Ashland American Legion

By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
August, 2018
Article Body: 

The Ashland American Legion baseball team surprised a lot of people last year with their play including themselves. Post 77 went from 4 wins the year prior to 12 regular season wins to earn a spot in the Zone 5 Playoffs. Once there Ashland won all three of its games to capture the Zone Title and move onto the State Tournament, where they won their first two games before falling to Braintree and Shrewsbury in the double elimination tournament. Ashland finished the season 17-8 and was fourth in the state.
Entering the season this summer Ashland was not going to be able to sneak up on teams the way they did last year, but Post 77 Coach Derek Johnson says the squad doesn’t need too. Having only lost three players to age and four others who didn’t return the Coach likes his chances.
“We have a good group of guys returning that are loose but once they get onto the field their all business,” the Ashland skipper said. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to finish the same way that we did last year, if not better. I’d consider the season an underperformance if we didn’t.”
Having a total of nine arms who can take the mound Ashland is geared for the grind of legion baseball in the summer. Post 77 will primarily go with three or four starters throughout the season, every one of them in their first year of play for the club. Luke Gustavson, an Ashland High hurler, will be looked upon as the team’s ace; Shane Leary and Dominic Cavanagh are reversible as 2A and 2B, while Holliston High’s Owen Ward will be the team’s final starter.
Through the early part of the season Ward has been the biggest bright spot for the Ashland pitching staff, throwing 10 innings over two games while not allowing a single hit.
“Having lost our number 1, 2 and 3 starters, who were the backbone to our success last year, we needed these kids to come out strong this year,” Johnson said. “Through the first 9 games of the season the pitching has been lights out. We are currently 7-2 with a team ERA of 2.60.”
As the pitching staff continues to pitch the way they have through the first half of the season, which has primarily been on the road (Ashland will have 7 home games in the second half and two on the road), Johnson truly believes his team will be able to get back to the States. Ashland opened the season with 7 straight road games before coming home to play North Chelmsford, who had to forfeit the game.
At the plate the Ashland skipper is looking for shortstop Jackson Hornung and catcher Sean Jewett to provide the offensive power. Hornung is a power hitter batting in the three hole for the club has been consistently hitting in the .300 range, while Jewett bats in the lower half of the lineup providing an on bare presence.
“It’s great having Sean lower in the lineup as he gets on base a lot and gets those quality at bats to deliver,” the Coach said.
Quality at bats that’s what Coach Johnson is looking for from his hitters each time that they step into the box.
“Low batting averages are not a big thing to me. At the end of the day a poor average with poor at bats bothers me,” Johnson said. “But a poor average with quality at bats I can live with that.”
Two other athletes the Coach will be relying on to get going in the second half of the season will be right fielder Ben Thomas and third baseman Louis Rossi.
Through the first half of the season all things seem to be clicking for Post 77. The entire defense has been communicating well on the field and have not put themselves in tough situations by making mistakes. Through the first nine games the defense has only committed two errors in the field.
Ashland has put themselves in a pretty good position to once again to make the Zone 4 playoffs, but Johnson is looking for no mercy from his team throughout the rest of the season.
“I’d really like to win out the rest of the season. There is no reason we can’t do that, especially if we stay focused and hungry,” he said. “Our goal is to keep that focus all the way through the zone playoffs and into the States and with pretty much the rest of our games at home we should be able to do that.”