By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Region – Northborough Post 234, the Northborough / Westborough region’s entry into American Legion District 4 baseball is back for 2016 and may be just one of the area’s best summer treats for fans who love the game.
Legion baseball is fast-paced with skilled athletes who play for truly the love of the game. There are no player contract disputes, over-inflated egos or over-priced seats to fight for. American Legion baseball is a welcome relief from all of that.
This year’s edition is off to a quick start with its 12-9 comeback win over host Wachusett on June 20. The team found itself up 8-1 but the lead evaporated into a 9-8 deficit before doubles by Jason Lu, Collin Mitchell and Alex Pappas broke things open for keeps. The team upped its record to 5-3 following the victory over Wachusett.
“It’s very important to get off to a fast start,” said third-year manager Ken MacDonald. “This is a tough zone and we want to see the kids build confidence early. It was really big to get a couple of close wins early in the season.
“We have a great group of guys and a lot of leaders. We have several kids that have been captains of their teams in the spring and I think it’s going to be big in carrying over into the summer. “
“Getting off to a fast start really gives us momentum,” said starting pitcher Charles Gallagher in agreement with his manager. “We’ve been hitting really well so every game that we hit well just gives us more confidence at the plate. We’re being aggressive in attacking pitchers and scoring runs. We just have to keep going.”
This season marks the return of former player and Northborough manager Alex Dion who will be assisting MacDonald. Dion brings experience guiding teams and is looked to for assistance and advice by team members.
“It’s good to be back. It’s a place I love. It’s a great atmosphere,” said Dion. “Northborough has a great tradition for baseball. I think we have a good nucleus of kids. Most of these kids are very familiar with each other having played a lot of baseball together growing up. It’s a good group of guys who are here to compete for all the right reasons.”
MacDonald will mix and match lineups as needed but the starting lineup will consist mainly of Collin Mitchell in the outfield leading off. Mitchell will be playing at Clark University in 2017. Owen Lyons will hold down first base followed by UMass-Amherst bound and Algonquin standout Nolan Kessinger in the number three spot. Kessinger is the team’s number one pitcher and centerfielder.
Alex Pappas will bat cleanup and play shortstop. Jake Kea bats fifth and shifts from third base to first. Ross Grasso, arguably one of the region’s top catchers, is next. Grasso will play for Westfield State next season.
The remainder of the lineup will consist of Tahanto Regional’s Matt Maslowski at third, Jason Lu in the outfield and sophomore Ryan Courtwright holding down second base. The starting pitching will consist of Kessinger, Gallagher and Lu with Dan Lis steady in the bullpen coming in to close.
Others who will be called upon to contribute include Kevin O’Leary (2B), Jack Vaccari (SS/OF), Adam Genga (IF), Ben Macchi (OF), Hayden Kea (P), Harrison Sandorfi (3B) and Mike Scorzelli (P).
“We’re going to need to hit like we’ve been hitting. Scoring runs so far has not been a problem for us,” explained Kessinger of the team’s needs to be successful. “We need to pitch and play defense much better and keep the runs against us down. As long as we do that, we’ll be fine and can make a deep run.”
“This year I can tell we’ve come much more together as a team,” added Lis. “Performing much better as a team helps us believe in ourselves which makes the confidence improve.”
“We’re going to have to have really good pitching, timely hitting and some great defense,” said MacDonald of his 2016 squad. “We have to make sure that we can compete every night and string some wins together.”
Admission to Legion games is always free. The team plays its home games at Memorial Field, 43 E. Main St., Northborough. For more information, including the schedule, visit the American Legion District 4 website at www.district4baseball.com.