BROCKTON, Mass. ---- For the 26th consecutive season, head coach Tom Frizzell will lead the Massasoit Community College baseball team, as the Warriors are prepared to get the 2016 campaign underway with its annual spring break to Florida.
The Warriors will play nine games over the course of eight days, with all the contests taking place at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. Massasoit opens the season on Friday against Hagerstown CC (Maryland) at 10 a.m., followed by playing Region XXI foe UConn Avery Point that afternoon at 4 p.m.
"It is very important that we have a solid Florida trip," coach Tom Frizzell said. "If we play well and finish somewhere near .500, that is going to be a phenomenal due to the caliber of competition we are facing."
Massasoit will take the diamond against two NJCAA Division I programs in Hagerstown CC and Marshalltown CC (Iowa) and play four games against Division II teams – UCAP, Kirkwood CC (Iowa) twice and Westchester CC (New York). The Warriors, an NJCAA Division III program, will also face the Ontario Blue Jays Baseball Club three times to round out the Florida schedule.
The biggest upside to the 2016 season has been the preseason weather. A season ago, the Warriors along with all the other baseball teams in New England were worried about getting games in. The mild winter has allowed the Warriors to actually get outside before their trip south.
"In 25 years we were able on three occasions to go outside once before heading to Florida," Frizzell said. "Many times guys were outside in their work boots just to get some fly balls, while the weather was still freezing. This year we've managed to get out three times and had an additional captain's practice to do some hitting on the field – that has to benefit us."
Frizzell's roster boasts a bevy of arms, headlined by a trio of returning sophomores in lefty Jake Stearns (Plymouth) and right-handers Zack Reid (Dighton) and Mike Nader (Hollywood, Fla.). The returning pitchers accounted for 142.2 of 250.1 innings in 2015, almost 57 percent, giving the Warriors plenty of experience on the mound.
Stearns led the Warriors in innings pitched (52.2), strikeouts (57) and tied for the team-high with Reid in complete games. Nader posted the team's lowest ERA last season at 2.56.
Freshmen righty James Bussiere from Norwood High School will be expected to see plenty of innings in his first go around with the Warriors. DeCoste and Dwyer, both positional players as well, will get time on the bump as freshmen.
Anderson (Plymouth) and Richmond (Hingham) add depth to the bullpen as several other position players might be called upon to pitch during the season.
Newcomers: Dylan Ashburn, Jackson Fleming, Pat Matthews
A trio of freshman will be vying for time behind the dish for the Warriors in Dylan Ashburn (Norton/Coyle-Cassidy HS), Jackson Fleming (Plainville/King Philip HS) and Pat Matthews (Dedham).
Frizzell noted that he has been pleased with the group of catchers and that the Florida trip will give each backstop the opportunity to showcase who is the top option.
Ashburn was a Taunton Gazette First Team All-Scholastic and Eastern Athletic Conference All-Star during his senior campaign.
Returners: 1B/3B Justin Martinho, 2B Tyler Morini
Newcomers: 2B/SS Bryan Dwyer, INF Jon Hurley, 3B Kevin Jaynes, 2B/SS Kevin Huscher, 1B/3B Dean Vacca
The right side of the infield could feature a pair of sophomore veterans in Martinho (Dighton) and Morini (Plymouth). Martinho finished second on the team in batting average and RBI in 2015, hitting at an impressive .352 clip with 17 knocked in.
Morini, a second baseman, should see time also at designated hitter for the Warriors and as an option out of the bullpen if needed.
Freshmen Bryan Dwyer (Abington) and Kevin Huscher (GateWay CC (Ariz.)/Middleboro) will see action up the middle as both were two-time all-scholastic selections during their high school playing days. Dwyer, who can also pitch, and was a three-sport athlete at Abington High School, should hold down second base when not pitching, while Huscher transfers in to take over shortstop for the departed Dave Murphy.
In addition, Jon Hurley (Plainville) and Kevin Jaynes (Brockton) will battle for time at the hot corner, while Dean Vacca (Brockton) could see time at either corner infield position.
"We will have a lot of movement around the infield," Frizzell said. "Especially since we have position players that also pitch. How we first start off might not be how we finish."
Frizzell also stated that the team infield defense will be much improved from a season ago, which in turn should cut down on the unearned runs.
Carey (East Bridgewater/Cardinal Spellman) is the incumbent center fielder for the Warriors. As a freshman, he was named Second Team All-Region XXI by hitting .295, reaching base at a .381 clip and scoring 21 runs out of the leadoff spot.
Flanking Carey in right field will be Jack DeCoste (East Sandwich/Sandwich HS), who will also pitch, while Jimmy Lawless (Hull) and Evan McSherry (Halifax/Silver Lake) should split time in left. Reid adds depth to the outfield when he is not on the hill for the Warriors.