Pitching Will Be the Key for Medway Nine’s Tourney Hopes

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
South Sectional champions in 2019, Medway Baseball has strong players, but with a loss of 10 seniors last year, some growth as well. Contributed photo.
Issue Date: 
April, 2020
Article Body: 

It’s a good bet that no one in Medway would complain if the high school’s baseball team duplicated last year’s results in the Division 3 South Sectional Tournament.
The Mustangs rolled to the school’s first Sectional baseball crown by defeating Tri County, Diman and Dedham before eliminating Ashland in the final. Coach Mike Coppinger’s forces continued building on their momentum by downing Bishop Fenwick in the State semifinal game before bowing in the final to Taconic Regional of Pittsfield.
As Coppinger gets his squad ready for its opener in Norton (April 7), the new season will be different than the historic 2019 campaign. Very different.
Ten seniors have graduated, and three of them were the heart and soul of the Mustangs’ pitching rotation. “We’ll be a team that will compete for the Tri Valley League Small Division title, we’ll strive to qualify for the tourney and hopefully go deep again,’’ Coppinger said. “But, our pitching will be a work in progress because we’ll have to overcome inexperience.’’
Losing Eli Joyce-Vorce, Justin Pratt and Sam DiPillo is huge. Joyce-Vorce, who was a Boston Globe All-Scholastic, had a 9-3 record and an E.R.A. of 0.79. Pratt was 5-1, his E.R.A. was 1.65 and his batting average was .357. DiPillo pitched (3.23 E.R.A.) and played the outfield.
Medway’s opponents would be foolish to lower the degree of difficulty when they face the Mustangs. There’s still plenty of assets and a balanced approach to deal with.
“We’ll be strong defensively, we can steal bases and play small ball,’’ Coppinger noted. “We also can hit for power and we’ve got speed and quickness. Although we’ve lost a lot of seniors, we’ve got experience, a high baseball IQ, and skilled players.’’
Medway’s senior captains — Nick Sheehan and Matt Peterson — are top quality players. Sheehan plays shortstop and hit .440 last year while Peterson, who hit .423 last year, plays first base. Sheehan has committed to play for Southern New Hampshire University and Peterson will play for Assumption.
Nick competes hard, has excellent range and has gap-to-gap power,’’ Coppinger said. “He makes routine plays easily and can turn a difficult play into an out. A terrific athlete, Nick was the Defensive Player of the Year in the TVL last year. Matt hits for power, getting three homers and knocking in 30 runs to lead the team. He’s an excellent clutch hitter and struck out only eight times in 89 plate appearances. Both are outstanding leaders.’’
Two other key infielders include seniors Matt Kaplan (second base) and Greg Assad (third base). “Matt hit .351 in the clean-up slot,’’ Coppinger said. “Able to hit for power, his 15 RBIs were second on the team. He’s smooth defensively ,and he’s got speed on the bases. Greg buoyed our infield with some smooth play. He got some timely hits in the playoffs, and we’re hoping he takes a step forward on offense.’’
Senior Matt Mueller, a spot starter at catcher last year, filled in for the injured Trent Flood. Coppinger likes his efforts behind the plate. “Matt has a quick release to second base,’’ Coppinger said. “He’s solid on defense and blocks the plate well. He swings hard and has power.’’
Junior Troy Newman is the only underclassman in Medway’s six-man nucleus. “Troy hit .304 last year,’’ Coppinger said. “He’s a good contact hitter who’s awesome on defense. He’s displayed a good approach to the game. His instincts are very good, he gets a good jump on the ball and his throws are accurate.’’
The corner outfield positions are up for grabs, and at Local Town Pages deadline, Coppinger was preparing to see which prospects would emerge during pre-season practice. One potential prospect is Drew Plunkett, Medway’s two-time MVP in football and basketball. He’s decided to play baseball. “It’s always great to add a multi-sport athlete,’’ Coppinger said. “I’m not sure where he’ll play, but we’re pleased he’s decided to compete.’’
On the pitching front, senior Drew Nix and sophomore Ryan Abrams are right-handers who got limited innings last year.
“Drew’s fastball goes 80 mph, his curve is good, and he’s working on his change-up,’’ Coppinger said. “We’re hoping he takes a step forward and becomes a key in the rotation. Ryan pitched only two innings last year, but he throws hard, has good control and mixes his pitches well. His fastball also is in the 80 mph range and his curve ball is effective.’’
Sheehan, who’s pitched occasionally, could be available in relief or as a spot starter. “Nick throws strikes, has good control and an effective fastball,’’ Coppinger emphasized. “I’ll be looking for additional pitching help throughout the program. I may call on a positional player for help.’’
Coppinger expects Medway to contend for the small division title in the TVL. He views defending champ Dedham as a favorite but also likes Bellingham and Norton.
Now in his sixth year as coach, Coppinger will continue to rely on a competitive philosophy that focuses on reaching one’s potential. “If our players are improving and having fun, then winning will follow,’’ he said. “And, we also want our players to learn valuable life lessons, like being accountable, being good teammates and leaders, and understanding the importance of being resilient.’’
The Mustangs displayed all those qualities last year in a campaign that produced a 17-7 record, a Sectional title and the school’s deepest tourney run.
Medway has a quality corps of veterans returning, and if it gets consistent and capable pitching, another tourney berth will be in its future.