Holliston’s Baseball Team Aiming for Tourney Berth

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
A senior-strong team may give Holliston Baseball the edge it needs this year. Contributed photo.
Issue Date: 
April, 2020
Article Body: 

Senior leadership so often is a huge plus, especially for high school teams that post superb records and roll to Sectional and State championships.
Holliston High’s baseball team, which has been to the playoffs only once in coach Joe Santos’ previous four years at the helm, could be an interesting squad to watch in 2020. That’s because six seniors, four of whom started last year, are back and give Santos a sense that his squad will be affected in a positive way.
“Seniors with leadership ability help younger players buy into a coach’s philosophy,’’ said Santos, who was a two-time baseball MVP for Holliston and a two-time Tri Valley League all-star. “Senior leadership usually rubs off on younger players and shows them how to represent their families and how to be responsible in the community.’’
The 31-year-old Santos, whose Panthers were 7-13 last year, is acutely aware that his seniors set the tone “for emphasizing what we stand for and what we’re trying to accomplish.’’
What the Panthers are trying to achieve this year is daily improvement, a tourney berth and a chance to battle for the TVL Large Division title. And, Santos is quick to point to captain Sam Farrell as a key cog in the pursuit of the team’s goals.
“Sam is everything you want in a student-athlete,’’ Santos said. “He’s a hard-working, dedicated individual who holds himself and his teammates accountable. A two-sport captain, he sets an example for the rest of the program.’’
Farrell had an outstanding season last year. He played centerfield, batted .333, had an OBP of .467 and led the team in extra-base hits. “Sam will play at Clark University next year,’’ Santos said. “He blends speed and power, runs well and has a strong arm. He really understands the game.’’
Right-handed pitcher Owen Radcliffe, who could also see action at first base or in the outfield, showed outstanding promise as a sophomore when he got the nod to start against Falmouth in the tourney two years ago. Before getting eliminated in that outing, Radcliffe fired a shutout against Westwood, enabling the Panthers to qualify for the post-season.
“Owen is our best pitcher,’’ Santos said. “He’s a fearless competitor who’s got good control. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 3 to 1 last year. He’s a hard-worker who relies on a fastball, curve and change-up. He’ll be playing next spring at WPI.’’
Dylan Ibbitson played right field last year but may move to catcher. “Dylan is a good athlete who’s very versatile,’’ Santos said. “He’s got a strong arm and unbelievable bat speed.’’
Left-handed pitcher Dylan Fonseca had limited innings last year while struggling with a shoulder injury. But the hurler, who pitched in some key innings as a freshman, is Holliston’s only four-year veteran of varsity play.
“Dylan has dedicated himself to the weight room,’’ Santos said. “He’s an off-speed pitcher who moves the ball well and has good control. He could be a college prospect.’’
Two other seniors who’ll be in the mix are second baseman Scott Langmeyer and pitcher-designated hitter Billy Ashworth. “Both are quality kids,’’ Santos said. “Scott loves baseball and he’s a very spirited teammate. Billy is a right-hander who’s big and can get stronger.’’
Three juniors who should complement the seniors effectively are Kevin Balewicz (left fielder), Danny Quinn (third baseman), and pitcher Louie Denison.
“Kevin is talented and poised,’’ Santos said. “He’s still recovering from a torn ACL in football. Danny has lots of passion for baseball and Louie is a submarine pitcher who’s had success early in his career. All are well-skilled and have the potential to play at the college level. We also have other juniors and some sophomores and freshmen who’ll get some playing time.’’
Santos will have his top assistants back — Jim Perry and jayvee coach Derek deCastro. “Jim has a great presence and he’s a terrific leader of young men,’’ Santos noted. “Derek is a former Holliston player who is respected and relates well to the kids.
As for the TVL Large Division, Santos rates Hopkinton as the favorite. “They’re talented, and they’re traditionally strong,’’ he said. “And, Steve Simoes is a dynamic coach. Medfield has some key players back and could be strong, too.’’
Santos, who hit .400 as a junior at Holliston, firmly believes this year’s goals are realistic — for a variety of reasons. “We’ve got senior leadership, talented and athletic players on offense and defense, and up-and-coming prospects,’’ he emphasized.
Holliston’s only appearance in the playoffs during Santos’ era was in 2018 when the Panthers went 10-10. Now in his fifth year, the Holliston High alum is optimistic that success is on the horizon. Senior leadership is the key ingredient fueling his positive outlook.
The season is scheduled to open at Norwood on April 7 (as of Local Town Pages’ deadline), and as Joe Santos emphatically says: “We can reach our goals but we won’t be content with a .500 record.’’