughton

2017 Record: 15-6
2017 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Mike Armour

There are a lot of questions to be answered for this year’s Stoughton baseball team, but head coach Mike Armour is excited for his players to rise to the challenge.

The Black Knights graduated nearly their entire team (10 of its 13 rostered players), which won its second straight Davenport division title. So not only will Armour be leaning heavily on his three returning players, he is looking for new faces to seize the opportunity.

“This is an exciting year for our program,” Armour said. “It’s an awesome opportunity for our younger guys. The JV and freshmen teams both over 15 or more games last year, so we’re looking for them to carry that winning attitude into this season. I expect our team to play with heart and execute the fundamentals to make us a competitive team.”

2017 HockomockSports.com First Team selection and senior captain Ruben Gonzalez returns as one of the top players in the league, both defensively at shortstop and offensively at the plate. Senior Matt Hadley and junior Evan Gibb, both captains, are the other two returning players for the Knights. Gibb has plenty of varsity experience behind the plate and Hadley, although he will miss some time with injury, will be key piece in the outfield.

Meanwhile, Armour is looking for sophomores James Genest (first base) and Michael Nazzaro (third base/catcher) to step up and play important roles both offensively and defensively this season. Juniors Kyle Gagnon, Kevin Dixon, and Cian Swierzewski will see time in the outfield and classmate Robbie Seaman will be in the mix for middle infield.

For pitching, Gibb will see time on the mound as well as behind the play. Senior Will Eckhart has some varsity experience and junior Zak Paquette will likely log some meaningful innings for the Knights. Seniors Tim Kellogg, Talyor Atkinson, and Mike Anderson provide infield depth and Jack Brown and Ryan Semler will be in the mix in the outfield.

Taunton

2017 Record: 12-10
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Blair Bourque

There are a lot of good pitchers in the Hockomock League this year, and it looks like the Tigers’ staff could be right near the top of the list.

Taunton returns senior Tyler Medeiros, who had a terrific junior campaign and will get junior Jack Moynihan back on the mound. Moynihan was impressive during his freshman year two seasons ago but an injury limited his action on the mound last season. Medeiros fanned 68 batters in 56.1 innings of work, posting a 1.98 ERA to anchor the staff. Look for senior Trevor Pietrzyk and juniors Griffin Tomaszycki and Josh Lajoie to get some meaningful innings on the mound as well.

“Tyler clearly emerged as our top pitcher last year,” said second-year head coach Blair Bourque. “Fortunately, he’s a big kid and was able to put us on his back and carry us. Hopefully, we’re able to provide more support for him this year.”

Moynihan will also play a big role in Taunton’s offense this year. While patrolling third base, Moynihan will try to provide some pop in the middle of the lineup. The Tigers also get their top two batters back with senior shortstop Jacob Crawford (0.350, 15 runs) and senior Christian Simoes (0.340, 12 RBI).

Taunton will carry nine seniors and eight juniors this season so experience will be key.

Baseball: Ten Players to Watch for 2018

Hockomock Baseball Players to Watch
North Attleboro senior Nick Sinacola is one of the players to watch as another competitive Hockomock League baseball season gets underway. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

Players are listed alphabetically

Jacob Crawford, Senior- Taunton

Taunton senior Jacob Crawford made the switch to shortstop last season, but it did not slow him down as he continued to be one of the top defensive players in the league. Crawford also made a leap at the plate in 2017, leading the Tigers with a 0.350 batting average during the regular season to help Taunton reach the state tournament. He recorded 21 hits and scored 15 runs in the regular season and became one of the most consistent hitters in the Taunton lineup. His defensive prowess will help the Taunton rotation, but Crawford’s emergence as a dangerous hitter gives the Tigers another reason to think they can challenge for the Kelley-Rex title.

Tyler Dalton, Senior- Mansfield

The Hornets’ rotation gets a big boost this year as senior Tyler Dalton returns from injury to anchor the pitching staff. Dalton missed almost his entire junior season after suffering an injury but he’s back to full strength now and will likely be one of the top starters in the league. The Hock saw what Dalton was capable as a sophomore, tying for a league-high six wins and an impressive 1.74 ERA. He fanned 35 batters in 47.1 innings tossed in 2016. Dalton, who is committed to play baseball at UMass Amherst, will try to help the Hornets get back to the postseason for the second straight season.

Ruben Gonzalez, Senior – Stoughton

Stoughton senior Ruben Gonzalez jumped right in at shortstop last season and helped the Black Knights bring home a second straight Davenport division title. Head coach Mike Armour said of Gonzalez that he could be among the best players in the league this season after a spring in which he batted 0.382 and tied for the league lead with 28 hits in the regular season. Gonzalez also led Stoughton with 19 runs scored, 16 RBI and 13 stolen bases, turning his athleticism into a stellar season at the plate and in the field. With several key players graduating, Gonzalez will be counted on even more this year as Stoughton goes for the three-peat.

Eoin Kelleher, Junior – Attleboro

Attleboro junior pitcher Eoin Kelleher made his mark winning four games as a sophomore last year and could step up to be one of the top starters for the Bombardiers this spring. The reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, Kelleher went 4-1 with a 1.00 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 35 innings of work in his first varsity campaign. He also tossed a no-hitter under the lights at Community Field against North Attleboro and his only loss was an eight-inning game in which he allowed only one run. Kelleher will be hoping to get the ball more for Attleboro this year as the Bombardiers look to make a return to the postseason.

