Late Runs Help Mansfield Sneak Past Taunton

ByJarettLeonard_2016FollowJarettLeonard_2016
 
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – Despite being limited to just two hits over the first five innings, a single and stolen base paired with a key Taunton error allowed Mansfield to break a scoreless tie in the sixth and slip past the Tigers, 2-0.

With one out in the top of the sixth inning, Mansfield left fielder Zack Peterson grounded one through the hole on the left side for only the third Hornet hit of the game. After Peterson advanced to second on a ball in the dirt, Max Boen hit a grounder to short, and attempting to nab the lead runner at third, a throw from the Taunton defense went out of play, allowing Peterson to cross the plate with the eventual winning run.

“That’s a key in baseball, any opportunity you get you’ve got to capitalize on it and you’ve got to try to limit the other team’s opportunities,” Mansfield coach Joe Breen said. “That’s kind of been the story of our season this year. We’ve had a lot of opportunities with a lot of runners on base and haven’t been able to get them in, and the last two weeks of the season so far we’ve been executing a little bit better, we’ve been putting a little bit more pressure on other teams and guys have been doing their jobs, so it’s been good to see.”

Mansfield added an insurance run in the seventh inning as designated hitter Colin Gibbons was hit with a pitch, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Aidan Cahill, to third on a single by Charlie DeMassi, and home on another Peterson grounder that found a hole in the Taunton defense. DeMassi took off on the pitch, forcing Taunton second baseman Kevin Griffin to cover the bag and leaving the right side vacated for Peterson to drive one through into right field and bring home the run.

“We were eliminated on Thursday but we knew we had two big games against two really good teams in Taunton and Bridgewater-Raynham,” Breen said. “Our guys, to their credit, said we’re not giving up, we’re not laying down and we’re going to come out and play the two hardest games we can to end our season with some pride and, led by our seniors, those guys came out today.”

Hornet senior starting pitcher Jack Neureuter kept the Tiger offense off the board over six innings of work, scattering six hits while striking out five and walking only two, one intentionally.

“He’s come out and demanded the ball four out of the last five games and he’s delivered in every single one of the those opportunities,” Breen said. “Jack was the key to today’s victory for sure.”

Taunton did have opportunities to take the lead early in the game, but Neureuter’s pitching combined with stellar defense behind him ended multiple Tiger threats. In the second inning, Taunton first baseman Charles Hearrold III doubled to right center field with one out. Right fielder Dan Noonan then lined one to left center, but DeMassi made a diving catch moving to his right, gained his footing, and fired into second base for an inning-ending double play.

“Charlie is a senior captain who struggled a lot through the beginning of the season and has not been in the lineup for a little bit,” Breen said. “We put him back in the lineup today as a senior captain to try to lead us to a late season win, and he did just that. Those are the types of plays he makes, that’s just a senior captain being a senior captain right there.”

An inning later, with Griffin on second base, Cahill, the Mansfield third baseman, went to the backhand to stab a hard Luke Figueira groundball and throw him out at first. Taunton later had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth inning, and after Neureuter induced a strikeout, Figueira laced one to center field, but DeMassi was there again to make a sprawling grab and end the inning. Taunton left eight runners on base in the game.

“Their center fielder did that to us the first game as well,” Taunton coach Jeff Sylvia said. “He has a great first step, and that’s a matter of talent and coaching. He expects the ball every pitch, and credit goes to Coach Breen for having his kids ready to go today.”

Though he was charged with the loss, Figueira pitched the complete game for Taunton, allowing six hits while striking out three. He allowed just two runs, one unearned, and stranded runners on the corners in both the sixth and seventh innings to give his team a chance.

“They wanted it more than we did, which is a shame,” Sylvia said. “That’s on me, not getting my team physically or mentally ready to play today. Unfortunately I feel like I failed the kids today. Mansfield showed up, they played hard, they played with heart, and they wanted it more than we did.”

