Baseball

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How a Hudson pitcher held the attention of D-I scouts after being cut

by Brian Twomey

As Hudson resident Morgan McSweeney finishes his senior year at Worcester Academy, he is at a crossroads in his baseball career. McSweeney has received a scholarship from Wake Forest University to play baseball, but he could get drafted. The road to Division I was not an easy path though. He hit a bump in the road that many Division I players have never experienced.

McSweeney transferred to St. John’s high school for his freshman year hoping to reach his baseball and academic potential. St. John’s is a school recognized for talented sports programs, and its teams often include Division I prospects. Their baseball program has several rounds of tryouts to limit the best. Kids from all over central Massachusetts sign up, but the team only carries 20 players.

McSweeney made the freshman team his first year, and then the junior varsity team his sophomore year. After his sophomore year, he was receiving Division I attention from respected programs. Then, he hit that bump in the road. In his junior year, McSweeney was cut from the varsity team at St. John’s.

It was devastating, I wasn’t sure where I was gonna go from there, whether I would still be playing baseball after that or at what level,” he said. “At the time I was a 16-year-old kid who didn’t really know what was ahead of me. It definitely was cause for concern when I got cut from St. John’s.”

Not all hope was lost however. That summer he played the best baseball of his life. “The summer after I got cut I really came into my own as a pitcher with the Ruffnecks. It was a higher level of baseball than I had ever played and I really held my own, proving to myself that I had a future in baseball” McSweeney said.

He felt like the best course of action to continue his baseball career was to transfer to Worcester Academy. McSweeney reclassified for his junior year to join yet another, talented high school team. He was a year young for his original grade anyway, so reclassifying was a chance for him to gain another year for recruiting.  

Before committing to Wake Forest, he was interested in attending an Ivy League school. It wasn’t until he was receiving attention from powerhouse conference schools with strong academic programs that he decided not to go to Ivy League. At one point, McSweeney had interest from Boston College, Virginia, Duke, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest.

He prepared himself by joining elite summer teams. “I played for the Yankees scout team at the Area Code games in Long Beach, California, last summer, as well as the Mets scout team and Red Sox scout teams at other events throughout the summer. The selection process was basically a scout with each of those organizations identified kids as prospects they were interested in and arranged them in teams by geographic locations for tournaments or games. The Area Code games were probably the coolest event. We spent two weeks in Long Beach, California, and played games against some of the best kids in the country,” McSweeney said.

McSweeney is a high three quarter slot, 93 miles-per-hour (MPH) throwing pitcher excited to play for Wake Forest. “Physically I have matured a lot over the past few years,” he said, “and this summer I played well against some of the best pro/college prospects in the country, so I’ve proven to myself that I am good enough to play with the best.”

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Shepherd Hill player steps onto first base after a nice hit. | by Siobhan Richards

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Reinhardt and his team celebrate after closing out the 9-0 win. They improve to 5-2 in their league.

By Tess McDonald

Reinhardt and his team celebrate after closing out the 9-0 win. They improve to 5-2 in their league.
Reinhardt and his team celebrate after closing out the 9-0 win over North Middlesex on May 12, 2015. They improved to 5-2 in their league.

hudson-baseball-alt-story-form

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Kyle Sullivan pitches early in the first inning. Sullivan started the game with six straight strikeouts.

by Dakota Antelman

In a fourth inning that witnessed 14 Hawk hitters come to the plate, senior shortstop Ben Palatino acquired not one but two hits. The second of those hits served as the 100th of his high school career and kicked off a 9-0 beat down of the North Middlesex Patriots.

Palatino announced his 100th hit with a bang, ringing the ball off the left field wall for a stand up double. As his teammates cheered, Palatino gave a fist pump to Hudson fans.

“It was great,” he said. “I’ve been working for it since my freshmen year and to finally get it is a huge accomplishment. But it’s a team sport, so I gotta give a shout-out to my teammates.”

Palatino went 3 for 3, with a stolen base and two RBIs on Monday night. He, like so many other Hawks, took advantage of an admittedly lackadaisical Patriot pitching staff.  After fighting with North Middlesex in a pitchers duel for the first three innings, Hudson piled on 9 runs in the fourth inning. They went to bat a total of 14 times and notched six hits in that inning alone.