Anthony Mollica, Junior- Foxboro

Foxboro junior Anthony Mollica had a terrific sophomore campaign, emerging as one of the top infielders defensively and also showing off his abilities at the plate. During the 2016 season, Mollica was a steady presence for the Warriors at the dish, belting 18 hits in 49 at-bats, posting a team-high 0.367 batting average. He is among the top five batters in terms of average returning this season, and the only junior in that group. He also had eight runs scored and seven RBI. Mollica’s hitting will be key for the Warriors in getting their offense going following a season in which they lost eight games by just one run. His rock-steady defense at shortstop will also give Foxboro a boost this season.

Matt Muir, Senior- Oliver Ames

Oliver Ames senior Matt Muir does it all on the diamond for the Tigers. Whether it’s at the plate, in the field, or on the mound, Muir has stepped up to make big plays for Oliver Ames. He burst onto the scene during his sophomore year, batting 0.351 with 19 runs scored to earn 2016 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year honors. Not only is Muir one of the most consistent hitters in the league with 42 hits over the past two seasons, he is one of the top defensive shortstops in the league. His partnership with Chris Pearsons on the left side of the infield gives the Tigers a big advantage on the defensive side. On top of that, Muir can give the Tigers solid innings on the mound when called upon.

Jake Noviello, Senior- Franklin

Franklin returns one of the best rotations in the league and the centerpiece for that staff is senior Jake Noviello, who is back after an outstanding season for the Kelley-Rex champions. The Fairfield University-commit threw 55.1 innings last season, second most in the league, and led the Hockomock with 61 strikeouts. One of the hardest throwers in the league, Noviello finished the season with a 6-2 record and also picked up the win in the Panthers’ playoff opener. Noviello and the rest of Franklin’s arms will be hoping for another league title and to put together a longer state tournament run this spring.

Nick Sinacola, Senior- North Attleboro

North Attleboro senior Nick Sinacola had a breakout season for the Rocketeers at second base and on the mound last spring and was the rare team MVP as a junior. This season, the University of Maine-commit will be hoping to do even better and get North back to the postseason after narrowly missing out in 2017. Sinacola was third in the league with a 0.415 batting average and finished with a team-high 15 runs scored last year. He was also fourth in the league with 49 strikeouts in 48.2 innings on the mound. He had a 2.01 ERA as a junior and was one of the leaders of a staff that had an ERA under three as a group.

Max Tarlin, Senior- Sharon

Sharon senior Max Tarlin was the ace of the Eagles staff last season as a junior and he will be counted on again this spring, as Sharon attempts to make a push up the league standings. Despite receiving only 22 runs of support in his nine decisions last season, Tarlin posted a 5-4 record (picking up five of Sharon’s six wins on the season) and he allowed only nine earned runs in 56.2 innings, good for an ERA of 1.11. He also struck out 46 batters. If the Eagles can get a few more runs home to support Tarlin this spring, they know that they can count on him to keep opponents off the board and could make a jump into the Davenport title race.

Aidan Wilde, Senior- Milford

Aidan Wilde has been a dominant force on the diamond for three seasons and the Milford senior returns for one more year to help the Hawks make a run at the league title and another playoff berth. Wilde showed off his versatility last year playing several positions for Milford – on the infield, behind the plate, and on the mound. He was second in the league with a 0.429 batting average, scored 15 runs, and drove in 14. He was also 3-1 on the hill, striking out 38 batters in 31.1 innings of work. His ability to win games in different ways gives Milford a major weapon heading into the spring.

King Philip Hires Greg Kessler as Baseball Coach

By HockomockSports.com Staff

King Philip has hired Greg Kessler as its new varsity baseball coach, athletic director Gary Brown announced last month. Kessler is no stranger to the Hockomock League, having served as freshman coach, JV coach and a varsity assistant at Franklin High over the past four years.

“I am excited to be a part of the KP baseball tradition,” Kessler said in a release. “I plan to give everything I have to ensure success on and off the field. I have been so impressed by the administration, the grounds crew and the community of KP that makes me really excited to a part of it.”

The Warriors are coming off a 10-11 season, earning a postseason berth with a win in its final game before falling to Marshfield in the opening round of the state tournament. Former coach Pat Weir, a former KP standout player that took over as head coach in 2014, stepped down after the season. During his final season, Weir helped the baseball field at KP be dedicated to former coach Gary Lombard.

Kessler graduated from Athol High School as a two-sport athlete in baseball and football. He pitched one season of collegiate baseball at Norwich University before his career was cut short by injury. He is currently an eighth-grade English teacher at Horace Mann Middle School in Franklin, and holds a Master’s Degree in Education.

He also coaches for Franklin’s football program, and has previous coaching stops at Athol Middle School and Mohawk Trail Regional Middle School.

“KP has such an amazing tradition of excellence from the music department to the academics to the athletics,” Kessler said. “There is no reason why this program shouldn’t be competitive and a source of pride every season. As a program, we need to commit ourselves to becoming relentless and resilient student-athletes. I want players who will be enthusiastic and involved in every aspect of the program.

“We are going to focus on building a program at all levels at the high school and within the community. It will take time and effort in the weight room, classroom and on the field. I learned so much from Coach Zach Brown in Franklin, from building a program to in-game decisions. I plan on using those tools as I start to build a powerful winning tradition here at KP.”