Division 3-4 high school baseball preview: Austin Prep seeks redemption
Austin Prep has some unfinished business to take care of this spring.
Having missed out on a Super Eight berth last season, the Cougars reached the Division 3 North semifinals before losing a heartbreaker to Lynnfield. Several key players return including catcher Peter Burns, shortstop Logan Bravo, first baseman Josh Bartnicki, third baseman Brendan Burke, second baseman Jonathan Gilbride and outielder Brendan Barry. Robbie Cobb, Denis Taylor and Cam Seguin headline the pitching staff.
The Cape Ann League always has a say in this section, and this year will be no different. North Reading reached the state final and has outfielder Jeff Mejia, catcher John Merullo and pitcher Mike McCauley back. Lynnfield will be led by shortstop Justin Juliano, third baseman Mike Stellato, catcher Bryant Dana, outfielder Kyle Hawes and pitcher Nick Aslanian, while Pentucket returns pitchers Conor O’Neil and Jimmy Cleary as well as infielders Steve Noyes and Jake Deziel.
St. Mary’s will rely on pitcher Kordell Henriquez and first baseman Tyler Donovan, while Latin Academy returns pitcher John Teehan and outfielder Conor Walsh.
In Div. 3 South, defending sectional champion East Bridgewater is the clear-cut team to beat. The Vikings will have plenty of arms led by Liam LeVangie, Evan Jenkins, Bob Badger and Al Rose. When not pitching, Rose will be at short, Badger plays third and standout Mike Khoury is back at second.
Old Rochester might be a better team later in the season as the pitching situation shakes itself out. The Bulldogs return top-flight outfielder Sam Henrie, catcher John Breault, outfielder Will Hopkins, first baseman/pitcher Mike Kennefick and shortstop Jake Asiaf. Bourne returns ace Jacob Ashworth and outfielder Kylar Macoratti.
The Tri-Valley League should be ultra-competitive, starting with Medway and its top two pitchers Sean Petinge and Nick Assad. Bellingham has pitcher John Reed, shortstop Sean Williamson and outfielder Shawn Rebello, while Ashland returns all-league catcher Erich Vinacco, pitcher Luke Gustavson, catcher Trevor Gustavson and shortstop Jackson Hartung.
The road to the Div.?4 title again runs through St. John Paul.
The Lions seek their fourth straight championship and will rely on third baseman Keith Campbell, catcher Shay Souza, outfielder Cole Campbell, first baseman Anthony Oriola and pitcher Devan Harrison to continue their recent domination.
Mashpee is hoping the third time is a charm, having lost to St. John Paul in each of the past two seasons. The Falcons have a solid nucleus back in second baseman Mike Fraser, shortstop Zach Landry, third baseman Nick Capenter, outfielders Ari Purdy and Alex Morry, first baseman Drew Ridenour and pitcher Jordan Pinhack.
Archbishop Williams will have one of the better infields in Div. 4 with Sam Hamer at first, Cam Powers at second, Tim Chase at short and James Dolan at third as well as catcher Casey Earle. West Bridgewater returns a quartet of league all-stars in catcher Matt DeLuca, pitcher Craig Dunn and infielders Joe Pereira and Justin Lavoie, while Blue Hills is leaning on catcher Dylan Barkas, first baseman Andrew Bryant and pitcher Mike Nosky.
In Div. 4 North, defending sectional champion Lowell Catholic returns pitcher/outfielder Tom Desmond, pitcher/infielder Zach Gitschier and catcher Kyle DeRoma. Matignon will be led by the trio of outfielder Mike Norton, second baseman Chris Blacquier and pitcher Sean Mahan.
O’Bryant will count on pitchers Yeralson Baez and J.C. Pizzuto, shortstop Alex Reyes, third baseman Matthew Ruiz and catcher Jesus Moscat. Shortstop Jackson Leete returns for Essex Tech as do pitcher Vaughn Steeves, catcher Dylan Christianson and outfielder Joe Verga. Rockport and Manchester Essex also have a chance to make some noise.