“It was their second time up, and it seemed like he, our pitcher, was missing his spots,” North Middlesex coach Tom Barttleson said after the loss. “You get a team like that, you make a couple mistakes and they’re gonna make you pay for it.”

After Adam Colbert hit a fly ball out to right field to start the inning, Hudson capitalized on Patriot Brendan Twomey’s mistakes. Each of their next seven batters reached base. Twomey walked three Hawks and struck out just one in the fourth inning. Eventually, nine batters after the inning began, Colbert came back to the plate and this time drove in two runs with a single to left field.

“We finally started jumping on those strikes,” Palatino explained of the fourth inning outburst. “We were looking at a lot of pitches through those first three innings. On my hit, I just saw a first pitch fastball and tried to put it in the outfield and drive in DJ [Panneton].”

Both before and after the nine-run fourth inning though, pitcher Kyle Sullivan helped keep the Patriots in check. He finished the evening with a school record 18 strikeouts and added to a 2015 resume that already boasts a no-hitter.

“Every time he goes out there, he has the potential to do something special,” Coach Tim Reinhardt said of Sullivan. “That’s how talented he is. We’re just happy to have him throwing for us. That’s a kid who has put in a lot of work and who has earned every accolade he has gotten.”

He allowed just two hits on Monday and maintained a bid for a no hitter through the fourth inning.

The sentiment of earning and celebrating accolades was widespread for the Hawks on Monday night. Though their academic year ends on Wednesday, the seniors of the Hudson baseball team are devoted to getting back to the playoffs in 2015 and making memories in their final season.
“It means everything,” Palatino reiterated. “This has been my life for the last four years. Hopefully we can keep it rolling and get a state championship.”

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Jared Lahey stands at the mound during pregame warm-ups on Monday.

by Dakota Antelman

Aided by an inside the park home run and aggressive baserunning by his hitters, varsity pitcher Jared Lahey led the Hawks baseball team to a 7-0 shutout win over the Fitchburg Red Raiders on Monday afternoon.

Lahey pitched a complete game shutout versus the struggling Red Raiders. He held them off the board, and largely off base, allowing just five hits in seven innings. Lahey compiled six strikeouts and forced Fitchburg’s hitters to bounce harmless ground balls towards Hudson’s waiting infielders all afternoon.

“I was throwing mainly fastballs,” Lahey said. “[I was] trying to get strikes even though I don’t throw that fast. Just trying to pump strikes past them.”

Monday’s game was Lahey’s first of 2015. He is not among the Hawk’s primary pitchers but was inserted into the lineup Monday to give those primary pitchers rest ahead of a gauntlet of league games later this month.

Regardless, his coach Tim Reindhart was confident in his abilities before the game. He in turn celebrated the shutout after its conclusion.

“He’s thrown in practice to batters, and he’s thrown in bullpen,” Reinhardt offered as a reason for his confidence. “We were aware of what he could do and how mentally tough he is. I wasn’t surprised at all to see him go out and throw really really well.”

Jared Lahey was given sizable run support nonetheless. Hudson’s Ben Palatino struck in the first inning when he hit a line drive, inside-the-park-home run, to center field. His hit drove in Domenic Fontes, who had reached base earlier in the inning.  Thanks in part to the big home run, Palatino finished the game with 4RBIs.

Behind Palatino, bats throughout the lineup came alive. Usual sluggers Conner Bacon and Kyle Sullivan had hands in three of seven runs and a slew of pinch hitters and defensive substitutions late in the game managed to keep the pressure on for Hudson.

Perhaps the only hiccup occurred in the seventh inning, when the Red Raiders were pushing to spoil Lahey’s shutout. With two outs, catcher Rocco Malloy failed to catch a fly ball in foul ground. Ryan Silva had similar struggles in the outfield, with wind blowing hard in the game’s final inning. The Red Raiders pushed runners as far as second and third base before Evan Nelson finally hauled in the game ending catch.

