It’s hard to envision a more exciting beginning to Mike Kelley’s career as Massachusetts Maritime’s Head Baseball Coach last spring. After all, the Buccaneers won 24 games (the third highest single-season victory total in the program’s illustrious 44-year history), advanced to the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference championship game for the first time and earned a berth in the ECAC New England semifinals for a second straight year.
A new season beckons for Kelley’s crew, however, but enthusiasm and expectations continue to run high after that magical ride of 2016. Massachusetts Maritime welcomes back 17 letterwinners and five positional starters back into the fold this spring, and the Buccaneers are looking to take that next step while continuing to gain regional and national prominence.
Leadership has been a staple in the program since that first NCAA squad took the field in 1973, and Kelley will look to a trio of standouts to continue that trend in 2017 with senior Daniel Avery (Milford, Mass./Blackstone Valley) and juniors Connor Kennedy (West Barnstable, Mass./Pope John Paul II) and Billy Keane (Braintree, Mass./Braintree) serving as Massachusetts Maritime’s tri-captains. Kelley says that “each captain brings intangible leadership qualities to our team that can’t be taught—they are instinctive and honed with hard work throughout the year. Dan, Connor and Billy have consistently demonstrated a demanding work ethic that will set the tone for our season, and I have full confidence that they not only continue a longstanding tradition of excellence for the program, they will add to that tradition.”
Here’s a look at how things are shaping up for the 2017 edition of Buccaneer Baseball:
INFIELD. Senior Jake Petruzzelli (Abington, Mass./South Shore Voke), who earned second team all-MASCAC honors last season, returns to his spot at second base after batting .328 with eight doubles and 18 RBI in 38 starts a year ago. Junior Casey Furnas (Boca Raton, Fla./Olympic Heights) lends additional experience up the middle after batting .279 with a double and five RBI in 24 contests in 2016, while junior Nathan Anderson (East Longmeadow, Mass./East Longmeadow) and sophomore Paul Sances (Middleboro, Mass./Middleboro) will be vying for the starting job at third base. Sances batted .260 with three doubles, a triple and 12 RBI while starting 25 of 29 games played as a rookie, while Anderson collected three hits in 13 games last spring.
Kelley has a void to fill at first base with the graduation of all-MASCAC performer Greg Downs, and he will look to a trio of freshmen in Alec Schenning (Fallston, Md./Loyola Blakefield), Jackson Simone (Seattle, Wash./Roosevelt) and Angus McNeil (Middleton, Mass./Masconomet Regional) to compete for that spot. Five other newcomers will also be vying for roles in Massachusetts Maritime’s infield this spring, as freshmen Jack Ruprecht (Kingston, Mass./Silver Lake) and Cooper Thornell (Wareham, Mass./Upper Cape Tech) seek time at the keystone while fellow freshman Jacob Crochet (Houma, La./Vandebilt Catholic) will compete for the third base position. Freshmen Ethan O’Hare (Marshfield, Mass./Marshfield) and Wesley Lamphere (Henniker, N.H./John Stark Regional) will also look to contribute at shortstop during their inaugural collegiate campaigns.
OUTFIELD. Kennedy returns to his starting spot in left field after earning first team all-MASCAC accolades as a sophomore, as he batted .356 with 10 doubles, a triple, homer and 22 RBI while starting 36 of 38 games played. Keane is the incumbent centerfielder for Kelley after starting all 40 games and batting .262 with five doubles, four triples and 16 RBI, while senior Aidan Desrosiers (North Attleboro, Mass./Xaverian) lends additional experience to the Buccaneer outfield after collecting four hits and driving in six runs in 15 outings in 2016.
Sophomore Kevin Troy (Braintree, Mass./Braintree) looks to compete for the right field spot after batting .316 with four two-baggers and five RBI in 17 games as a rookie, while fellow sophomore Robert Dembitzki (North Dartmouth, Mass./Dartmouth) gained valuable experience last year after scoring five runs and rapping out a pair of hits in 15 outings. Freshmen Nick Haley (Hanson, Mass./Whitman-Hanson) and Filip Cooper (Ashland, Mass./Ashland) will be vying for outfield roles as well in 2017.
CATCHER. Junior Logan Sullo (Acushnet, Mass./Bishop Stang) returns behind the dish as the two-time reigning MASCAC Player of the Year, as he has earned back-to-back ABCA All-Regional and NEIBA all-New England nods over his first two seasons in a Buccaneer uniform. A D3baseball.com pre-season All-America honoree this year, Sullo batted a team-best .419 with 52 hits, nine doubles, four triples, seven homers and 30 RBI in 40 games a year ago while recording a robust .726 slugging percentage and a .528 on-base percentage. Junior Nicholas Bergantim (New Bedford, Mass./New Bedford), along with sophomores Robert Beane (Hingham, Mass./Hingham) and Brandon Gallahue (Plymouth, Mass./Archbishop Williams), provide additional depth and experience after combining to play in 15 games last season, while freshman Matt Langan (North Easton, Mass./Xaverian) will be in the catching mix as well during his first collegiate campaign.
PITCHER. Graduation claimed 13 wins and five saves from Massachusetts Maritime’s pitching corps, as all-MASCAC performers Kyle Kennedy and Kevin Kwedor combined for 10 of those triumphs. Avery anchors the Buccaneer staff after posting five victories and a save in 13 total appearances with nine starts in 2016, as the two-time conference Pitcher of the Week struck out 55 (9.40 per nine innings) in 52 2/3 innings of work. Sophomore Brian Kwedor (Marshfield, Mass./Marshfield) shined as a rookie last spring after posting a 4-0 mark with a 3.94 ERA and 17 strikeouts in nearly 30 innings pitched, while fellow sophomore Travis Zurowski (Brooklyn, Conn./Killingly) gained valuable experience in notching a win in four appearances to go with a 2.20 ERA.
Junior Justin Nichols (Adams, Mass./Hoosac Valley) has proven to be versatile as both a starter and reliever over the last two seasons, as he appeared in 11 contests with two starts last year and fanned 13 in 18 1/3 innings of action. A quartet of freshmen will be looking for roles on Kelley’s staff as rookies in 2017, as newcomers Jared Borneman (Townsend, Mass./North Middlesex), Matt Smith (Lowell, Mass./Lowell), Philip Holler (Hingham, Mass./Hingham) and Andrew Auld (Wakefield, Mass./Wakefield) are vying for spots in the rotation.
SCHEDULE. Kelley’s crew will take on a 35-game regular season schedule this spring, as Massachusetts Maritime will play 19 of the contests in the friendly confines of Commodore Hendy Field. The Buccaneers will host Johnson & Wales, Newbury, Wentworth, Dean, Gordon, Becker, Fisher and Coast Guard in non-league play while welcoming Fitchburg State, Salem State, Framingham State and Bridgewater State to Taylor’s Point for MASCAC action, and Kelley’s squad will travel to Clark, WPI, Dean, Tufts and Suffolk for non-conference affairs while also heading to Worcester State, MCLA and Westfield State for league outings.
Massachusetts Maritime begins the 2017 campaign on Monday, February 27th when the Buccaneers square off with Houghton (N.Y.) in a non-league doubleheader at Lawnwood Park in Fort Pierce, Fla. at 12:30 p.m. EST.