By Michael Antonellis, HockomockSports.com Contributor
FOXBORO, Mass. – Less than 48 hours after being no hit in a 2-0 extra innings loss to Attleboro, North Attleboro did a complete 180, and jumping out to a quick start in a 4-0 victory over Foxboro.
Leadoff man Kyle McCarthy slapped a stand up double to start the game for the Rocketeers, and senior Brian Poillucci’s ground out pushed McCarthy to third. Zach DeMattio drove McCarthy in from third on an RBI single, and an infield single from Ridge Olsen put runners on first and second.
Tyler LaFreniere ripped an RBI double to make it 2-0, and also put himself and Olsen into scoring position. Two consecutive batters were hit by pitches, the first one loading the bases and the second one bringing a run home, making it 3-0 North Attleboro.
With the bases still juiced, Foxboro starting pitcher Aaron Wentling battled back and ended the inning on a strikeout looking and a fielder’s choice ground out.
“[North Attleboro] was aggressive early on in the game,” Foxboro head coach Chris Sullivan said. “He (Wentling) didn’t have his off speed stuff and they jumped on some fastballs… we constantly talk about playing hard for all 21 outs. We settled in, but obviously we didn’t do a good job of getting through that first inning.”
The game marked the last starting pitching appearance for North Attleboro senior John O’Donnell and he made the most of it. The crafty lefty threw a complete game shutout, tallied seven strikeouts and only allowed two hits while on the hill. He allowed one runner via a hit by pitch in the second, walked one batter in the bottom of the seventh and let up two singles, one in the fourth and one in the seventh.
The Foxboro bats couldn’t respond to the initial North Attleboro crooked run inning, and O’Donnell wasn’t making it an easier for them. The senior lefty jumped ahead in virtually every count, and didn’t waste any time wasting pitches even when he was up 0-2 in the count.
His inside and outside pattern of his fastballs were complemented by his off speed plunging lefty curve. However, when the ball was put into play, O’Donnell’s fielding core was there to track down numerous fly balls and quick grounders looking to get through the gaps.
“He mixed his pitches up very well,” North Attleboro coach Paul Tobin said. “His location was sharp and he had great command today. We talked about getting the first batter (out) each inning and he was able to do that up until the sixth. I was very pleased with his job today.”
After the first inning, Wentling settled in and didn’t allow a run for the remainder of his outing. He fanned five and his defense made many plays, including three double plays.
No runs were scored again until the top of the seventh. Wentling was replaced by senior Steve Couroupacis.
An infield single followed by a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second. Back to back walks loaded the bases for the Rocketeers. An RBI single from LaFreniere, his second RBI of the night, was the final insurance run for North. A double play ended the inning and left only three outs for the Warriors to work with. A leadoff walk in the bottom half for Foxboro followed by a single from Cam Feldman threatened North, but the door was closed shortly thereafter with a 4-6-3 double play and a game ending ground out to second.
North Attleboro snapped a nine game skid with the win, improving to 7-12 overall and 6-10 in league play. The Rocketeers will conclude their season on Friday when they host Bishop Feehan under the lights at Community Field. Foxboro (7-12, 5-11) next hosts Carver as they prepare of the MIAA tournament.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Going into its final three games of the season, Attleboro needed two wins to clinch a spot in the state tournament. On Monday night, under the lights at Community Field, the Bombardiers threw their ace, senior Nate Tellier, against North Attleboro in the annual Blue and Red Cup game.
Attleboro needed a solid start from its top pitcher. Tellier went way beyond solid; he gave the Bombardiers historic.
The UMass Dartmouth-commit tossed a no hitter against the Rocketeers, striking out 16 over eight innings, including a stretch beginning in the second inning in which he fanned 11 of 12 batters that he faced. With a dominating fastball and a curve that he could throw for strikes, Tellier limited North to four base runners: lead-off walks in the first and second, a fielder’s choice in the first, and an error on a bunt in the sixth.
North Attleboro coach Paul Tobin summed it up succinctly, “That’s the best pitching performance I’ve seen in seven years of coaching in the Hockomock League…Tellier was untouchable.”
