Marlborough — Wins were admittedly hard to come by for the Marlborough High varsity baseball team in 2016, just four all told, but a transformation of sorts is underway on the Panther diamond that bodes well for a reversal that is palpable already in the young season.
New head coach Mike Reynolds, an assistant a year ago, has taken the reins and has this 2017 squad believing in themselves where heretofore confidence was lacking and consequently so was a winning culture. Players are responding and have clearly coalesced as one unit whereby all players and coaches are pulling in the right direction.
“These kids are really working hard to put last year behind them,” said Reynolds, who is assisted by John Cruickshank. “We had two sophomores that started every game and we had two freshmen that did as well. So those four guys have stepped up and they’re all starters right now making their mark on the program.
“The attitude is night and day between last year and this year. I told the kids that they were ahead this year than where last year’s team was at any point in time. The approach, the support and kids taking accountability if they make mistakes is all different this year. There’s nothing wrong with saying to someone after they make a mistake that ‘you’re better than that.’ It’s how you go about doing it. They’re still kids after all and you have to keep that in perspective.”
“There’s a drastic change between last year and this year,” explained junior captain Mike Ryan. “The attitude on the team is tremendous. Everybody gets along. There’s no picking at each other. Everyone plays hard and respects the game and has fun. We’ll win some and lose some but if we have fun, it’ll make for a good season.
“There are no days off. We need to go out there and play hard no matter who it is. We need to play our game and things will take care of themselves.”
The Panthers were off to a 1-2 record at Community Advocate press time but both defeats were by close margins unlike some trips to the woodshed that the team endured in 2016. Six seniors combined with a newer, younger group have developed sound team chemistry that will mix well for success. Avoiding the big innings that crippled the team in the past is essential, Reynolds said.
“We just need to continue to make the plays we’re supposed to make. We’re going to give up runs but it’s important that we don’t give them up in bunches like three or four at a time. So far we’ve been doing ok with that. Last year, that was the big problem. We’d have an inning where we’d give up five and that hasn’t happened this year.”
One troubling aspect is the number of players seeking to play is down and has been in recent years, according to Reynolds who is hard pressed to put a finger on the decline. Just 12 players are on the 2017 squad resulting in a lot of positional mixing and matching and versatility among players.
“This is a great group of kids,” said Reynolds matter-of-factly. “They hang out together and keep in touch with each other all the time. A lot of our older kids didn’t get a lot of opportunity last year and now they’re seniors and it’s the first year that they’ve had to make an impact.
“Our pitchers for the most part are going to throw strikes and defensively we should be better. We’re still not making some of the routine plays that we should but that’s going to get fixed with time. We have to just put the ball in play because we have some terrific athletes.”
Members of the 2017 Marlborough High varsity baseball team are seniors Evan Schmidlein (C, 1B, 3B, OF), Dan Coughlin (OF, P), Paul Wydom (3B, 1B, OF, P), Dylan White (1B, P), Joe Tunnera (OF, P), Connor Walker (3B, OF); juniors Michael Ryan (SS, 2B, OF, 3B, P), Michael Whitman (OF), Robbie Short (2B, 3B, OF), Justin Kett (1B, 3B, OF, P) along with sophomores Brett Federico (2B, SS, 3B, OF, P) and Hunter Reynolds (C, 3B, OF, P).