“I got a little nervous,” Lahey admitted, speaking about getting the final out. “I wanted the shutout. Having [Ryan] Silva miss a pop fly in the outfield made it harder. I had to calm down there.”

Hudson found its way against a now 0-5 Fitchburg team. Base running and strong pitching from their debut pitcher helped them keep pace with Nashoba in the standings and open the month of May on a winning note.

“I think our pitchers are gonna give us a chance to be in a lot of games,” Reinhardt glowed. “And any time that they can give you that chance, you win a lot. Every game our pitchers and all our guys have done what we ask them to do; which is give us a chance to win.”

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photo by Dakota Antelman

by Dakota Antelman

The baseball team–Hudson’s only team, aside from girls tennis, who qualified for playoffs last spring — has done their best with the conditions they faced in March.

Practicing as late as 9PM for much of March, the team struggled to get a feel for their game. Batting practice was all but impossible in the gym, and fielding work was limited given the spacial constraints.

“It’s hard staying in the gym. As an outfielder, you can’t take fly balls, grounders don’t feel the same,” explained outfeilder and pitcher Kyle Sullivan.

To date, the athletic director has been forced to postpone three of the baseball team’s early games, pushing the end date of the season into June.

But as much as the baseball team has been one of the hardest hit teams in terms of early spring struggles, they have also arguably logged the most actual game time of any team so far. Tim Reinhardt’s team has frequented the indoor facility at Forekicks in Marlborough while they also recently made a weekend trip down to Cape Cod for a scrimmage.

Coach Reinhardt saw weaknesses in the low scoring Cape Cod game, but was generally happy with the mental strength he saw in his team.

“We do have a lot of things we need to work on, but more so, I was encouraged by the effort by the guys, the attitude, the hustle of the players,” he said. “Yes there are some things we need to work on, but it definitely has been hard being inside for so long. Once we get on a field we should be good to go.”

Though the town has not yet allowed them to practice on their Riverside Field, they did finally get out of the gym as March came to a close. While many other teams just got to running outside,the varsity and JV baseball teams were already both running full practices in the Riverside Parking Lot.

The ample room allowed the team to work on longer fielding plays and get acclimated to longer distance throws. In kind, Reinhardt has quickly begun envisioning what his roster will look like once the season does get under way later this month.

Thankfully for the Hawks, this year’s roster is a very experienced one with no less than four three- and four- year varsity veterans returning for their senior year. They retain last year’s number one pitcher, Kyle Sullivan; infielder Ben Palatino; and slugger Connor Bacon. Additionally, Reinhardt is eyeing senior Eric Karlson as a possible juggernaut at the plate this season.

“Were hoping he steps into a bigger role on the team this year, outfielder, corner infielder, designated hitter, wherever we can get him in and get him some at bats,” Reinhardt said.

The team has worked to stay positive throughout the practice. But they were dealt a major setback no less, right as the Cape Cod trip seemed to suggest a strong season. Conner Bacon, who was dominant at the plate and on the mound a year ago, sprained his ankle during one of the team’s practices at Forekicks.

Though the injury was not serious, he will, according to Reinhardt, be missing two to three weeks of practice time.

“It’s not ideal. But at the same time it is just a sprain,” he said. “We’re just being cautious right now, just trying to make sure no problems get worse than they already are. So he’s gonna be out for a little bit, but we’re thinking, at least hoping, that everything will be ready for the first game.”

Bacon recently committed to play baseball next season at Boston College and is a respected leader on the team. His absence has shaken up the team, but as the season nears, and he eventually returns, they will hope to work him back into their regular lineup.

He remains poised for a strong year, and the injury has not yet worried the team’s coaches in any major way.

He himself spoke highly of the caliber of players on the team just before the team left for Cape Cod. In all, this HHS baseball team, one that rode strong pitching and power hitting all the way to the DIII finals last year, is eager to make 2015 look as much like 2014 as possible.

“For the seniors especially, we want to go out on top,” Bacon asserted. “We want to win as much as possible, and we’ve put in a lot of hard work to do that. I think it’s gonna pay off, and we’re gonna go far this year. I think we can be even better than we were last year.”

 

video and interviews by Siobhan Richards