It’s often been said that good fortune or good news occurs in threes and that adage is called “The Rule of Three.’’
That kind of thinking may not be rock-solid, but it’s relevant at Franklin High and Merrimack College. At those venues, the varsity baseball coaches know all about Alex Haba, Jake Macchi and Scott Elliott. At Franklin, they’re established players; at Merrimack, they’ll be striving to achieve that status.
Here’s what they have in common — they’re Franklin’s senior captains; they were part of the Panthers’ squad that won the Super 8 State Championship last year; they’re all honor-roll students; and they’ll all be competing at Merrimack College next year on partial scholarships.
At Merrimack, the Rule of Three gets no argument. The situation isn’t unique, but it is unusual. And, it wasn’t part of some grand scheme that was involved. Their situation simply evolved.
“All of them were recruited by Merrimack coach Nick Barese,’’ said Franklin’s coach, Zach Brown. “Jake was the first to commit last summer, Alex followed a few weeks later, then Scott joined them at the end of the summer. They’ll be going to a program that won the Northeast-10 last year and will be a playing at the Division 1 level next spring. It’s a terrific opportunity.’’
The trio competes in key positions — Haba is a shortstop, Macchi is the catcher and Elliott plays left field. Haba and Macchi are Hockomock League all-stars and Haba earned all-star honors nationally in USA Today. And, each of them led the Panthers in at least one offensive category en route to a 17-5 overall record that was capped off with dramatic victories over Wachusett Regional, St. John’s Prep (Danvers) and a pair of triumphs over Central Catholic that gave Franklin the Division 1A crown.
Haba, who hit .314 last year, led the team in runs (19), triples (6), stolen bases (15) and walks (13). Macchi was first in hits (34), batting average (.382), singles (23), and doubles (9). Elliott, who hit .292, led the Panthers in RBIs (18).
“They’re exceptional leaders,’’ Brown said. “They’re hard workers who lead by example. Jake sets the tone as a take-charge catcher, Alex runs the infield, and Scott is a high-energy guy.’’
The trio has a variety of strengths and assets, and Brown is quick to assess his captains’ plusses.
“Alex is an all-around player who’s outstanding on defense,’’ he emphasized. “He bats No. 3 in our lineup, and he’s a clutch hitter who has good foot speed and a solid arm. He’s embraced his role as a vocal leader.’’
Brown is effusive in lauding Macchi, who also played basketball for Franklin. “Jake is steady and last year he handled a veteran pitching staff superbly,’’ Brown said. “He calls a great game, is a clutch player, blocks the plate well and bats clean-up. His two-run homer against Catholic Central in the tourney finale helped us win the title by a 3-2 score.’’
Elliott, who played hockey, is labeled “a slasher’’ by Brown. “When Scott hits the ball, he drives it hard and it travels,’’ Brown explained. “He’s got a strong arm, his speed is excellent, and he’s got a knack for driving in runs. In three of the four tourney games, he had the game-winning RBI.’’
Here’s a brief look at the captains, who discuss their goals this season, their thoughts on winning the State title and their futures as collegians:
The 6-foot, 175-pound Haba labels last year’s State title as his “best experience and biggest thrill.’’ He also credits “an amazing group of teammates’’ for the achievement.
“To end the season that way was special,’’ he said. “Everyone stepped up. The starters did their job and our reserves, who all worked hard in practice, came through when called on. If we’re going to repeat as State champs, we’ll need that kind of team chemistry.’’
Haba’s goal for the season is to defend the crown, and he believes it’s realistic. “We’ll have to do all the little things,’’ he emphasized. “Team chemistry will have to be part of the mix and a close-knit spirit is a must. If we have those elements and believe in a repeat, we can do it.’’
The 17-year-old Haba is in his third season of baseball, and he’s started all three at shortstop, a position he embraces. “It’s a position of leadership,’’ he noted. “It is challenging, because a strong arm and good range are needed there. I just try to bank on the training I’ve had to do the job.’’
Haba, who started playing baseball as a six-year-old, has competed for seven years as a club-team player.
Haba, who had a variety of college offers, is glad Merrimack will be part of his future. “I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to play early,’’ said Haba who’ll major in business.
Haba said that he followed Macchi in deciding on Merrimack, but that his decision wasn’t influenced by his teammate’s judgment. “Playing baseball with Jake and Scott in college will be a cool experience,’’ Haba said. “And, playing my final season at Franklin for coach Brown is great. He’s a phenomenal leader.’’
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Macchi rates last year’s State championship “special,’’ primarily because the Panthers were a huge underdog.
“No doubt,’’ Macchi said when asked if the achievement was his top thrill. “We upset higher seeded teams, and it was accomplished with my best friends. It also opened up college opportunities.’’
The 17-year-old Macchi, who started at forward for Franklin’s basketball team, would like to return to the winner’s circle again, but he’s acutely aware of the challenge.
“We could get back to the States, but it won’t be easy,’’ he emphasized. “We’ve got a capable squad, but there isn’t lots of experience. I’ll focus first on winning the league title, then on making a playoff run. If we get to play in the State tourney again, it’ll involve paying attention to detail, and all of us will have to be the best teammates possible.’’
A native of Franklin, Macchi is in his third year as the Panthers’ starting catcher, a position he embraces. “I love catching,’’ he said. “You have to be totally locked in on every play. You get to direct the entire squad and keep the pitching staff calm. It’s all about having everyone on the same page.’’
Macchi, who will major in business at Merrimack, liked its size, the campus, the baseball program going Division 1 and coach Barese. “He’s young, knows the game and told me I’d have to earn my spot,’’ Macchi said. “He also said I could play as a freshman. The school is close enough to home, so my family can see me play.’’
Saying that it was “cool’’ to be going to a college with Franklin’s other captains, Macchi also said it’ll be neat to be together and competing for four more years. Macchi also is delighted that Brown will be coaching Franklin High again. “He creates a bond in a special way,’’ Macchi noted. “He’s by far the best coach I’ve played for.’’
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Elliott refers to Franklin High’s State championship pedigree as “amazing and surreal.’’
“We were the seventh seed in the Super 8 Tournament,’’ he recalled. “We beat Wachusett, which was the No. 2 seed, and Central Catholic was third-seeded. Defeating teams that were favored was exciting.’’
A native of Franklin, the 18-year-old Elliott lists his team goal this season in general terms. “I want more success,’’ he said. “It would be nice to win it all again, but that’s a big challenge. My hope is that we all bond. As for personal goals, I want to improve overall and hike my batting average. If I do those things, then I’ll be prepared for college ball.’’
Elliott, who played left wing on the hockey team, will be starting his second year as the Panthers’ left fielder. “I enjoy playing the outfield,’’ he said. “I feel I’m suited for it. I’ve got speed, a good arm, I can get to the ball quickly and my range is good.’’
Elliott plans on majoring in computer engineering at Merrimack. “I chose the school because it was a good fit for me,’’ he noted. “I like the campus, the coach, and their move to Division 1 baseball. I think it’s cool all the captains will be on the same college team. We didn’t plan it that way. We just did what was best for each of us.’’
Elliott said that Barese made no promises on playing time but was up front about his future at the Andover-based college. “He encouraged me to work hard,’’ Elliott said. “And, he said that I could make an impact early.’’
Happy to finish his high-school career playing for Brown, Elliott admires the way the veteran coach assists players. “Coach Brown is not only a great motivator, but he also helps in so many ways,’’ Elliott emphasized. “He helped me with my swing and other mechanics, and he helped me with the recruiting process.’’