Taunton also missed a chance to claim a share of the Kelley-Rex Division title and will now await the result of King Philip and Stoughton on Saturday. If KP wins, the Warriors win the division outright, but if Stoughton wins, Taunton and KP will share the title.

“They beat us, they took it from us, and that’s pretty much it,” Sylvia said. “We’ve got to get back to the drawing board and now we have to work on finding our groove again for the tournament.”

Mansfield baseball improves to 8-11 overall, 7-9 in the league and will travel to Bridgewater-Raynham on Wednesday afternoon. Taunton, now 13-5 overall and 11-5 in the league, will play the first of two non-league games to close out the year with a trip to New Bedford on Wednesday evening.

Taunton Pulls Into Tie For First With Walk-Off Win

Taunton baseball
Taunton players rush Luke Figueira (helmet) after his game winning RBI against KP. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – When Taunton senior Luke Figueira stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning with the winning run at second base, it was the first at bat he had against King Philip reliever Jon Rolfe. But Figueira already knew what to expect, thanks to a little scouting he did two innings prior.

Figueira roped the second pitch he saw into right center field, bringing in senior Matt Machado for the winning run, giving the Tigers a 2-1 walk-off win over the Warriors and putting the teams in a tie for first place in the Kelley-Rex with three leagues to go.

Two innings prior with the Tigers trailing by a run, it was Figueira that knotted the game. His one out single, one of three hits in the game, brought in Machado to tie the game in the sixth and chased KP starter Jake Cavanagh. Figueira advanced to second, giving him a great view of Rolfe on the mound.

“When I was at second, I was seeing his curveball and I could see it right out of his hand so I knew that when I got up to hit, that I could see it,” Figueira said. “If I got a fastball, I was going to hit it and if it was a curve I was going to let it go. I got the fastball.”

Taunton scored both of its runs in nearly identical fashion. Machado led off the sixth with a single and stole second. A sacrifice bunt from senior Kevin Griffin moved him to third and Figueira drove him in with a hit through the left side of the infield.

In the eighth, Macahdo once again led off with a single. Griffin laid down a bunt and reached when Machado beat the throw to second. That set the stage for Figueira’s game-winning hit.

Danny Keogh earned the win, tossing a scoreless eighth inning for the Tigers.

“Today was a big one, for a lot of reasons,” Taunton head coach Jeff Sylvia said. “It was good to get the win. I’m proud of the team, they didn’t give up. For a while there, it was bleak there offensively. I thought Luke did a great job, he battled for seven innings. He didn’t have his best stuff and KP had a great approach offensively. When we scored the run, we loosened up a little bit and played better.

“Coach Weir has [KP] playing great baseball, he’s done a great job with that program. We knew going into today this game was big on many fronts. I’m proud of the team, they stepped up and got it done.”

It was a heavyweight battle between the Warriors and the Tigers and both teams’ aces delivered on the mound. Figueira threw seven innings with one earned run allowed and five strikeouts. Cavanagh allowed just the one earned run in 5.1 innings, striking out six and scattering four hits.

“He pitched his heart out,” Weir said of Cavanagh. “I knew what I was going to get out of him, he’s done it all year long. He’s going to give you his best every time and had just the one run allowed today. But today was about execution, period, end of sentence. You’ve got to execute in those situations, it’s a simple game.”

For Figueira, there was more than just the battle of supremacy in the division and the chance for revenge driving him. Figueira’s teammate, classmate and best friend Brendon Mazerolle, the team’s starting shortstop, had his season cut short due to a knee injury over the weekend.

“This was for Maz,” Figueira said. “This gives us a chance [in the division] now. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot on Monday, we didn’t play very well. Coming back today, it was a good bounce back win and it can give us a lot of momentum heading into the final games and hopefully another team can help us out.

“You can never give up when you’re down. They didn’t hit the ball hard, they just found the hole and there’s nothing you can do about that so you just have to keep battling.”

