By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
Chris Sawyer has one primary goal for King Philip’s baseball team — a return to the playoffs after a two-year absence.
Selected as a captain after his junior season last year, the third baseman, who also can be utilized as a relief pitcher, firmly believes the Warriors can qualify for the Sectional tourney but he’s also acutely aware that several conditions have to occur.
“Getting back to the tournament is a realistic goal,’’ said Sawyer, who hit .320 last year and committed only four errors in 19 games. “We’ve got experience, talent, depth and team chemistry. But, we’ve got to improve daily and our practices have to be competitive. Seven seniors give us experience, our junior group is strong and some sophomores are standouts. We’ve also got versatile players who can compete at several positions.’’
Sawyer’s individual objectives should be greeted with a big smile by new coach Jeff Plympton Jr. “I want to improve on my .320 batting average and I want to be the best captain I can be,’’ Sawyer emphasized.
Chosen a captain by his teammates and coaches is a responsibility Sawyer welcomes and he calls the designation “an honor, definitely my top thrill in baseball.’’
The 18-year-old Sawyer plans to lead in a variety of ways. “I’ll lead by example, on and off the field,’’ he said. “If needed, I’ll be vocal, and if a player needs help, I’ll be supportive.’’
Plympton likes Sawyer’s ability, his demeanor and his style. “Chris is a very good athlete who’s calm and relaxed when he competes,’’ Plympton noted. “He’ll hit at the top of the order and when he’s playing third base, he’ll make the tough play and rely on a strong arm. A coachable kid, Chris is respected by his teammates.’’
Called up to the varsity halfway through his sophomore year, Sawyer quickly impressed KP baseball fans that season by getting a walk-off single to defeat Sharon, 4-3. “That game was at KP and it gave me confidence,’’ Sawyer said. “I also had a good day on defense, making a catch of a foul ball at the fence on the third base side.’’
Sawyer has strengths that should help the Warriors in their battle for a playoff berth. He’s instinctive, has a high baseball IQ, and he’s got good range. On the mound, he’s deliberate, relies on control and can handle pressure situations.
Sawyer and KP’s other captain, junior catcher Conor Cooke, should be able to help their teammates adjust to a new coach.
“Coach Plympton worked with us in summer league,’’ Sawyer said. “He’s a good motivator and he’s down to earth. Conor has great leadership qualities and he’s a phenomenal all-around competitor who’ll play at Brown University. Another solid contributor is senior shortstop Robert Jarest. He’s a good contact hitter who’s flawless in the field.’’
Sawyer started playing baseball at the age of five and his five years of AAU ball have helped the 6-foot, 185-pound native of Wrentham develop into an aggressive hitter and pitcher. “I like going after the first pitch,’’ he said. “And, on the mound, I like to throw hard. My fastball is in the 82-84 mph range and I also throw a curve and a splitter that moves downward.’’
A lofty goal that Sawyer would like to see KP achieve is finishing first in the Kelly-Rex Division of the Hockomock League. He knows that’s a high mountain to climb. “It’s a big challenge because Franklin, Taunton and Mansfield are strong on talent and tradition,’’ he said. “Franklin won the Super 8 tourney two years ago and is always a power.’’
An honor-roll student, Sawyer will attend Elon College in North Carolina in the fall and he plans on majoring in finance. “It’s a Division 1 school but I’m considering trying out as a walk-on,’’ he said. “I could also play at the club level in college.’’
Sawyer relies on a competitive philosophy that focuses on reaching one’s potential and enjoying athletics. “If you’re improving and having fun, it’s likely that winning will follow,’’ he said. “I also try to learn life lesson through sports. A player can learn to be a good teammate and a leader. Sports also teach you to be accountable and resilient.’’
Calling his father (Erik) his role model is not surprising. “He pitched at Babson College and he introduced me to baseball early on,’’ Sawyer said. “He’s also coached me and he’s been supportive and encouraging.’’
A forward in basketball, Sawyer played at the jayvee level as a sophomore but opted to forgo hoops and focus on baseball. Although his two varsity seasons on the diamond haven’t produced a tourney appearance, he’s confident that’s about to change.
“Our group of seniors has been together since Grade 5,’’ he emphasized. “It would be nice to see us wrap up our final year with a deep run in the playoffs.’’
Chris Sawyer has his priorities in order and he knows that qualifying for the tournament will take desire, dedication and devotion to that task.
By Ken Hamwey