2016 Berkshire County high school baseball preview
Coach: Pat Boulger, third year
Last year: 14-7, lost to South Hadley in the Western Mass. D-III quarterfinals.
Key returnees: Logan Rumbolt, Jr. SS, Thaylen Harrison, Jr. 2B, Hayden Bird, Jr. OF, Kody Crosier, Sr. C-P.
Outlook: Boulger is optimistic about a team he calls young, but experienced.
The Blue Devils' top three pitchers have varsity experience, but none are seniors. Sophomores Connor Clark and Ryan Dubie and junior Zach Yeaton will take the bump to start off. Catcher Crosier could also throw an inning here and there, but Boulger says they "love him behind the plate."
Rumbolt might be the best returning shortstop in the North. He hit .471 and had a .591 on-base percentage. He will again work with Harrison to make up an experienced pair up the middle.
Bird and Clark will be part of the Drury outfield group.
"I think we're going to hit well," said Boulger. "We'll do a little more manufacturing runs. We've always been a program that believes in small ball."
Coach: Tom Hankey, 17th year
Last year: 9-10
Key returnees: Dominic DeFelice, Sr. OF-P, Nate Cormier, Jr. P-SS, Branden Perry, Sr. OF-PF, Mike Buffoni, Sr. C, Joe Aberdale, Jr. 1B.
Outlook: The Spartans have been outside since day one, and Hankey said that has his charges fired up for the season ahead.
"It was absolutely fantastic," he said. 'We had a two-day tryout and intrasquad scrimmages. You could feel the energy from the kids."
Perry, who was an All-North pick last year, hit .300 and played multiple positions. He did a lot of catching last year, but will start in center field when he's not pitching. Dominic DeFelice will be the second baseman, when he's not pitching, and will team with shortstop Nate Cormier.
Also among the Spartans, freshman Graham Herrick will see time in the outfield.
The Spartans play 20 games this year, which Hankey and his players are excited about.
As to the season?
"If we get our pitchers to throw strikes," said Hankey, "we'll be in every game."
Coach: Seamus Morrison (interim), first year
Last year: 16-5, lost to Amherst in Western Mass. D-I quarterfinal
Key returnees: Sam Fick, Sr. P, Jordan Nassif, Sr. P, Austin Houghtaling, Sr. C.
Outlook: Morrison replaces Bob Moynihan, who retired after 33 years at the PHS helm. The new coach has some big holes to fill in his lineup.
The bad news? All-Berkshire shortstop Kevin Donati is now playing at the University of Albany, while All-Berkshire center fielder Chad Shade is at Cushing Academy, and All-Bekrshire first baseman Denis Cooney has also graduated. The good news? Morrison, a former pitcher himself, has a really good one to call No. 1. Simon Nassif will also be a starter for the Generals.
Fick was 5-2 with a 2.50 earned-run average last year, and threw a team-best 42 innings. He helped the offensive cause by hitting .292 as a designated hitter.
Offensively, things start with the slugging Jordan Nassif. The senior hit .485 last year and had an OPS of 1.105. He played a lot of third base last year. Austin Houghtaling will return behind the dish.
Coach: Kevin Stannard, 23rd year
Last year: 12-9, lost to Holyoke in the Western Mass. D-I first round.
Key returnees: Abdiel Cotto, Sr. RF, Brett Murphy, Jr. C, Iziaya Mestre, Jr. P-2B, Ryan Abel, Jr. 3B, Jake McNeice, Jr. OF-P.
Outlook: There are five names listed in the key returnees, so apologies to the rest. Had all the returning starters been listed, there might not have been room for any other information. That's how deep coach Kevin Stannard's team might be.
"I think this year, they're more focused," said Stannard. "They're a year older. They know what to expect. We started off the first half horrendously. We're expecting a lot better things this year, obviously."
The Braves needed a late regular-season run to qualify for the Division I tournament, and the Braves don't want history to repeat itself.
Taconic has to find how to replicate the big bats of DH Dan Carroll and first baseman Josh Berthiaume, both of whom graduated. The Braves will have to manufacture runs more this year, using some speed from Mestre, DeMartino, McNeice and Jack Cooney.
For the record, the only senior on the Taconic roster is right fielder Abdiel Cotto.
