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.”