MARBLEHEAD — The Marblehead baseball team’s season is already off to a better start than last year. That’s not because of anything the Magicians have done but because they’ve actually been able to get on a field before their season opener.
“It has been a lot better than last year with the weather,” Magicians coach Mike Giardi said. “Our first day on a baseball field last year was our first game against Saugus. Now this year we already have had some practices and had a scrimmage with Haverhill. The availability has been great.”
Marblehead hopes that a more productive offseason is just the start of a more successful year. Last season the Magicians finished 7-13 and missed the state tournament. Going into 2019, Giardi and his coaching staff have entered the season with a different approach. It starts with laying out better goals for their players.
“One thing we’ve done better as a coaching staff is understanding and laying out better goals for our team,” Giardi said. “You can talk to kids and say to a pitcher that we’re really looking for one or two innings out of you each appearance or layout a role for a utility player. Last year we had so many different options that we didn’t do a good job of dividing things up. A big key for us this year is defining those roles.”
Another key change for Marblehead will be how it approaches ita pitching staff. While the Magicians may not have a true dominant pitcher, they have plenty of capable arms and Giardi plans on using each one.
“I think it’s a strength,” Giardi said. “What we might lack in terms of a dominant pitcher we make up for in quantity. We don’t have a pitcher that can go seven innings Monday and then come back and go again Friday. But we have a lot of good arms. Having quantity and having a number of arms is something we’re planning on using to our advantage.
“You look at the game at every level and that’s how it works now,” Giardi said. “Teams are bringing in more than one guy for the final few innings. I think it will help us in situations and help the guys that our going in knowing they have that arm behind them.”
Another challenge that Marblehead ran into last season was fielding, with almost half the runs the Magicians gave up coming unearned. A strong group of experienced players up the middle will hopefully help Marblehead shake off those struggles in 2019.
“You try to fill roles up the middle,” Giardi said. “Pitcher, catcher, shortstop, that’s where we’re experienced. They know how to command the game and they all are experienced.”
Key returners for the Magicians include pitchers Chris Gally and Ryan Masters, and catcher Ben Brennan.
“Probably one of our most well-rounded players is Chris Gally,” Giardi said. “He’s an experienced varsity athlete playing basketball and football. He does a lot for us and is capable at shortstop, third base and pitcher. Last year we probably didn’t use him on the mound as much as we should’ve but we won’t make that mistake again. We’re expecting him to take on more of a pitching role.
“Ben Brennan’s a senior catcher that’s been with me for all three years,” Giardi said. “We also have Ryan Masters, a junior left-handed pitcher, who can also play in the outfield. They’re both really good players for us.”
Marblehead’s also happy to have back Ryan Harris as a leader in the outfield. Harris missed much of last season after surgery on a broken thumb, Giardi said.
At the plate Marblehead will hope to improve as well. Gally, Brennan, Harris and Masters are all quality hitters and first baseman Erick Gonzalez will bring the big bat for Marblehead.
“We’ll really be looking to Erick,” Giardi said. “He’s a really solid hitter and just swings the stick pretty well. Overall though it’s wide open. That was something that we struggled with last year was putting the ball in play. We have a lot of young guys. It’s going to be just like the pitching where it’s a committee. If someone’s hot and doing well at the plate we’re going to stick with them.”
The Magicians open the season on the road at Winthrop April 15 (4 p.m.). Giardi and the Magicians are expecting a tough challenge right from the start.
“(Winthrop) is never an easy place to go,” Giardi said. “Right off the water, like most places can be cold. It’s tough. They were rebuilding too last year and we expect a challenge.”