Coach: Rob Cowdrey, first year
Last year: 15-7, lost to Hampshire Regional in the D-III semifinal
Key returnees: Matt Schneider, Sr. C, Andrew Beaudoin, Sr. SS, Will Genaway, Jr. INF, Ben Schmitt, Sr. 1B, Ty Cowdrey, Jr. 2B.
Outlook: The Warriors look to Rob Cowdrey to run the program, replacing athletic director Jared Shannon. The new coach said he wants to channel some of the school's football spirit onto the diamond.
"Wahconah is a football school with a great program. With that comes kids who have that football mentality," he said. "What I'm trying to introduce is that mentality where it's intense."
Everything starts behind the dish with catcher Matt Schneider. The Assumption College-bound senior is one of "the cornerstones of our team. He's playing D-II for a reason," said the coach.
Schneider will ease a rotation that starts with juniors Genaway and Austin Cancilla.
When Cancilla isn't pitching, he'll play center. When Genaway isn't pitching, he and Andrew Beaudoin will move between shortstop and third. Ty Cowdrey will play at second base.
Coach: Mike Larabee, first year
Last year: 9-12, lost to Hampshire Regional in the Western Mass. D-III tourney first round.
Key returnees: Matt Koperniak, Sr. SS, Jake Swistak, Sr. C.
Outlook: Larabee, who has worked for retired coach Bob Rivard, takes over after Rivard's retirement. Larabee calls himself a "hard-nosed guy" who wants to see the game played the right way. Don't expect to see much in the way of different play out of the Hurricanes, as the new coach will follow what had been done.
"We've got holes, no doubt about it," he said. "You wrap a lot around the Koperniak kid, and you're going to be all right."
That "Koperniak" kid is Matt, who moves back to shortstop this year. The senior will also be part of Hoosac's rotation along with junior right-hander Noah Matrigali and junior lefty Keegan McGrath. They'll all be pitching to senior Jake Swistak.
The Hurricanes also have one night game at Renfrew Field, May 23 against rival Drury.
Coach: Frank Murphy, first year
Last year: 0-19
Key returnees: Devyn Olds, Sr. P-1B, Hunter Roosa, So. C.
Outlook: Murphy takes over at Lee, and said his first goal is to rebuild the attitude of a team that went winless in 2015.
"Last year was last year," he said. "This is a whole new team with a new attitude."
Murphy doesn't talk as much about what his team is going to do, but he said the Wildcats will be an old-school team and "work to get some runs."
The Wildcats will start the year with senior righthanders Devyn Olds and Alex Donovan on the mound along with junior lefty Patrick Finnegan. Murphy said there might be some other players figuring into the starting mix.
Junior Bryce Whalen and sophomore Hunter Roosa will share the catching position. Olds will play shortstop when he's not pitching and senior Kevin Kelly will slide between second base and shortstop. Freshman Thomas Fraser will move around the infield.
In the outfield, one slot is set and senior Zack Wilson will start the year in center field.
Coach Kevin Downer, 12th year
Last year: 11-11, lost to Hopkins Academy in the Western Mass. D-IV quarterfinals.
Key returnees: Patrick Colvin, Sr. P-2B; Noah Hunter, Soph. C; Mike Downer, Jr. 3B.
Outlook: Coach Downer's team got to the tournament last year, and he is looking forward to a return visit, with perhaps a better seed.
"I think we can be a 1 to 4 seed, if everything falls into place," he said.
Everything starts with senior pitcher Patrick Colvin. Colvin was only 2-4 last year, but in 48 innings, he only gave up 14 runs. He was also a solid hitter. Mike Downer hit .464 with 5 doubles and 14 RBI. Colvin, Connor Harrison, Tyler Coon and Mike Hurley will make up the Lenox rotation. Hurley is up from the junior varsity. They'll be throwing to either sophomore Noah Hunter or Downer.
In the infield, Colvin and Lee transfer Luke Murphy will make up the keystone combination.
The Millionaires open at Monument, then come home to play Mount Greylock and Turners Falls.
"We'll find out right off the bat how we'll be," said the Lenox coach.
Coach: Jesse Carpenter, 14th year
Last year: 7-13
Key returnees: Nick Tomich, Sr. P, Dan Litchfield, Jr. P, Cavan Brady, Soph. P-INF, Tim Robitaille, Jr. C.