King Philip cashed in for its lone run against Figueira in the top of the fourth inning. Ryan Coulter had a two-out infield single to get things started and stole second base to get into scoring position. Cavanagh blooped a single into right field and Coulter came around to score.

The Warriors threatened in each of the last three innings but good defensive plays from Taunton – something they lacked in the first meeting between the two – kept KP off the board. Stephen Murray reached on a drop third strike and got to third on a pair of wild pitches. With one out, the Warriors attempted a squeeze play but there was no contact at the plate and Taunton catcher fired to sophomore shortstop Jacob Crawford, covering at third, for the out.

Ryan Guenette led off the seventh by getting hit by a pitch and took second on a sac bunt from Stephan MacMeans. Figueira then induced a ground ball to third where freshman Jack Moynihan fired to first for an out and Charles Hearrold III fired back to Crawford at third, catching the runner for a double play. In the final inning, Crawford took a toss from Griffin with his bare hand and completed a 4-6-3 double play.

“Because of an injury, we’re pretty young up the middle but those guys have been working hard in practice,” Sylvia said. “Jake Crawford, he got thrust into that position but when he plays short in practice, he looks like that on the field. And he’s got a sneaky strong arm. That double play he turned when he bare handed it, not many kids do that and that’s impressive.”

Machado finished 2-4 with a pair of runs scored, Griffin had two important bunts late and Figueira went 3-4 with a pair of RBI for Taunton.

“I don’t care how Matty gets on, he’s our fastest guy and the team can relax and we’re more aggressive when he gets on,” Sylvia said. “Getting on in front of Kevin, who does a lot great job with bat control and then Luke is in the right spot at the right time. We had the right scenario [twice], we don’t always get that but it worked out.

“They beat us the first time so today was a big one. It felt like we were focused all game. Even though it didn’t look good offensively early, they never gave up and I can’t be more proud as a coach.”

Taunton improves to 12-3 overall and 10-3 in league play. The Tigers final three league games will be against Sharon, Oliver Ames and Mansfield over the next five days. King Philip drops to 13-3 overall and 10-3 in the league. The Warriors will take on Sharon and Franklin in the coming five days before wrapping up league play against Stoughton next Saturday.

Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Figueira Tosses Shutout for Taunton at North

Taunton baseball
Taunton senior Luke Figueira struck out five and faced the minimum in a complet game shutout against North. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro lead-off hitter Kyle McCarthy started Monday afternoon’s game at Community Field with a base hit off Taunton ace Luke Figueira. Two batters later, McCarthy was doubled up trying to take third on a groundout.

That would be the last base runner the Rocketeers would get.

Figueira was dealing on Monday, hitting spots and changing speeds. He faced the minimum of 21 batters, setting down the final 20 in a row, allowing just the one hit and striking out five in seven shutout innings, as Taunton pulled out a 5-0 victory to split the season series with North.

“Honestly, I became a fan today,” said Taunton coach Jeff Sylvia about watching his starting pitcher work through the North lineup.

“We have a lot of confidence with him on the mound. Every time he takes the ball our team has a little cockiness and a little swag.”

The Bentley University-commit admitted that he had to figure out the mound in the first inning but once he got his mechanics right he felt comfortable with his approach, especially using his off-speed stuff to keep the Rockeeters off-balance.

“So far this year my curveball has been pretty good,” Figueira said. “Last year, I was throwing fastballs 90 percent of the time and my off-speed has been much better. I’ve been trying to really hit my spots this year.”

He consistently got ahead of the Rocketeers hitters, mixing his fastball and breaking ball, and that allowed him to focus on hitting spots rather than trying to blow batters away. Of course, he could also rear back when he wanted, striking out the final batter in the second, third, and fourth innings.

“It didn’t seem like he was overpowering us, but he mixed his pitches very well and he kept the ball away,” said North Attleboro coach Paul Tobin. “It was curveball away and fastball away and we didn’t adjust.”

