OA Grad Ferrara Keeps Swinging for MASCAC Crown

Mike Ferrara
Former Oliver Ames standout Mike Ferrara, now a senior at Worcester State, has continued his success at the plate at the collegiate level, batting over .400 over the first 16 games of the season. (Worcester State University Athletics)

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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.”

Stoughton Alum Becomes Star at Worcester State

Alicia Macomber
Worcester State senior Alicia Macomber comes into this season as the reigning MASCAC Player of the Year. (Courtesy of Worcester State Athletics)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

Last fall, Stoughton alum Alicia Macomber had a season for the ages. The junior striker set a Worcester State record with 18 goals and led the Lancers to a 14-4-1 record, including a perfect 7-0 in the MASCAC. Macomber added a pair of goals in the overtime win against Bridegwater State in the conference tournament semifinal and the lone goal in the final against Westfield State.

Her remarkable season was recognized by the league, as she was named MASCAC Tournament MVP, MASCAC First Team, and the MASCAC Player of the Year.

It was a long way from the high school player who was recruited to Worcester State to run track, from the freshman who was moved to outside midfielder rather than her natural striker position, and from the player who spent two seasons sharing time on the pitch without claiming a regular role.

“I worked out and ran every day for three months and went to the gym, played soccer all summer,” explained Macomber, who enters the season as the program’s fourth leading scorer with 31 career goals. 

She added, “I came in very, very prepared for knowing that I was playing a different position… Last year was me having to step up and play striker and score the goals for the team.”

Macomber did not start off the 2014 season with visions of winning the Player of the Year, especially after she failed to find the back of the net in the opening two games. But, in game three against Rhode Island College, she netted a hat trick in a 9-0 win. She would go on to score two next time out against WPI and one in each of the two that followed.

“There was a progression of games where I was scoring more and more,” she reflected. “I had to have the confidence knowing that I was one of the players that the team was counting on to score. So, once it started hitting the back of the net I knew that I had to keep doing it.”

As the season wore on and the goals continued to pour in, Macomber was regularly honored by the league with its Player of the Week awards. “At one point I got three in a row,” she said, “and I remember thinking that maybe I could win Player of the Year.”

“I always wanted that title.”

On the day that the awards were to be handed out, Macomber sat in front of her computer in her room hitting refresh for most of the day in hope that her name would pop up on the screen. She laughed and added, “Then I saw the headline. I was in my room, it was a great feeling.”

When asked if she thought coming into college that she would win Player of the Year awards, Macomber replied that it was “beyond” anything she could have imagined. She had set the Stoughton High 55-meter hurdles record and was expected to run track at Worcester State until she convinced soccer coach Kevin Cumberbatch to watch a few of her club games with Mass Premier and a few of her performances for the Black Knights.

It was a reverse of the typical recruiting situation but it worked for Macomber who impressed the coaching staff enough that she took her turn on the pitch rather than the track when she arrived in Worcester.

One part of her dream was fulfilled, but there were still frustrations when she joined the program. As a freshman, Macomber was pushed into a new role on the right side of midfield and she struggled to understand her new responsibilities. Her sophomore season was similar as she split time with a starting senior.

“That’s what I’ve always played,” said Macomber, “so when I started out at outside mid it was very different for me because I had never played that position. I feel more at home as the striker up top.”

Given the chance last fall to make the forward position her own, Macomber jumped in with both feet. She prepared all summer in the gym and on the field, but she also developed physically and became, in her words, a more “mature” player.

She explained, “I feel like it’s all about maturity. My body has matured and it’s very different coming from high school soccer to college soccer is a big leap. It’s a lot more physical and it’s a lot more challenging, fast-paced.”

“It was finally good to achieve everything that I wanted to in one season.”

The Lancers also had an experienced core of six seniors, including Attleboro alum Margo Clifford, who dominated the midfield and helped create the chances that Macomber put away.

This year presents new challenges for the senior captain. Not only is she expected to repeat her 2014 season and contend again for MASCAC Player of the Year, while being hounded by the opposition defense, but she is also expected to be the leader of the young Lancers on and off the field.

“Coming in this season I feel like there are people looking at me to lead the team and basically repeat what I did last year,” she said. “If I don’t achieve what i did last year then it will be a little bit of a downer for me.”

When asked if she was feeling any pressure from those expectations, Macomber admitted, “Oh yeah. It’s a lot.”

“It’s a lot of pressure because we have nine freshman on the team this year. They’re looking at what i did and wanting me to repeat it. It’s a different role; I’m not just playing now I have to be a role model.”

Few star players can provide as much advice to young teammates about the need to keep working hard and to take their chances when presented.

“I tell them that if they are working hard, coach will know and he will play you,” said Macomber. “I tell them not to get down on themselves if they’re not playing as much as they want to because they’re going to get their chance to show coach what they can do.”

“They look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them the first two years I didn’t start.”

After Worcester State opened the season with a defeat to Wheaton, the Lancers bounced back with a comfortable win at RIC, with Macomber picking up an assist, and then she scored her first of the season to provide the win at MIT.

She is also looking to finish her degree in Criminal Justice with the goal of attending law school in two years. Her experiences on the pitch have given her confidence that she can face what the future holds whether it’s the opposition for the rest of the season or life after college.

“I’ve grown up a lot,” Macomber said. “I think that I’ve done the work I needed to in order to come that far. There’s nothing stopping me from going farther than I expect.”

Worcester State is currently 2-1-1 and will face crosstown rival WPI on Tuesday.