Outlook: The Eagles reached the state championship game in Division III back in 2012. This year, veteran coach Jesse Carpenter had 39 players try out. Coincidence? Carpenter says it's no coincidence, and that the success of that season is paying off now.
"My son is now in seventh grade. A lot of his friends were traveling out to our tournament games," said the Eagles coach.
Like every team, Everett's pitching will go a long way to determining how the Eagles will do in Division IV and the South. Senior Nick Tomich, junior Dan Litchfield and sophomore Cavan Brady look to be the top three pitchers this year. Carpenter says to count on them throwing a lot of innings.
They'll be throwing to junior catcher Tim Robitaille, who caught some games last year.
The Eagles will be a work in progress as Carpenter tries to fit the pieces into the puzzle around the infield and the outfield.
Early on, he said he doesn't expect to have a lot of power, and the team will manufacture runs. But in the long run, Carpenter is optimistic.
"I'd like to say that if everything falls into place," he said, "we can make a run."
Coach: Steve Messina, 25th year
Last year: 21-4, lost to St. Mary's (Lynn) 2-0 in the state D-III championship game
Key returnees: Brodie Altiere, Sr. SS, Adam Hall, Sr. P, Josh Jezouit, Sr. P-3B.
Outlook: The dean of Berkshire County baseball coaches has a major rebuilding job to do. After all, it's not too often that out of a 10-player batting order, you graduate nine. But that's what happened to the 2015 Division III state finalists.
The Mounties do have two key pieces of the puzzle. Senior left-hander Adam Hall takes the mound as the No. 1 starter for Greylock. Shortstop Brodie Altiere returns as well. Hall was 5-0 with a 1.34 ERA, striking out 38 in 41 2/3 innings. Altiere hit .389, drove in 21 runs and hit .516 with runners in scoring position. Altiere, who will also be a starting pitcher with Hall, Josh Jezouit and Brandon Condon, was 2-1 with a 1.56 ERA.
Brandon Condon will play center field when not pitching, while his twin brother Zach will move to second base.
"It's a good opportunity" for the newer players, said Messina. "There will be some challenges."
The challenges for Greylock start this weekend, when the coaches and players head to Mashpee for the Massachusetts Falcon Fest tournament. The jamboree-style tourney will allow the Mounties to play in three separate 1-hour games.
Coach: Chris Crawford, second year
Last year: 3-17
Key returnees: Joey Maynard, Sr. 1B-CF, Mike Gingras, Jr. P-Inf, Cam Winters, Soph. P, Brent Arseneau, Soph. P-OF, Robert Patterson, Soph. OF-Inf.
Outlook: The Crusaders are once again thin, as Crawford has an 11-player roster. That means there won't be a JV team.
Not only are the Crusaders small in numbers, but they are fairly inexperienced as the coach says there are "some kids who are trying baseball for the first time."
Crawford, who has college and high school coaching experience, says that having gone through last year with a short roster has helped him prepare for this year.
While the Crusaders have some holes, Maynard, Winters, Gingras, Arseneau and Patterson provide St. Joe with a decent foundation.
Coach: Pat Ryan, fifth year
Last year: 16-5, lost to Westfield Voc-Tech in the first round of the Western Mass. Division IV tournament.
Key returnees: Charlie Bohl, Sr. C, Austin Miller, Sr. P-SS, Collin Racette, Sr. 2B, Cam Anderson, Sr. OF, Ryan Meehan, Sr. OF.
Outlook: The Hornets made history last year by going 16-5 and winning the Tri-County League title. It was McCann's first title since 1987. The Hornets also got to the finals of the state Vocational Tournament.
"I am expecting a solid team both defensively and offensively this year," McCann coach Pat Ryan wrote in an email. "We may not have a power hitter but we sure will spray the field 1-to-9 [in the batting order]."
Austin Miller will take the bump and play shortstop when the senior isn't pitching. Charlie Bohl, one of the top catchers in the Tri-County League last year, returns for his senior year. Bohl will be catching Miller, and a group of pitchers including sophomores Mike Ferrara and Robert Matte III.
The keystone combination of Miller and senior Collin Racette is solid.
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