Taconic's DeMartino will graduate early and attend the University of Hartford in January

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PITTSFIELD — The decision wasn't an easy one for Drew DeMartino. It wasn't even on his radar screen.

The rising senior at Taconic High School has decided to graduate early and begin his college baseball career at the University of Hartford in January.

"Honestly, I wasn't even thinking about doing it, because I didn't know," he said. "I got a call from [Hartford] asking if I wanted to do it.

"Obviously, it kind of took me by surprise, because I wasn't expecting it."

Nothing is official until DeMartino signs his national letter of intent. He will sign it officially on Thursday, Nov. 9, at the high school at 1:30 p.m.

Once DeMartino signs the LOI, then he can continue preparing for admission into Hartford for the Spring semester.

"They did not put any pressure on me to do it," DeMartino said. "They said it's completely up to you. If you say no, we respect your decision and it was perfectly fine if I said no.

"Truly, I felt ready to move on."

This is the first time a Berkshire County athlete has graduated early to begin his Division I college career. It is not, however, a rarity. It happens frequently in college football. In fact, of the 25 first-year players who signed national letters of intent at UMass for this year's freshman class, nine of them started last January.

DeMartino split time between second base and shortstop during Taconic's 2017 run to an MIAA Division I state championship. He hit .455 with 29 runs batted in during his junior season. The Braves were 24-1 in 2017, beating Wellesley 5-1 in the final game at Worcester's Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field.

"His hard work and dedication have paid off for him and those characteristics will always be part of the legacy left behind by our 2017 State Championship team," Taconic head coach Kevin Stannard said in a release announcing the signing day festivities. "He is a tremendous player with a love for the game and a strong work ethic."

A slot opened up in this year's Hartford team, because shortstop Ben Bengston — who was set to return for his senior season — was taken by Pittsburgh in the 23rd round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft. Bengston played 13 games for the North Adams SteepleCats in 2016, before being sidelined with an injury.

A second slot opened as second baseman Dalton Ruch graduated.

"They lost two players there. They were bringing in a junior college player," DeMartino said, "who decided he did not want to play. He wanted to be an engineer.

"That left an open roster spot, and they asked if I wanted to play this year."

In order to graduate in December, he takes on-line courses to help him get 30 credits. He is taking a Sociology class at Berkshire Community College, along with a schedule of classes at Taconic.

"I'll finish [at Taconic] by Christmas," he said, "and then I'll start Jan. 23 at Hartford."

DeMartino said he takes his on-line courses for two periods every day, and goes to BCC on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. After lunch, he said that he takes regular Taconic classes.

"For the most part, the on-line stuff is at school, and I don't have to do any at home, unless I'm behind in a class," said DeMartino. "It does take a lot of time, and there's really no time off during the day."

The University of Hartford announced its 2018 schedule on Monday. The Hawks will play their first 16 games on the road, beginning with a three-game series at the University of South Alabama. Then Hartford will travel to play College World Series team and Pac-12 Conference champion Oregon State.

One series that DeMartino undoubtedly has circled on his calendar is a three-game set April 7-8 when Hartford travels to UAlbany. There, he will play against former Pittsfield High School standout Kevin Donati, who is a member of the Great Danes.

The son of Tony and Dawn DeMartino of Pittsfield, Drew said that he did a lot of talking before deciding on making the move.

"I had a lot of conversations. I not only talked with mom and dad, but with my summer coach [Peter Fatse] too," he said. "Truly, it was a tough decision to make."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, and 413-496-6253.


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