The Black Knights loaded the bases in three separate innings and threatened with the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but three separate Panther pitchers came through to limit the damage, helping the Panthers secure a 5-3 win on the road.
After two quick strikeouts to start the game from Stoughton starter Zak Paquette, the Panthers cashed in. Senior Alex Haba had an infield single and quickly moved into scoring position by stealing second. Haba came in to score on a two-out RBI from senior Jake Macchi to put the visitors up 1-0 after a half inning.
Stoughton loaded the bases in the bottom of the first following a walk to junior George Currier, a single from senior Robbie Seaman, and a catcher’s interference but starting pitcher Liam Dailey induced a ground ball for the third out to keep the Knights off the board.
Franklin capitalized on its chances again in the top of the third. Scott Elliott led off with a single and took second when the hit got by the center fielder trying to make a defensive play. Elliott then stole third and came home when the throw from home was high, giving the Panthers a run without a second player putting the ball in play.
The Panthers struck again with two outs to increase the advantage. Cooper Ross reached on an error, took second on a single from JB Floris, and game in to score on an RBI base hit from Dan Markowski to make it 3-0.
“Two-out RBIs are key, they are clutch,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “This is a good offense, and we’ve found ways to score runs in a number of ways. Today it just happened to be the two-out RBI and not quitting on an inning that made the difference.”
The Black Knights had the leadoff man erased with a double play in the second, and then couldn’t push across any runs when they loaded the bases with one out in the third inning. Currier and Seaman had back-to-back singles and junior James Genest reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with the Black Knights trailing 3-0.
Again, Dailey was up to the challenge, getting a strikeout for the second out and inducing a pop up behind the plate that was caught on a nice play by Macchi to keep Stoughton off the board.
“With some of the plays we made, we didn’t make it easy for Liam,” Brown said. “He gave us a great effort, we’re proud of that effort. When he’s on the hill, we feel pretty good about our chances.”
Franklin increased its lead with another big play from Elliott. Junior Jack Nally drew a one-out walk and advanced to second and third on back-to-back wild pitches.Elliot laced a shot to right center field that went past the fielder. With no fence at the Stoughton field, the ball continued rolling allowing Elliott to round the bases for an inside the park home run.
Stoughton once again put pressure on the Panthers in the bottom of the fifth, this time pushing some runs across with the bases load. Cian Swierzewski led off with a single, Seaman was hit by a pitch, and Genest single to load the bases with one out.
Jacob Kaplan came through with an RBI single to get the Knights on the board, and Michael Nazzaro followed with a base hit of his own to bring another run in, making it 5-2. With the bases still loaded, Brown elected to go to the bullpen and brought in junior Cody Trotin.
Trotin came through for Franklin, getting the first batter he faced to strikeout and followed by inducing a fly ball to center to prevent Stoughton from adding to its total.
“We’re young and Franklin is a good team,” said Stoughton head coach Mike Armour. “We didn’t do ourselves any favors today. Zak was locked in to start, you saw it with the two strikeouts, and I felt like we could have done him a little better, we could have made some more plays early on. But at the same time, you have to tip your cap to Franklin. They got the bat on the ball and got a few runs across the dish early that ended up being the difference. But we’re still learning, there’s still room for improvement, but all in all, being a hit away from tying this game we’ll take it.
“We had 11 left on base, but you have to tip your hat to Franklin for making some pitches and getting us out. We’re young, we have some guys that are still getting their feet wet at the varsity level and I think they showed today. Hopefully, we learn from it.”
Genest took over on the mound in relief for the Black Knights, and after the first batter he faced reached on an error, he retired six straight Panthers.
Stoughton brought the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but again the Panthers got the necessary outs. Seaman led off with a triple and scored on an RBI single from Genest to make it 5-3. Genest moved to second when Kaplan was walked, putting runners on first and second with no outs, forcing Brown to go to his bullpen again.
Junior Will Pacheco got a strikeout and then a fielder’s choice, putting runners on the corners for the Knights with two outs. Pacheco then got a soft line drive back to the mound for the third out, stranding the tying run on first to get the win.
“We got some outs when we needed them,” Brown said. “Cody Trotin came into a big spot in his first outing of the year. He really gave us what we needed at the time. And obviously, Will Pacheco has been around the block and he just seems to rise to the occasion in pressure situations.”
Franklin baseball (5-0 Hockomock, 6-0 overall) is back in action on Friday when it hosts one of the top teams in the state in Walpole. Stoughton (3-2, 5-2) is back in action on Tuesday when it travels to Foxboro.
Worcester State baseball got off to a great start to the season, going 6-2 on its annual trip to Florida and winning seven games in a row to open the season with only two losses in the opening nine games. While the Lancers have come back down to Earth a little, with only two wins in their last eight games, senior outfielder Mike Ferrara continues to put up huge numbers.
The Oliver Ames grad and former HockomockSports.com First Teamer is batting .421 and has a hit in all but three games for the Lancers this season. This comes as no surprise to people who watched him set a single-season hit record for the Tigers during his senior year, when he recorded 37 hits in the 2015 season, finishing with a .521 average.