The Tigers also made the plays behind their starter, highlighted by shortstop Brendon Mazzerolle’s pick of a sinking line drive off the bat of John Brennan in the sixth. Mazzerolle got up from his knees and fired a strike to get Brennan by a step at first.

“It gives you confidence and makes you really pound the zone,” said Figueira about the Taunton defense. “The big goal is to get ahead and then there wasn’t too much solid contact and when there was the defense made plays.”

North Attleboro starter Andy Katch, who allowed four runs but only one earned, did not get as much help from the defense and those couple mistakes would give Taunton the offense it needed to pull out the win.

The game was scoreless to the third. Matt Machado reached on an errant throw to start the inning and moved to second on a groundout. Figueira helped his own cause with an RBI-single to left and took second on the throw.

Max Bowden (2-for-3) followed with a line drive to left that moved Figueira to third. He came home on a pitch that bounced away from North catcher Zach DeMattio.

“Against a team of that caliber, against a pitcher of that caliber, there is no margin for error,” said Tobin. “We made a couple of errors and that gave them the lead…We battled but Figueira is a great pitcher and it was his day today.”

Katch pitched around a lead-off error in the fourth, but Taunton would take advantage of another North mistake to double the lead in the fifth.

Figueira reached when his infield pop-up fell in and Bowden hit a hard single into the hole at short that John Brennan did well to keep on the infield. Christian Simoes drew a walk to load the bases with no outs and give the Tigers a chance to break the game wide open.

Sophomore Joe Manchester singled in a run but Charles Hearrold III hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Ethan Hebard and he started a 5-2-3 double play. Katch was on the verge of getting out of the jam but Kevin Griffin had an infield single to deep short to plate Manchester and make it 4-0.

That was plenty for Figueira.

“With Luke on the mound and getting more than two I think we’re okay,” said Sylvia. “We left a lot of guys on base (nine runners) but we did take advantage of some mistakes that they made, which was good because we haven’t really done that all season.”

Taunton added an insurance run in the seventh. Bowden drew a lead-off walk against reliever Matt Papineau, Simoes singled and then Manchester drove in Bowden with his second hit of the game.

“Joe’s first at-bat he was diving into the pitch a little bit,” said Sylvia. “My coaching staff talked to him before I got to him and we all said, be shorter to the ball and trust your hands.”

Figueira told the coaches that he wanted the ball to try and avenge an early season loss to the Rocketeers and he made sure to rise to the challenge.

Taunton (9-2, 8-2) will face another tough Kelley-Rex test on Wednesday with a trip to Attleboro. North Attleboro (6-6, 5-5) will travel to league-leading King Philip.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Taunton Prevails In Extras After Great Pitcher’s Duel

Taunton baseball
Taunton’s Max Bowden (9) celebrates with Brendon Mazerolle after walking off with the win in the eighth inning. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – The pitcher’s duel between Attleboro’s Nate Tellier and Taunton’s Luke Figueira certainly lived up the hype.

Two of the top pitchers in the Hockomock League went back in forth, Figueira landing a punch the top half only for Tellier to answer with a counter punch on the mound in the bottom half.

While both pitchers were engaged in a heavyweight battle, both offenses struggled to get just about anything going, combing for three hits total.

In the end, it was a walk, Taunton’s lone hit and an error in the bottom of the 8th inning that allowed the Tigers to walk off with a 1-0 over the Bombardiers.

“It’s a win and it’s a league win against an outstanding opponent and a well coached team so we’ll take it,” Taunton head coach Jeff Sylvia said. “And it was against one of the better pitchers in the league. So after the first week we have two wins and just one loss so that’s a good week. Now going forward we have two big games coming up after the City Championship [against Coyle].”

