Hopedale Nine Aiming For DVC Title, Deep Tourney Run

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
Hopedale High’s baseball captains are, from left, Sean Ryan, John McDonough, and Alex Luccini.
Issue Date: 
March, 2020
Article Body: 

The Hopedale High baseball team would like to take care of some unfinished business this season.
Coach Josh Crescenzi’s Blue Raiders, who finished the regular season at 12-9 last year, advanced to the Division 4 Sectional final after beating Oxford and Sutton. But, when they faced Tahanto in the final, they lost, 7-4.
Our goals this year are to compete for the Dual Valley Conference championship, qualify for the tournament and go deep,’’ Crescenzi said. “We’ll strive to get back to the final but this time we want to win it. We’ll also be in the mix for the league title but Nipmuc (defending champion) and Sutton are strong. Nipmuc has talent, tradition and numbers, and Sutton has a competitive program.’’
Crescenzi’s objectives are realistic because this season’s nucleus has a variety of strengths. “We’re solid in all three phases of the game,’’ he emphasized. “Our pitching is strong and our kids all want the ball in pressure situations. Our hitting will be consistent and we can get production one through nine in the order. We’re always serious about defense and we always focus on limiting our mistakes.’’
Other assets include having players who are versatile, resilient, and competitive. “We’ve got kids who want to contribute and they can play a variety of positions,’’ Crescenzi said. “Our mental toughness is good and our baseball IQ is high.’’
Hopedale, which doesn’t have any seniors, will rely on a trio of junior captains who rate highly. “I’m not worried about not having any seniors,’’ Crescenzi noted. “Our captains — Alex Luccini, Sean Ryan and John McDonough — lead in many ways. They’re vocal and supportive and they lead by example. They’re great kids who are intense and have a tremendous will to win.’’
Luccini is the team’s catcher, Ryan pitches and plays third base, and McDonough can pitch or play first base. Luccini, last year’s team MVP, hit .412, had 21 hits and drove in 17 runs. Ryan was the squad’s most-improved player last year, compiling a 3-2 record. Besides getting 15 RBIs, he struck out 56 hitters in 44 innings and had an E.R.A. of 2.22. McDonough, last year’s rookie of the year, was 5-1, compiled a 2.08 E.R.A. and hit .333. All three were DVC all-stars.
“Alex, who hit cleanup last year, was an all-star as a freshman and sophomore,’’ Crescenzi said. “He’s our QB, calling the pitches and the plays. He’s got passion for the game, is a natural on defense and has a strong arm. He hits for power and he’s a great base-runner.
“Sean is a right-hander who started and also closed out games. He’s a confident pitcher who relies on a slider, fastball and a change-up. And he’s got great control. John is a lefty who hurled a no-hitter against Keefe Tech last year. Relying on a fastball, curve and change-up, he’s not overpowering but he thrives on pressure. He started the season going 0-for-18 but he was our hottest hitter in the second half of the season.’’
Sophomore shortstop Will Parker, last year’s unsung hero, also was a DVC all-star. He had 24 hits and batted .381 last season. “Will is now in his third season as a starter,’’ Crescenzi said. “He’s a natural at the plate and is fluid in the field. Never an easy out, Will should add power to his game this year.’’
Outfielder Tyler Lane is another promising sophomore. Crescenzi rates him one of the best outfielders in the DVC. “Tyler can run a mile to catch the ball,’’ Crescenzi noted. “He’s got tenacity to go with good speed and range. He should improve at the plate. He was an inconsistent hitter last year but he got some key hits in our tourney win over Sutton.’’
Three other sophomores who’ll be counted on are utility player Zack Frohn and twins Aiden and Oliver Radcliffe. Aiden can pitch, play third base and the outfield while Oliver can pitch, play the outfield and first base.
“Zach had only five at-bats and one hit last year but he got his share of defensive starts,’’ Crescenzi said. “His strength is fielding. He’ll get an opportunity to get more at-bats and to improve at the plate. Aiden is a right-hander who pitched well on the jayvees last year. We’re hoping he’ll give us some solid innings. When he’s on, he’s got the best curve ball on the team. He just needs to be consistent at the varsity level. Oliver is a lefty who suffered a broken thumb last year. He still played, starting in right field. He’s solid in all three facets and has a nice swing.’’
Freshman Ryan Reynolds is a left-handed pitcher who can also play the outfield and first base. “Ryan showed no fear as an eighth-grader going against older players,’’ Crescenzi said. “He could be a special player. He works hard as a pitcher and has the potential to be a great hitter.’’
The 36-year-old Crescenzi, whose teams have qualified for tourney play five times in six years, is optimistic about his team’s future. That’s probably because of the attributes he wants in players who join the varsity ranks.
“The key to success is having players who are skilled, coachable, have a positive attitude and work hard,’’ he said. “It’s also a plus when you have players who are mentally tough, resilient and able to bounce back. Leadership is another key and success occurs when a coach has kids who respect the game, respect each other, and respect their school and their community.’’
The Blue Raiders will open their season at home against West Boylston on April 6. The journey to the district tourney begins that day and the ride could be quite smooth.
Because all the ingredients for success are present.