Hitting has always been Ferrara’s forte, but this season he has been on fire at the plate right from the start of spring.
“I usually pick up my pace in the warm weather and then bring it up here,” Ferrara said during a phone conversation before the Lancers kicked off MASCAC play. “Usually we don’t start in Florida, but this year we happened to, so it was good to get myself hot early and then try to carry it over up North.”
When he was asked about the Lancers getting off to a strong start this spring, Ferrara pointed to the preparation that the team put in during the off-season. Starting with fall ball and into the winter, the team has been getting ready to turn around a disappointing 2018, in which the Lancers were 12-26, and get back to the levels of 2017 where Worcester State got hot late in the season and won the MASCAC tournament title.
“In the off-season everyone’s in the weight room, everyone’s hitting every day, all of our pitchers were throwing because we had a really tough season last year and we all had the mindset to turn things around this year,” he explained. “So far, so good, and we’re just trying to keep things going.”
While things slipped a little for the team, Ferrara continues to rake. He leads the team in average (.421), slugging (.684), and RBI (15). He is also second in stolen bases (six) and runs scored (13) and third in on-base percentage (.485) and walks (eight) entering a two-game weekend set with Bridgewater State.
“I’m just getting into better counts, a lot of good hitter counts for myself,” he said. Getting up with runners on base has also helped him get set to go. “Pitchers are a little nervous when you’re up with runners on,” he remarked, “and I’m getting into good counts and basically putting good swings on the ball, putting it in play, and producing runs.”
Ferrara said that he has kept essentially the same approach since high school. He continues to train in the winter with Terence O’Malley of TJO Sports in Canton, just like he has since his sophomore year at OA, and goes into each at-bat focused on her timing.
“That’s my big thing – if I’m not on time, then I’m not going to be getting any hits,” he said. Of course some things have changed since making the leap to collegiate baseball. “You see guys with a lot of pitches, more arm slots. If you’re hitting well then you’re going to see more curveballs and changeups and if you’re not then they’ll try to put you out with the fastball.”
He added, “I kind of work with the same things that I’ve been doing and luckily, it’s still been successful. I’m blessed.”
Being comfortable at the plate is critical to succeed against college-level pitching and Ferrara seems to have found his groove. He went hitless in the season opener against Mount Union in Kissimmee, Fla. and then got at least one hit in nine straight games, highlighted by a 4-for-6 game against Keene State that earned him MASCAC Player of the Week honors.
After going hitless in back-to-back games against WPI and Westfield State, Ferrara is back on track. He has two hits in each of his last four games, although he only has one RBI in the last seven games after 14 in his first nine.
“It’s always good to get recognized,” he said, “but I’m at the point in my career where I’m just trying to focus on winning. It’s nice to get a little recognition but we’re always trying to win games and trying to get back to the conference championship.”
Two years ago, the Lancers went on a run through the conference tournament, beating Framingham State 10-3 and 1-0 in the final series to book a spot in the NCAA tournament. While that was fun as a sophomore, getting back to that stage as a senior would be particularly special.
“We know that everyone’s going to need to pitch in and it’s going to take a team effort to get back there but we know we have the pieces,” Ferrara explained. “It’s coming to an end soon, so you have to be putting it all together to win games. There’s no turning back after this.”
As the Lancers enter April, the games start to come thick and fast and the season turns into a grind to try and move up the conference standings. There may only be a few days off and it takes a lot of work to balance life, school, and baseball, Ferrara is never going to pass up the chance to play baseball every day.
Ferrara said, “Bodies are tired, arms are getting short, but you’ve got to put it together. Just knowing that you’re waking up playing a baseball game, there’s nothing better, especially once everyone’s fired up for conference it gets even better.
“I love playing,” he added. “This is the best time of the year, playing baseball, so we’re just looking forward to continuing this season and hopefully seeing some success.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Players are listed alphabetically
George Currier, Junior – Stoughton
Stoughton junior George Currier broke onto the scene last year, earning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year honors after a strong first season in the Black Knights’ starting lineup. Currier played right field last season and really impressed with his consistent defense. Head coach Mike Armour boasts that Currier can play anywhere defensively and that certainly gives the Black Knights flexibility. He also was strong at the plate, batting .328 with four doubles, 14 runs, and 13 RBI. With a year of experience under his belt, Currier will certainly be a leader for the Black Knights this year.
Alvaro Espinal, Senior – Attleboro
First-year Attleboro head Steve Dunlea put it perfectly when talking about senior Alvaro Espinal: “He’s the type of player that you don’t want to be at the concession stand when he’s up to bat.” Espinal really impressed during his first year in the Bombardier starting lineup last season. He’s got a quick bat and lightning speed that puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Once he gets on base, he can certainly find his way into scoring position with his legs. That speed is also on display defensively as Espinal showed last year that he can cover a lot of ground and make tough catches look routine.
