PEABODY– If the Bishop Fenwick baseball team’s destined for a state tournament run in 2019, the Crusaders will need their senior class to step up to the plate. Luckily for Fenwick, the senior class projects to be the team’s this season.
“I’m really proud of the seniors that we have,” Fenwick coach Russ Steeves, now in his second season back at Fenwick, said. “We’re excited to have a great year.”
Fenwick’s 2018 season ended sooner than the Crusaders hoped it would. With Steeves back at the helm of the program after a hiatus from coaching, Fenwick made adjustments to a new coaching style through the course of the season. Ups and downs were parts of the process but Fenwick managed to gel in time to qualify for the Division 3 North state tournament as the No. 12 seed at 12-8. The Crusaders were bounced in the opening round after a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Latin Academy.
“It was my first year. I think there’s always a transition period,” Steeves said.”I’d say it was OK for a first year back. We kind of established our culture and work habits. I can certainly see a difference this year. Everyone knows what’s expected. I’d say we’re out of the gate much faster so I’m excited about that.”
Fenwick graduated four seniors from last year’s team, including star pitcher David Furtado.
Returning on the mound are right-handers Alex Gonzales (sophomore), Christian Loescher (sophomore) and Nic Pignone (senior). Sophomore Richie Pignone, junior Jake Miano, and seniors Cory Bright and Trey Deloury will also log innings on the mound.
Steeves knows there isn’t a lot of varsity experience in his pitching rotation but said his pitchers have shown a strong work ethic through the preseason.
“I think they’ve worked really hard,” Steeves said. “They were mostly freshmen last year. I didn’t get them a lot of innings but they pitched a lot of JV. They’re young. I think they’re a little inexperienced as far as varsity goes but we’re hopeful. They worked hard in the offseason, that’s for sure.”
Senior utility player Keegan O’Connor returns to anchor Fenwick’s offense. Also in the mix offensively are Bright (infielder), Deloury (outfielder), Ethan Belt (senior catcher/infielder), Harrison Brickett (senior outfielder) and Angelo McCullough (senior shortstop). Freshmen Mike Faragi and Jason Romans have looked solid through the preseason as they compete for spots in the order.
With experience in the batting order, scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem.
“It helps a lot because we’re young on the mound,” Steeves said. “Being able to have versatility with guys filling in when other guys are on the mound, it’s really a unique situation to have. It’s fun to coach that way.
“When we put our lineup on a piece of paper there’s no soft spot,” Steeves said. “We’re excited about our offense, excited about our defense and very optimistic about our pitching.”
Bright, Deloury, McCollough and O’Connor, are this season’s co-captains.
“Our senior leadership is our strength,” Steeves said. “If you think back to fall and winter sports, Keegan and Cory captained the football team. Trey captained the hockey team. Angelo and Harrison captained the golf team. We have senior leadership. That should help as far as great attitude, great effort and a great culture.”
With two of last season’s state champions in the Catholic Central League, Fenwick will have to earn its league wins.
“I don’t think this conference gets enough credit,” Steeves said. “We had the Division 3 state champion in Austin Prep. We had the Division 4 state champion in Archbishop Williams. It’s always been that way. It’s going to be very competitive. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s fun to coach and it makes for a great league.”
Fenwick opens the season Saturday morning (11) when the Crusaders host Pentucket.