SWAMPSCOTT — Joe Caponigro has been involved with the Swampscott Sox for 34 seasons. This year, however, the Swampscott manager and his Sox players are in uncharted territory.
Swampscott, with two regular season games left, is fighting for a spot in the North Shore Baseball League playoffs. The Sox, 9-13 this season, are currently in seventh place in the NSBL standings. Right behind Swampscott are the Marblehead Seasiders (8-13), the Manchester Marlins (8-14-1) and the Saugus Wings (7-14).
The Sox control their own destiny in that if they close the season with wins in their two final games, they’ll clinch a playoff berth.
“This is the first time we’ve been in this position,” Caponigro said. “This is the first time we’re going to finish the regular season under .500. We’re fighting to get in the playoffs. The way we’re talking about it our playoffs have already started. We have to take these next two games as playoff games and see what happens.”
Swampscott has competed throughout the season but the Sox have found themselves on the losing end of a handful of close games. The pitching staff has kept the team in games but miscues on defense and lack of timely hits have hurt the Sox.
“Our pitching definitely has been our bright spot,” Caponigro said. “Unfortunately a late error here and there, and the inability to get a timely hit, those have been the hurdles we’ve had trouble getting over at this point.”
Leading Swampscott’s pitching staff are Eric Fields, JP Reiling, Corey Bleau, Juan Diaz, Junior Santos and Luke Marshall, who’s in his first season with the Sox after wrapping up his senior year at Swampscott High this past spring. Fields is 3-1 this season and Diaz leads the team in strikeouts.
Offensively, Lou Olivieri, a former Swampscott High catcher, has made positive strides in his second season with the Sox. Olivieri, who spent the spring at post-graduate Cheshire Academy, will play junior college baseball in Alabama. He bats No. 3 in Swampscott’s order.
“Lou has been the backbone of our offense throughout the season,” Caponigro said.
Also leading the team’s offense are Brian Maynard, who leads the team in RBI, Esteban Paula and Elvis Rodriguez. The two-time reigning NSBL MVP, Rodriguez has helped lead the Sox offense for the past two seasons through a long-distance relationship.
“Elvis moved to Florida at the end of last season but he happened to work for JetBlue so he’s able to come home and get some games in,” Caponigro said. “His family’s moving back home, they’re in the process, so he’s full time now and that’s much needed. Hopefully his bat can get hot because he can carry a team. He’s that good. The commitment and effort he’s put into flying home for a night game and coming back, it’s unheard of and appreciated.”
Others who’ve made key contributions this summer include Swampscott natives Donnie Weisse, Spencer Perkins and Matt Legere.
Caponigro also credited player-coach Ryan Healey for playing an instrumental role this season.
“He keeps the team together,” Caponigro said. “He does a lot of dirty work behind the scenes. He played for me at English and played at Stonehill. He does some DH-ing for us. This team wouldn’t be in the position it’s in without him.”
Swampscott closes the regular season with tilts Thursday against Rowley and Friday against Marblehead. The league playoffs begin next week.
“We’ve never been in this situation, fighting like this to get into the playoffs,” Caponigro said. “It’s not a bad thing. Our guys are competitors. Hopefully we get a bounce here, a bounce there. Baseball’s a funny game.”