Luke Marshall and the Big Blue will look to be competitive this spring while replacing a number of talented seniors from last year’s team.
By HAROLD RIVERA
SWAMPSCOTT — The benefit of having a senior-heavy roster is that experience can often drive a team to a run at a state championship.
The downfall is that those seniors need to be replaced the next season.
That’s the challenge the Swampscott baseball team will face this spring.
The Big Blue reached the second round of the state tournament last spring, where it was ousted by Austin Prep in a game played over two days due to lightning. The Blue were leading when the storm hit, but the Cougars rallied the next day.
“It was a tough pill to swallow,” Big Blue coach Jason Calichman said. “We lost a lot of seniors, but it looks like we have a nice mix of underclassmen with older, experienced players.”
Calichman, in his fifth season directing the Big Blue, leads a coaching staff that also includes assistants Brendan Nolan, Kevin Rogers and Robert Serino. All four of the coaches are former Swampscott baseball players themselves.
“All of us played at Swampscott High and we know what it’s like to represent the town,” Calichman said.
For leadership this season, the Big Blue will rely on senior Louis Olivieri, fresh from being among the scoring leaders for the hockey team, who returns at catcher. Olivieri enters his fourth season as a varsity starter.
“He’s the catcher, he has control of the field at catcher,” Calichman said. “We’ll lean on him a lot for leadership and experience. Hopefully he’ll have another great year and lead the way for us.”
Other key returners include seniors Sean Lahrizi at center field, AJ Venuti at first base and David Peterson at left field.
On the mound, Swampscott lost a trio of star pitchers in Cory Bleau, CJ Howard and Gavin Sullivan, but brings back a pair of talented hurlers in junior Luke Marshall and senior Josh Rubin. Calichman will also look to hand the ball to Peterson for some innings.
“If we throw strikes, we’ll be in games,” Calichman said. “If we don’t, it’ll be tough.”
“We’ll really need people to step up and pound the strike zone,” Calichman added.
Aside from that, every other position is up for grabs. Although the vacancies raise a number of question marks, they’ve also created interesting competitions throughout the preseason. Calichman won’t deny that his team lost a lot of talent from last season but eventually every senior gets replaced.
“We’re only four days in but I’ve been really happy with the work ethic and the level of competition through those four days,” Calichman said. “You look at losing all the guys we lost last year. They, at some point, filled in for somebody too. Somebody will step up, it’s just a matter of who. Whether they’re a freshman or a senior, we’ll go with the best player.”
Four days into the preseason, Calichman has also noticed some rust from his players. He’s sure that rust will start to go away once the players get an increased amount of reps in practice and scrimmages.
“You’re looking at kids that are a little rusty,” Calichman said. “We really want kids playing three sports in Swampscott so they’re just getting into baseball now. We’re knocking off some rust, but that’s expected. As far as the approach to one another and the team teamwork, I can’t say enough about them. I’m optimistic that this group can gel together and win some games.”
Swampscott has six scrimmages scheduled, the first of which is slated to take place at Lynn English Wednesday. The Big Blue will scrimmage against the Bulldogs twice, while also battling against St. Mary’s, Manchester-Essex, Salem and Reading.
“I’m really hoping we get them in,” Calichman said. “We need to see the team in action. I’m really looking forward to the scrimmages to see how these guys step up and to find our pitching.”
Swampscott opens the season April 10 against Marblehead.
“Hopefully we’re playing this game the same way up 10 or down 10,” Calichman said. “We represent the town well and that’s my goal. If we’re up 10, we carry ourselves the right way. If we’re down 10, we keep grinding. Competitiveness will be our focal point this season.”