Thursday July 19, 2012

Pittsfield High School baseball coach Bob Moynihan has been through a lot in his 30 years at the helm. Over that time, it has been his observation that quality seniors step up in their final high school season.

"There's something about seniors," Moynihan said. "Either they step up or they're no-shows."

With a resume that included an All-Northern Division nod last year, one might have expected Nick Greenleaf to step up in his senior year at Monument Mountain.

When John Kinne, an All-Eagle shortstop from last year, suffered a baseball season-ending injury playing basketball, Greenleaf said that changed everything.

"It definitely felt different," Greenleaf said. "It was that I needed to step up because we had a huge hole to fill."

Greenleaf helped lead the Spartans to a top seed in the Western Massachusetts Division II tournament. The senior right-hander was stellar in the quarterfinals, pitching the Spartans to a 4-0 win over Athol. He struck out five.

Greenleaf hit .453 and led his team with four doubles. He was equally effective on the mound.

It was in the leadership role where Greenleaf, while a senior, needed to grow.

"There was a lot more responsibility," he said. "I had to watch my actions more and be a role model for the younger guys."

As a two-year captain, that did make things easier this year.

"Being captain last year helped out," he said. "Being thrown into the role as a junior, it made me realize what I had to do for senior year."

Becoming a leader doesn't come easily to everybody. Jesse Carpenter, who has coached at Mount Everett for 10 years, understands.

"The hardest thing to be is a leader," he said. "Sometimes, when they get thrust in that position, they can't handle it.

"To his credit, he succeeded. That's the hard part. There are a lot of kids who fold under the pressure."

Greenleaf said that a former All-Eagle MVP was his role model.

"To be honest, I watched what John did," said Greenleaf. "He's the perfect example of a great leader. Following his role was the easiest way I could cope with everything."

On the field, Greenleaf coped with everything that was thrown at him.

"I call Nick a bulldog. He had a slider that was pretty much unhittable when he was on," said Monument Mountain coach Tom Hankey. "He came into his own all around this year."

There are two positions where high school coaches tend to keep pitchers from playing -- shortstop and catcher. Greenleaf became the first catcher in Hankey's 12 years at Monument to pitch.

"I think that the catching experience helped my pitching out a lot," Greenleaf said. "When I got on the mound, I saw things how I would behind the plate.

"I remember pitching a complete game and the next day I had to catch."

This summer, Greenleaf has been playing for the Pirates, an AAU-style Under-22 wooden-bat baseball team. In the fall, he'll be going to Westfield State.

"[This season] I just wanted to make sure the team stayed intact," he said. "That's what we had to do to be successful."