Natick Nine Setting Its Sights On Playoff Berth

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
April, 2018
Article Body: 

Natick High’s baseball team will be opening its season in less than a week and coach Jason Hoye is still mixing and matching to come up with a product that will be competitive every game and also elevate the Redhawks into the playoffs.
Last year’s squad missed qualifying for a tourney berth primarily because it lost five one-run games and also lost three others by two-run margins. To prevent a repeat of so many close setbacks, Hoye will be relying on players with a variety of strengths.
“We’ve got experience, about 12 returnees,’’ he noted. “Our nucleus will include players who are athletic, have speed, and a high baseball IQ. We’ve got pitching depth and the kids are coachable. Where we’ve struggled in the past is a lack of run production. We can fix that by having a more consistent approach at the plate. That means understanding how opposing pitchers are attacking us and knowing when to be aggressive in the batter’s box.’’
Hoye not only believes his 2018 edition of the Redhawks has a realistic chance to earn a playoff slot, but he’s also upbeat on his squad battling for the Bay State League title. “It’s a very competitive league and it’ll be a big challenge to win it. Quality teams like Wellesley, Braintree, Newton North, Walpole and Norwood are always in the mix. This season, however, the league crown is up for grabs.’’
Two key cogs in Natick’s lineup are its senior captains —Noah Joseph and Hayden Scully, a pair of infielders who also pitch.
“Noah will play either shortstop or third base when he’s not pitching,’’ Hoye said. “He’s a smart player who’s both strong and instinctive on defense. A positive leader, he’s a contact hitter who’ll provide quality at-bats. Noah is a right-hander who may pitch mostly in relief. He throws strikes consistently and mixes his speed well.
“Hayden is also a right-hander who’ll likely be a starter. He had two saves last year in relief. His fastball has great movement and he’s developing an off-speed pitch. We’ll use Hayden either at first base or at third.’’
Seniors Sam Siegal and Mike Galaid are ticketed for outfield duty. A right-hander, Siegal can also pitch and probably will join Scully in the starting rotation.
“Sam missed eight games last year because of a hand injury,’’ Hoye said. “But, he had a great summer of senior Babe Ruth ball. He’s got a live arm, throws a fastball, curve and change-up and his control is good. A capable defensive player, he’s athletic and has speed. Mike played 17 games last year and hit .293. He’s aggressive, has good instincts and excellent on-base ability. He also limits his strikeouts.’’
Two seniors who display lots of versatility are Noah Skelton and Alex LaGreca. Skelton can catch, pitch or play the infield while LaGreca can catch or be called on for infield duty.
“Noah is a right-handed pitcher who’s still developing,’’ Hoye said. “Wherever he plays, he’ll be a regular contributor. He’s got good knowledge of the game and is baseball IQ is high. Alex is a smart player who runs well and is a dependable contact hitter.’’
Seniors Ethan Weinhaus and David Carey can pitch or play the outfield. Weinhaus is a lefty and Carey is right-handed. “Both provide pitching and outfield depth,’’ Hoye noted.
Three juniors who’ll play key roles include centerfielder Max Ferrucci, middle infielder Austin Twiss and pitcher/outfielder Colin Ghilani.
“Max led the team last year with a .304 batting average,’’ Hoye said. “He’s a contact hitter with great speed. His baseball IQ is high and he’s got a good arm. Austin could start at second or shortstop. He’s got a strong arm, great range and the potential to be a quality hitter. He’s athletic, hits hard and he played in every game last season. Colin is a right-handed pitcher who’s competitive and has a live arm. Last year, he displayed athleticism, great range and a strong arm.’’
Junior David Knox, who hit .289 last year and led the team in extra-base hits, would have been a candidate to play first or third base. Unfortunately, he won’t be available because he suffered a torn ACL in CYO basketball and is out for the year. “David will be on hand for games and practice to offer his support,’’ Hoye noted.
Luke Grignaffini is a sophomore catcher who played the last eight games last year. A consistent weight-room participant, Hoye is bullish on him for a variety of reasons. “Luke handles pitchers well, has a strong arm, blocks the plate well and he’s athletic. He’ll compete with our other catchers for playing time.’’
The 39-year-old Hoye, who coached at Holliston for two years before taking the Natick post, rates the Redhawks’ assistant coaches as a big plus for the program. “We have six guys who work at the freshman, jayvee and varsity levels,’’ Hoye said. “Five of them are Natick High alums who are committed to elevating the program.’’
Natick’s baseball team was 6-14 last year but those numbers aren’t in Hoye’s thoughts for 2018. What does occupy his mind are words like “execution’’ and “consistency.’’
“If we execute and are consistent with what we emphasize, then we can be a tourney team,’’ Hoye said. “It’s about focusing on basics and having competitive at-bats.’’
The opener is only days away, scheduled for April 6 at Concord-Carlisle.