The Central Mass. baseball season got into full swing yesterday, so let’s take a look at how the season should shake out over the next few weeks. We’ll kick it off with Division 1, because I think the road to the title this year is wide open.
Last year proved how important a deep pitching staff is, as St. John’s took home the title after entering the postseason with a 12-10 record. The Pioneers had the pitching staff to get it done – remember the postseason in Division 1 is nine innings, so you really see those teams get separated quick. Those who have the arms will do well, those who don’t are left behind.
Will the Pioneers be able to do it again? I think they look pretty strong with the lumber – Grant Zawadski and Pat Quinn should be among the league leaders all year. I also think players like A.J. Zarozny and Keith Kelly impressed during last year’s run and will be even better this year. But are they the favorites? I think they have to be one of them – remember last year they needed to scramble to qualify for the tournament. They barely made it in and managed to win it all – so the Pioneers are going to be dangerous no matter what seed they get.
I think my pick raise the trophy this year is going to be Wachusett. I think if the Mountaineers can find the pitching, they can get the job done. They have an electrifying player in Connor McDavitt – who might be the fastest player in the state. I also think you’re going to hear a lot about players like B.J. Foley, Greg Dwyer and Andrew Dumas this year. They play in a tough league (two games against traditional powerhouses like Algonquin and Milford, not to mention a very good Shrewsbury team) – and play a very good non-league slate, so the Mountaineers will be tested for sure.
I also think you have to put Algonquin in the mix every year. They have an all-star in Graham Turner and a strong supporting cast that might not be as dominant as they have been in years past, but you can never count them out.
Holy Name might be my other choice to play in the final, as the Naps have one of the top players in Central Mass. in Billy Derosier and some other potential all-stars in Liam O’Sullivan, Aaron Fossas, Dylan Flynn and Billy Johnson. I think Holy Name will be very tough to beat this year.
Milford is an interesting tema, as they have all-star Mike Spates back and they also have one of the best pitchers in Central Mass. in Jack Murray – so that could be enough to go far. Just think back a few years ago to Bryant Johnson carrying the Scarlet Hawks to the final, and it’s not too far fetched.
I think there could also be some teams that could make a run in Doherty (Bedward Ortiz leads a very underrated cast) and Shrewsbury (watch out for Kevin Dufault and Keith Daly) and I’m also interested to see what Westboro has after graduating a handful of starters from last year’s semifinal squad. The Rangers still return Nick Flahive, Andrew Grant and Mark Bernieri, so they should be in the mix for another Mid-Wach B title. I’m also interested to see St. Peter-Marian under new coach Ed Riley. The Guardians have some talent with players like Kyle Brenner, Steve Flynn and Mike D’Agostino, so it will be interesting how they flourish under Riley.
As you can see, there’s not one dominant team in Division 1, which means there will be a lot of great games this spring. I can’t wait. Who do you think will be there at the end?
Continuing the trend in the wide open Central Mass. baseball scene, Division 2 looks like it’s up for grabs.
Stop me if you heard this before: I think Worcester Tech is looking very strong this year. The Eagles just keep getting it done year after year and look like they have another strong club in 2010, as Ysander Figueroa should dominate whenever he steps on the hill. I also think players like Roberto De Los Santos and David Montiverdi should continue to impress and just give opponents trouble every game.
Last year I had Auburn pegged to win it all, but the Rockets lost quite a bit from that squad. They still have Steve Wallace and Brenden Van Beekom, so they may surprise just because the feeder system is so loaded.
Clinton should be in the mix as well, as they have talented players like Connor McLaughlin and Brendan Cutler, Jay Lapin, Izzy Feliz and Joe Rice – who are all going to be tough outs for the Gaels. They should make a run this year.
Look out for sleepers like Assabet (Brian O’Connor and Sean White lead a club that could make waves in the postseason)
Hudson should be interesting this year – not just because of the whole mess surrounding the departure of coach Brian Davis (which I think was a big mistake by the Hudson brass). However former Davis assistant Tim Reinhardt takes over and inherits a solid team with returning all-stars C.J. Flannery and Tim Erlandson.
I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk up Millbury this year, and the Woolies have some strong players like Tim Swenson and Steve Bonner leading the way. I also like Andy Ekstrom and Kris Doyle to pitch in and help carry the load.
Nipmuc returns DVC batter of the year Josh Manning, as well as Colin Neri and Kelly Rooney, while Northbridge has a dominant pitcher in Evan Mackintosh and Thomas Murphy, so the Rams should win their share of games as well.
I’m interested to see how D2 shakes out, as there is a lot of talent in this division – so that means quite a few games to watch this year.
Division 3 is going to be a toss-up this year just because I don’t see that one breakout team like a West Boylston or a Hopedale of years past — yet.
Hopedale looks strong this year with a lot back from last year’s title squad. Dan Bresciani, Kevin Espanet, Alex Posch and Colby Mulry are going to make life difficult for a lot of other teams this spring.
Douglas could be poised to make a run with players like Brandon Stand, Nate Pajka and Kevin Wnukowski in the mix, while Jake Foynes will be carrying his share as well.
St. Bernard’s is another team I like, as the Bernardians have Vin Seretto, Joe Balboni, Colin Hanrahan and Brian Cronin ready to contribute.
I think teams should also watch out for Southbridge and the Pioneeers’ new coach Brian Davis. Davis comes over from Hudson and if anyone can get his squad ready, it’s him. Hashian Rosario can mash and Southbridge also has SWCL all-star Nick Labonte back.
West Boylston should also be in the mix with Jeremy Phelps and Mike Pusateri, while Narragansett might surprise some people behind Ryan Laraba and Tom McElmury, and Uxbridge can get things done behind Jason Silbor.