by Jim Fenton, The Enterprise
BROCKTON – The Massasoit Community College baseball team begins a new era when the 2019 season gets going Saturday afternoon.
For the first time since 1990, Tom Frizzell is not the Warriors' head coach after retiring last spring with a 724-360 record and a national championship during 28 seasons.
Kraig Kupiec has taken over the Massasoit program and will make his debut with eight games in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Warriors play a doubleheader on Saturday against Middlesex County College of New Jersey at 12:45 p.m. and Lehigh Carbon Community College of Pennsylvania at 3:30.
"I'm in the shadow of coach Frizzell and that's always going to be a challenge,″ said Kupiec, the former head coach at Newbury College who played at Durfee High and Wake Forest. "What I'm trying to do is take all the great things that he did and continue those and find things that I can make my own and bring those. It's been a little bit of a challenge, but on the field, baseball is baseball.″
Massasoit returns six players from a team that went 17-13 in Frizzell's final season. The Warriors, with a 17-man roster, have been working out indoors since January and are eager to start playing games.
There are four doubleheaders scheduled in South Carolina between Saturday and Thursday.
"I can't wait,″ said Kupiec. "It's tough. You have sort of that preseason malaise being in the gym getting ready, but these guys like practice. They're excited for practice. But it is tough being in a gym for six weeks.
"I'm optimistic, but until we see the guys out on the field competing, we won't know.″
Massasoit's pitching figures to be solid with freshmen Francisco Navarro plus Ian Nadeau, a Brockton High graduate, leading the way. Nadeau was 5-2 with a 1.46 while earning Enterprise All-Scholastic honors last spring.
"He's doing an outstanding job, a tremendous athlete,″ said Kupiec of Nadeau. "Our strength will certainly be our starting pitching. We've got plenty of depth with respect to pitching. Our relievers are good.
"If we're able to push some runs across and execute in key situations, stay healthy, we should certainly be in the hunt.″
The pitching staff also includes, a pair of freshmen in Apponequet Regional High graduate Jason Couto and D.J. Lopes while sophomore Luke DiTondo "is probably the best returning arm,″ said Kupiec. DiTondo was 2-1 with a 3.56 earned run average and 49 strikeouts in 43 innings and also batted .356 with a pair of homers.
"Pitching will definitely be our strength, I think,″ said Kupiec. "But we've made some real progress offensively. Guys have been working real hard in the cages and the gym. Offensively, we're getting better every day we practice.″
Returning players include first baseman Jonathan O'Donnell, who hit .326 with eight doubles and 29 RBI, left fielder Bobby Belezos of Holbrook, who just finished his second basketball season at Massasoit, and center fielder Aiden O'Neill of Halifax, who hit .296.
Nadeau can play first base, third base and shortstop when not pitching while DiTondo and freshman David Logan with be middle infielders. The catchers are Josh Truehart, a freshman from Brockton, and Trey Woodward, a freshman from Texas.
"We're moving along pretty good,″ said Kupiec. "We've got a whole bunch of athletes who can play multiple positions and can pitch.″
Massasoit is scheduled to play its first game in New England on March 24 against New Hampshire Tech at home.