The Franklin Panthers have had a lot of success over the past two seasons, and one constant in that time period has been shortstop Alex Haba. Haba burst onto the scene as a sure-handed shortstop during his sophomore year and has been one of the best defensive players at any positions since then. At one of the most important spots on the field, Haba routinely makes difficult plays look easy. And over the past two years, he’s really improved on the offensive end. Last season, Haba batted .328 during the regular season with 22 hits, 12 RBI and 15 runs scored. Haba will be a leader for the Panthers this year, both on and off the field, and could be one of the best overall players in the league.
Nick Marcolini, Senior – Milford
Milford had a bit of a down year in 2018 but the Scarlet Hawks have a lot of players back this year that are looking to make a run to the state tournament. One of those players is senior captain Nick Marcolini, who was one of the strongest players for the Scarlet Hawks. Last year, Marcolini hit .386 with 17 hits, eight runs scored and three RBI. He provided the Hawks with some timely at-bats and will be a leader, both on and off the field this season. He will also see some time on the mound and gives the Hawks a left-handed option. With a solid group of experienced players, such as Marcolini, Milford should be in contention for a playoff spot.
David Morganelli, Senior – King Philip
King Philip senior David Morganelli has had a terrific career for the Warriors in both football and baseball, and he will be looking to have another strong season before graduating. He posted a 2-3 record last year on the mound, striking out 43 in 38.2 innings of work. His ability to use multiple pitches, including a good slider, keeps batters off balance. He ranked in the top 10 last season for strikeouts and was among the league leaders in ERA, posting an impressive 1.99 mark. “David has an opportunity to be one of the best pitchers in the Hock,” said KP coach Greg Kessler. “He is competitive and has improved a lot in terms of accuracy.” The Warriors will look for Morganelli to anchor a strong pitching staff this year.
Chris Pearsons, Senior – Oliver Ames
One of the top all-around players in the league, Chris Pearsons is definitely one of the preseason favorites for Player of the Year. Defense seems to come easily to Pearsons, who started at third base last year but will make the switch to shortstop this year. Having such an experienced player patrolling shortstop will bolster the Tigers’ defense, which is strong every single year. He really improved last year at the plate, batting .448 in the regular season, sixth best in the league. He had 30 hits, 17 runs scored and 11 RBI. Expect more of the same this year from Pearsons, who will likely be in the heart of the lineup for the Tigers.
Josh Lajoie, Senior – Taunton
Taunton’s Josh Lajoie proved to be one of the toughest at-bats last season. While sometimes prone to walks, Lajoie showed some really good stuff at times that had batters guessing. He throws very hard and keeps batters off balance. The important thing this year will be pounding the strike zone for Lajoie, who is committed to St. John’s University. He will form arguably the top 1-2 starting pitching combinations with classmate Jack Moynihan. On top of being one of the best pitchers in the league, Lajoie is a key piece of the Taunton offense. He was third on the team last year with a .366 batting average. He had 15 hits with five runs scored and five RBI. Expect Lajoie to have a big impact for Taunton this season.
Jack Moynihan, Senior – Taunton
Taunton’s Jack Moynihan enters his fourth year on the Tigers and will look to orchestrate a memorable season for his final year. Moynihan impressed during his freshman year but injuries slowed him during his sophomore season. He bounced back nicely last year, emerging as one of the top pitchers in a league full of great hurlers. He picked up wins over both Mansfield and Franklin, the two Hock teams in the Super 8, including a 15-strikeout performance against the eventual champion Panthers. He went 4-2 in the regular season with an impressive 0.97 ERA, striking out 40 in the process. He has a great fastball and can mix in offspeed pitches when needed to keep hitters off balance. Moynihan, who is committed to Sienna College, is a preseason favorite for Player of the Year.
Dan Saraceno, Senior – Mansfield
One of the most consistent offensive weapons for the Kelley-Rex division champion Hornets last season is back again this year: senior Dan Saraceno. The outfielder spent the majority of the season atop the leaderboard for batting average, finishing the year with a .364 clip. He had 20 hits and tied for third in the league with 21 runs scored and added 14 RBI. The Hornets were first in the Kelley-Rex in runs scored last year and Saraceno’s consistency near the top of the order helped put Mansfield in position to score. He will also be a valuable member of the Hornets outfield defensively. He will return alongside Sam Nugent as starters, giving Mansfield a leg up defensively.
Matt Wanless, Senior – North Attleboro
North Attleboro had a tremendous season last year by winning the D2 State Championship, the first in program history. A lot of attention went to the Rocketeers’ relentless offense as well as ace Nick Sinacola. But senior Matt Wanless quietly put together one of the best seasons among all players in the league. He went a perfect 5-0 in the regular season in 31.1 innings pitched. He wasn’t one of the most flashy pitchers, striking out 17 total but he was certainly one of the most effective pitchers in the league. He posted a 0.90 ERA in the regular season, giving the Big Red a chance to win every single time he was on the mound. With Sinacola graduated, Wanless will be a very important piece of the Rocketeer’s pitching staff in 2019.