Suns rising at Wahconah Park: Pittsfield summer ball gets underway Wednesday

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PITTSFIELD —When the Pittsfield Suns take to the field at Wahconah Park for the first time in 2018, a familiar face will be on the mound.

Izaiya Mestre, who pitched Taconic to a state title in 2017 and was a freshman standout at the University of New Haven, will get the ball to start when the Suns open their Futures League season Wednesday night at Wahconah Park.

"[Manager Matt Gedman] told me when I walked in today," Mestre said during a break in the Suns' inaugural practice. "He said 'You're going to get the ball.' That's some good news."

Mestre and the 2018 Suns will open their Futures League season against the Brockton Rox at 6:30 p.m. Four of the Suns' first six games will be at home.

"Coming from going to regionals to making the finals in the [Northeast-10 Conference], and going back to last year, winning the state finals," Mestre said. "Everyone's dream is to play here in front of your hometown. It's a pretty good accomplishment."

Mestre was 8-2 with a 2.96 earned-run average and was named to the Northeast-10 All-Rookie team.

He won an elimination game at the NCAA Division II East Regional, giving up two earned runs on three hits in seven innings in a 5-4 victory over Franklin Pierce.

Gedman, along with pitching coach Brandon Shileikis and coach Chris Barbarotta put the Suns players through about a 90-minute practice. It was as much an opportunity to get loose as it was to work on a lot of specifics. The out-of-town team members arrived on Monday, and will play a first game two days later.

The second-year manager worked on a few plays and threw a round of batting practice, while Shileikis worked with pitchers down in the Suns bullpen.

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But after 90 minutes, Gedman said he couldn't be pinned down on other starters, besides Mestre.

"I have an idea, but nothing set in stone yet," he said.

One practice, he said, went well.

"It was good. Guys haven't played a lot [lately]. It was good to get on the field and get used to it," said Gedman. "The season starts so early. We'll run them out there tomorrow. The first few weeks aren't tryouts, but it's like getting to know personalities, knowing what guys do well and don't do well."

Gedman said that figuring out his early rotation will be a little easier than figuring out a batting order.

"Those guys are a little easier, based on numbers — who throws strikes, who has strikeout stuff or who's thrown a lot of innings," Gedman said. "Position player-wise, there are different levels. Some guys have had a lot of success and some guys haven't played much because there are guys ahead of them at the D-I level. That's the one that's harder to figure out what you've got."

One of those hitters taking swings against Gedman was Pittsfield's Chad Shade. The former Pittsfield High School and Cushing Academy athlete just wrapped up his freshman year at Division III Springfield College. Shade was an ABCA Division III All-Region, second-team selection, after hitting .331, stealing 32 bases and setting a school record with 49 runs scored.

Shade spent a lot of time in the summer at Wahconah Park. His father Bob was the long-time broadcaster for the New York-Penn League's Pittsfield Mets.

"It's really cool talking to some of the guys about how we would play a high school football game in the outfield, and growing up and watching games at Wahconah Park," said Shade. "It's a really cool experience being here, playing for the Suns and having this opportunity."

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


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