Tellier’s effort was matched almost pitch by pitch by North starter Andy Katch, who threw seven shutout innings of his own before allowing an eighth inning rally that would produce the winning runs for the Bombardiers, as Attleboro claimed the cup with a 2-0 extra innings victory.
“It was a shame someone had to lose that game,” said Attleboro coach Matt Bosh, praising Katch for the way he kept the Bombardiers off-balance. “It was just a great pitcher’s duel.”
North had its best chance in the bottom of the sixth. Tobin called for a bunt from nine-hitter Zach Rofno and he placed it down the third base line. If Tellier’s throw had been on line it would have been an out, so it went down as an error on the pitcher.
Rofno stole second and moved to third with two outs on a grounder, but he was stranded when Tellier got Zach DeMattio to bounce back to the mound.
Tobin said, “If we could have gotten that one hit I felt really good that he was going to shut them out in the seventh. We just couldn’t get that two-out hit, which has been a pattern for us.”
Will Carter lined a two-out double to left center, bouncing it into the stands that line the warning track, but Katch got Robbie Araujo to ground out to end the inning. In the bottom half, Tellier made quick work of the Rocketeers with two strikeouts and a grounder to first.
The game was scoreless into the eighth, but finally Attleboro got something going. Pinch hitter Nolan Kane worked a lead-off walk and after Katch struck out Brent Cook, No. 9 hitter Cam Hochwarter smashed a ground-rule double to left to put two in scoring position.
Bosh joked, “[Cam’s] been using a 33-inch bat for two years. Yesterday at practice, out of nowhere, he used a 32 and he’s hitting lasers…and I was like why didn’t you think of that sooner?”
Jon Dunn followed with a clutch single to left that scored both runners. An error and hit by Tellier would load the bases but John O’Donnell came in to relieve Katch and got a line drive and a fly ball to center that Kyle McCarthy made an excellent play on despite barely being able to see it in the limited Community Field lighting.
Tellier did not need any more than two runs. He got a comebacker for the first out and then, facing a pair of pinch hitters, he overwhelmed the final two batters with his fastball that during the game the North coaches labeled the fastest they have seen this year.
“To me he’s the best player in the league all-around,” said Bosh about Tellier. “He’s had his fastball working all year; he had his deuce working and he kept his pitch count down…He was just lights out tonight. He was awesome.”
In his last outing he threw 136 pitches and Tellier admitted that his arm was still sore from that last start. He took some Advil on Monday morning and that seemed to help a little. Then he went and threw the best game of his career.
“It helped that I was getting ahead of batters and not getting deep into counts,” said Tellier. “That really drove my pitch count down.”
When asked if there was any consideration of him being done after the seventh, Tellier insisted, “No question, I was going. There was no way I was not finishing this game.”
In the midst of the pitcher’s duel and the drama of the scoreless game, many people were unaware that Tellier was working on a no hitter as the final inning began (this reporter included). In fact it was not until he was about to take the mound for the eighth inning that Tellier even became aware of what he was working on.
“I was just focused on getting outs up until the eighth inning and then when it came around I was like wait,” he said with smile, still soaked from the water his teammates dumped on him in the postgame celebration.
Tobin was proud of the way his team competed on Monday with nothing more to play for than the trophy and a chance to beat its rival. He praised Katch for giving his all and felt bad that the senior could not have been rewarded for his great start.
“I thought Andy Katch pitched a tremendous game,” he said. “Seven shutout innings, what more can you ask of a kid? Any other game and that’s a win and it’s heartbreaking for Andy to not get the win with that kind of effort.”
Attleboro rode a historic start to a win on Monday and will go into its final two games needing one more win to clinch a postseason berth.
Bosh said, “These are games all year that we’ve lost where it’s close late and there’s a bad break or an error or a base hit…That’s the kind of win we haven’t gotten all year.
“Things seem to be coming together and hopefully we can get tomorrow out of the way, so we don’t have all that pressure for Wednesday.”
Attleboro (9-9, 8-7) will travel to Frothingham Park on Tuesday to face Oliver Ames. North Attleboro (6-12, 5-10) will face Foxboro.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.