Taunton went seven innings without a hit but finally got one in the bottom of the eighth inning. Junior William Emerson battled to draw a lead off walk and advanced to second on Matt Machado’s sacrifice bunt back to pitcher Matt Callahan. Senior Brendon Mazerolle reached on a hard hit infield single to put runners on first and second. Callahan responded with a strikeout for the second out.

Senior Max Bowden then hit a hard hit grounder up the left field line was squirted through at third base and rolled slowly into left field. With two outs, Emerson was running on contact and came around to score the winning run.

“Whoever is going to play better defense is going to win [these types of games],” Attleboro head coach Matt Bosh admitted. “We made some mistakes, a couple popups, we booted a couple of ground balls. Eventually those will hurt you and they did.”

Attleboro had one of its best chances in the opening inning when a one out walk preceded a single and a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Figueira was able to get his third strikeout of the first inning to escape the jam though.

Taunton’s lead off batter reached in both the first inning (Machado via a walk) and sophomore Joe Manchester (via an error) but both times, Tellier came up with a pair of strike outs to walk away unscathed both times.

Figueria (four pitches) and Tellier (13 pitches) each breezed through the third inning. Bowden reached on an error to lead off the fourth and moved to second on a sac bunt from Manchester and to third on a wild pitch. But Tellier once again closed the inning with a strike out to escape.

Attleboro’s Tyler Stowe reached on a one out error in the fifth and moved to third after a stolen base and a ground out to short. Figueira closed the curtain on his performance by inducing another 6-3 groundout.

Tellier got into a little trouble in the bottom of the sixth after a hit batter and an error put runners on second and third with two outs but the senior got Manchester looking with his 98th and final pitch to get out of the jam.

In relief, both Taunton’s Bowden and Attleboro’s Callahan was very strong. Bowden had 1-2-3 innings in both the 6th and 7th but ran into a little trouble in the 8th inning. After getting a strikeout to start the top half, an infield error allowed Cam Hochwarter to reach. Nate Tellier then reached on another infield error to put runners on first and second.

Patrick Collins’ blooped Attleboro’s second hit of the game (and first since the first inning) into right centerfield. After a bobble from Machado, Figueira – who shifted to right field after coming off the mound – rocketed a throw to home to gun out Hochwarter at the plate. Bowden then induced a grounder to Mazerole at short get out of the inning.

“If the have runners in scoring position and we have either of those two guys pitching, I want the ball hit to [Mazerolle],” Sylvia said. “He’s as solid as you get. In the 12 years that I’ve been here, he’s one of the premier defensive players that we’ve had come through the program. It was nice to have a lot of 6-3s today. Luke, he’s another guy. With the game on the line, he was in the right place at the right time and he made a perfect throw.”

Tellier pitched six innings of no hit baseball, struck out 10 with just one walk issued. Figueira tossed five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and struck out six. Neither pitcher was involved in the decision.

“Can’t ask for anything more pitching wise,” Bosh said. “We could battle more than we did at the plate. I don’t know how many called third strikes we had today but we need to battle better than we did today against good pitching. Everyone has a good pitcher so we need to learn to battle better against a good pitcher.”

“We had two really good pitching performances,” Sylvia said. :Fortunately we had our two veterans, our two top notch pitchers going today so that was beneficial. After a shaky first inning I thought Luke did a great job settling in, being very efficient and started to get ahead of hitters which is key for him. Sometimes he tries to be too perfect and too fine with his pitches but after the first inning he just attacked the strike zone and let the defense handle it. It all came down to pitching and we made the plays when we needed to so that’s the key.”

Taunton baseball improves to 2-1 overall and in league play. The Tigers will be back in action when they travel to Coyle & Cassidy on Monday in the all important City Championship. Attleboro (1-3) will look to bounce back when they travel to Sharon on Tuesday at 11:00AM.

Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Baseball: Kelley-Rex Division Preview 2016

Attleboro's Nate Tellier will be one 11 seniors playing for the Bombardiers this season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)
Attleboro’s Nate Tellier will be one 11 seniors playing for the Bombardiers this season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

ATTLEBORO

2015 Record: 8-12
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Matt Bosh

A rough end to the 2015 campaign kept the Bombardiers out of the postseason last year but with 11 seniors and a good amount returning experienced players, Attleboro is looking to get back to the playoffs this year.

“We have a lot of returning varsity players from last year, and we have three two-year captains, four [captains] overall,” head coach Matt Bosh said. “The positive thing is that even though we have a lot from last year’s team back, there is still a lot of competition for playing time, which will hopefully bring out the best in all of our kids.”

Both Nate Tellier and Tyler Stowe are returning three year starters and captains this season, alongside seniors Will Carter and Jon Dunn. Tellier is one of the best shortstops in the league and led the Bombardiers in hitting last season with a .357 average and 14 runs scored. Tellier will also be a force on the mound after recording a 1.44 ERA in 34 innings last season. Stowe will man first base when he isn’t pitching.

Matt Callahan, Cam Hochwarter, Brandon Galvao and Robbie Araujo will all see time in the infield along with Tellier and Stowe and juniors Dylan Maskell and Dylan Prout should also fit in the infield. Will Carter returns behind the plate while Dunn patrols centerfield. Pat Collins, Brent Cook and John Burns are all likely candidates to see time in left and right.

Along with Tellier and Stowe on the mound, Dunn, Galvao, Callahan, Prout, Maskell, Nolan Kane, Tyler McGovern and James Weir should see time.

FRANKLIN

2015 Record: 16-8
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinals
Coach: Zach Brown

The Panthers reached the D1 South Semifinals last year but there will be some voids left from graduation that Franklin needs to fill in order to get back there.

“We have a lot of positions up for grabs,” head coach Zach Brown said. “But I’m really excited about the opportunity we have this season. We have a lot of new talented players that are competing hard for playing time and open positions and roles. We will be relying on some younger guys, sophomores and juniors, to help fill some critical positions. Competition during practice and scrimmages has been intense. I think we have a unique blend of veterans and a new influx of talent. I’m very optimistic about what this team can become by the end of the season.”

The talent that Franklin does have back is a good group with Alex Bissanti returning at second base, Mike Skaza back to pitch and patrol the outfield, Nick Santucci at shortstop, Tyler Gomes will move to catcher full time and Jake Lyons will handle centerfield duties. Joe Corsi will handle a variety of roles and Josh Macchi will take over first base.

Franklin graduated 10 seniors from last year’s squad that included the entire pitching rotation and closer. Brown noted sophomores Jake Noviello and Matt Foley will see time on the mound this season.

KING PHILIP

2015 Record: 5-15
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Pat Weir

King Philip has seven seniors and seven juniors on its roster this year and a good chunk of that experience comes on the mound.

“I can say in my short three years at KP this current group is the most cohesive group I’ve been around,” head coach Pat Weir said. “Solid senior leadership, solid team chemistry and competition is very healthy.”

Jake Lannigan, Jake Cavanagh, Jon Rolfe and Jack DiCenso are all seniors that have experience on the mound. Rolfe notched a 1.80 ERA in 35 innings last year while striking out 26 while Cavanaugh tossed over 41 innings, striking out 35 with a 2.88 ERA. Rolfe is also the top returning hitter after hitting .302 last year.

Leo Munafo returns as the starting catcher and Will Weir is back at shortstop for another year. Stephan MacMeans had a strong year in the outfield last season and will patrol centerfield again this season. All four senior pitchers previously mentioned will all see time in the field as well.

MANSFIELD

2016 Record: 17-6
2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Joe Breen

Last season was a banner year for first year head coach Joe Breen and the Hornets as Mansfield won its first league title since 2007 and reached the D1 South Finals. But last year is already in the rearview mirror for the 2016 Hornets.

