SAUGUS — Last year’s Saugus baseball team was on the younger side, and the Sachems had the growing pains throughout the year to prove it. But by the end of the year, Saugus had its act together enough to get into the Division 3 North state tournament and give No. 2 Lynnfield a run for its money in the first round. This season, the Sachems are hoping to take that experience and put it to good use.
“Obviously it was a disappointing way to end things, losing in the first round, but we were able to take a lot of positives from it too,” said Saugus coach Joe Luis, now entering his third season on the bench for the Sachems. “To go up against the two-seed, have a lead going into the seventh and having a chance to win in extra innings made it a little easier to take the loss, but we want to improve on it this year for sure.”
Saugus only lost two starters from last year’s lineup in Mike Mabee and Paul Stamatopoulos. While losing those two certainly hurts, it also means that seven starters are returning to the field for the Sachems in 2019, and they’re all seniors. That includes key positions like catcher (Jackson Stanton), shortstop (Ronnie Paolo), first base (CJ Graffeo) and outfield (Russ Grant, Anthony Cogliano, Skyler Smith).
“We have a lot of experience coming back at all positions, and it really takes the sting away after losing some key guys,” said Luis. “My three captains, Ronnie Paolo, Jackson Stanton and Todd Tringale, are all three-year starters for me. These guys have put in the time, played in tournament games, and they’re ready to take it to the next level. It’s definitely an advantage to only have to replace your guys and second and third base.”
Tringale, a senior pitcher, threw a perfect game against Stoneham last season. Tringale, who has already committed to play at UMass Amherst, is going to once again be the ace of the Saugus staff.
“Todd’s going to be huge for us, just like he was last year,” said Luis. “He’ll get the ball every Monday, and he’ll set the tone for the week. Having a guy like that at the top of the rotation is huge, because you know he’s going to come through every time you give him the ball. That helps the other guys relax and play a little looser, and hopefully that leads to more strong performances from everyone.”
Preseason preparations have been a little different than in years past for Saugus, mainly because its surroundings have changed. With the new Saugus High School currently being built, the facility the Sachems normally practice in has been taken down. That means the team has been battling other Saugus spring teams for space in the gym at times, but the Sachems have also been able to get out onto the field. Saugus scrimmaged against Georgetown on Wednesday, and the Sachems have another scrimmage lined up for Friday against St. John’s Prep.
“Our goals this year are to make the tournament again and win a few games this time,” said Luis. “I told the guys, let’s take it week by week. We want to win the week every week. If we win two or three games each week we play, we’ll put ourselves in a great position at the end of the year.”
Saugus opens the season on the road against Dracut on April 8.