“After a great season last year, we are a whole new team,” head coach Joe Breen said. “We have a talented group of multi-sport athletes that look to transition from the JV ranks to the varsity ranks this spring. We have some great senior leaders at the top and quite a bit of young talent to fill in the holes left by last year’s large graduating class. I’m excited to see what players breakthrough in our pre-season practices and scrimmages.”

Key returnees include senior catcher Mike Arnold, senior first baseman Tyrone Pascual and senior center fielder Charlie DeMassi. Expect each of them to be in the top of the order. DeMassi showed off his defensive prowess in the center last season and will be a key piece this year.

The biggest question mark for the defender Kelley-Rex champions will be pitching. Breen said he will be looking for seniors Jared Menzer, Jack Neureter and Michael Kirejczyk to step up alongside sophomore Tyler Dalton.

North Attleboro

2015 Record: 8-12
2015 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Paul Tobin

Last season ended far from how Big Red had planned when they dropped nine of their last 10 games to miss out on the playoffs. But head coach Paul Tobin brings back his two top pitchers and a solid group of experienced seniors.

“This is a smart, good-character group who are fun to coach,” Tobin said. “The middle of the lineup should hit. If we get production from some of our new players and the expected contributions from our returning veterans we should be in the thick of the race.”

Seniors John O’Donnell and Andy Katch are back on the mound for the Rocketeers. O’Donnell logged over 36 innings on the mound last year with a 2.89 ERA and 23 strikeouts. Ridge Olsen is back and will patrol left field after batting a team-high .433 last year with 13 RBI and Brian Kleczkowski returns to first base after hitting .321 last year with 16 RBI.

Junior catcher Tyler LaFreniere is also back along with second baseman Brian Poillucci and centerfielder Bryan Harris. Tobin noted junior Brett Cloutier, junior John Brennan and sophomore Zach DeMattio will factor in this season.

TAUNTON

2015 Record: 14-8
2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Jeff Sylvia

Taunton has had a lot of success since joining the Hockomock League and head coach Jeff Sylvia is hopeful that will continue this year. With a handful of very good players back, it’s likely that will continue.

“Our goal is to be better on April 30th than March 30th,” Sylvia said. “And then even better on May 30th.”

Taunton brings back Luke Figueira, who was the 2014 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year as a sophomore and then was one of the league’s best all around players last year as a junior. Figueira batted a team-high .500 with 15 RBI and pitched over 35 innings with 51 strikeouts, posting a 1.78 ERA. Jose Mercado will see an expanded role on the mound after striking out 25 in 18 innings last year.

Max Bowden returns behind the plate and will also be back as the closer after four saves and a 1.62 ERA last year. Sylvia also has Brendon Mazzerole back, who was selected to the HockomockSports.com First Team as a third maseman last year. Mazzerole will shift to short this year and will look to build upon his .429 average from last year.

Senior Kevin Griffin also brings back some experience while seniors Charles Hearrold III and Dan Noonan and junior Danny Keogh will try to make an impact this season. Sylvia is also looking for sophomores Joe Manchester and Jacob Crawford to slide into roles early on.

Figueira's Blue Collar Performance Helps Taunton To Win

Luke Figueira

Taunton sophomore Luke Figueira tossed six shutout innings in his playoff debut. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief

QUINCY, Mass. – It wasn’t the flashiest performance, but it was beyond effective. Taunton sophomore Luke Figueira tossed six shutout innings in his first playoff start and the Tigers rode two early runs to a 2-0 upset of fifth-seeded Quincy.

Figueira, who went 5-3 with a 2.28 ERA in the regular season, put in a blue collar performance, striking out just two batters but allowing just four hits over five innings of work with no runners going further than second base.

“I thought he had a little bit of nervous energy early, but when push came to shove, especially after they got first and second in the first inning, he really settled in,” Taunton head coach Jeff Sylvia said. “His pitch count got up there a little bit, they were taking pitches late in the game so thats kind of why we made the move. He did everything we needed to him to do. He pitched six solid innings, I think just four hits. He did a hell of a job and he gave us a chance to win.”

Taunton’s offense started out hot against Quincy starter Greg Paulo as right fielder Casey Grady led off the game with a single into left field. He stole second with Jared Jorge at the plate but things quickly turned around. Jorge’s grounder to short led to Grady being tagged out at third and then Jorge was caught stealing second base. 

Quincy had a similar start when John Marsinelli had a one-out single and then stole second. After Figueira walked Matt Davis to put two on with one out, he struck out Bobby Salvucci and then induced a pop up from Robbie Munroe.

The offense continued in the second inning for Taunton as catcher Zach Bowden led off with a walk and advanced to second on a single from Dylan Poillucci. Unlucky hit placement hurt Taunton again as Figueira grounded to the left side of the infield and Bowden was thrown out at third base, but Poillucci advanced to second. Poillucci and Figueira moved up a base on a wild pitch and Zach MacLean took first after being hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, first baseman Mike Bunker singled into left field plating Poillucci but as Figueira tried to score from second, he was gunned down at home by Quincy left fielder Padraig Geaney, but Taunton took a 1-0 lead. MacLean advanced to third and Bunker to second on the throw to home. 

It didn’t take long for Taunton to add to their lead as center fielder and number nine hitter DJ Kullas singled through the right side to score MacLean to make it 2-0. 

That would be all of the offense Taunton would get in the game, going hitless the rest of the game against Paulo with just two base runners reaching, one in the third and one in the sixth – both on errors.

But that’s the only offense Figueira would need on the mound. He sat down Quincy in order in the third inning and faced just four batters in the fourth, fifth and sixth inning.

“I’ve been impressed with him all year,” Sylvia said of Figueira. “If we’re going to go down, I want him on the mound. I was nervous for him today knowing anything can happen as a sophomore but he did a great job. He made the pitches he needed to and gave us six solid innings, I’m proud of him.”

With Figueira striking out just two – one being a dropped third strike – the Tigers were forced to field the ball and they did so strongly. All three outfielders – Sam Moor, Kullas and Grady – kept the play in front of them and made the necessary catches and infielders Matt Vanzandt, Jorge, MacLean and Bunker, along with Bowden behind the plate all made the plays they needed to with Figueira on the mound.

“We preach to these guys defense and pitching,” Sylvia said. “I thought we got both and it’s not easy especially when it’s a one game elimination and you have to play as solid as possible. I thought we did a good job defensively to make the plays.”

The game didn’t end without some drama though as Quincy’s offense came alive in the seventh inning. Jorge came in to pitch in relief of Figueira for the seventh inning, but with their backs against the wall, Quincy pulled out some offense. 

Cody Desmond led off the bottom of the seventh with a slow grounder to the right side and the infield grass slowed it down even more, allowing Desmond to reach on an infield single. Jorge induced two straight fly outs to make it one on, two outs. But Marsinelli picked up his second hit of the game, singling into shallow left field to push Desmond to second. Davis then hit a slow roller in the infield but Vanzandt couldn’t get his glove on it and Quincy loaded the bases.

That brought up Quincy’s four-hitter, Salvucci, with the tying run at second and the winning run in Davis at first. But Jorge ended the drama, getting Salvucci to swing on a 2-2 count for the strikeout and the win.

After starting the season 0-6, Taunton advances to the D1 South Quarterfinals and will host #13 New Bedford on Monday. The Tigers played the Whalers twice in the regular season, losing 10-2 in Taunton’s season opera on April 4th and then Taunton besting New Bedford, 6-2 just over a week ago. 

“We’re fortunate enough to host New Bedford – they just beat one of the best teams in the state – so it’s not going to be easy,” said Sylvia, who won a state championship in high school playing at New Bedford. “We’re very familiar with them, they’re very familiar with us, so we know each other well.”

The game will be played at Taunton High starting at 4:00. 

Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.