High school baseball previews: Inexperience all-around as 2021 campaign revs into high gear

  • Hopkinton sophomore Joe Yanko makes a play during a scrimmage against Bow in Hopkinton on April 10. Both teams begin their regular-season schedules on April 19. JEFF SULLIVAN photos / sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Bow’s Owen Petretta (7) waits for a throw as Hopkinton’s Hunter Boissey dives into first base during a scrimmage on Saturday, April 10, in Hopkinton. Both teams begin their regular-season schedules on Monday, April 19.

  • Hopkinton junior Hunter Boissey (right) and baseball coach Dave Chase look down the third base line during a scrimmage against Bow in Hopkinton on April 10. JEFF SULLIVAN / sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Hopkinton second baseman Joe Yanzo waits for the throw while shortstop Bryce Charron (15) backs up and Bow's Alex Magdziasz slides into second base during a scrimmage on Saturday, April 10. Both teams begin their regular season on Monday, April 19. JEFF SULLIVAN—sullivaneventphotography.com

Monitor staff
Published: 4/14/2021 3:05:52 PM

The last time high school baseball championships were being decided in New Hampshire, Bow, Hopkinton and Pittsfield were all in their division finals. But that was back in 2019, and even those championship-caliber programs are feeling an unprecedented lack of experience as they head into the 2021 campaign.

“Looks to be a rebuilding year,” Bow coach Ben Forbes said.

“Not a lot of experience and with no varsity or JV season last year we will have to do a lot of work to teach the game to a majority of the players,” Hopkinton coach Dave Chase said.

Pittsfield actually has five starters back from the 2019 squad that went 19-2 and lost in the Division IV final to Newmarket. But after losing the entire 2020 season to the coronavirus, even Panthers coach Rob Stockman is feeling the effects.

“We return a solid core of players, but we lack varsity experience and pitching experience as a whole,” Stockman said.

Senior captain and catcher Jesse MacGlashing will provide plenty of leadership, and offense, for Pittsfield. Gavin Bedell started for the Panthers as an eighth-grader, so he has two years of varsity time even though he’s a junior. Bedell and senior Decota Maura-Giddis will anchor the pitching rotation. Those two will also provide experience in the field, as will seniors Ben and Caleb Stopyro, the other two returning starters. Stockman believes that varsity newcomers Abraham Marcotte, Jared Beliveau, Jordan Rude and Riley Reed will add depth to what is already a very solid offensive lineup.

Pittsfield will be playing in a cluster of D-IV teams from the southern half of the state as athletic schedules continue to be regionalized to varying degrees as a health and safety precaution. The NHIAA’s postseason tournaments will be open to any team that wants to participate and seedings will be random, as they were in the fall and winter.

Chase is entering his 25th season as Hopkinton’s head coach and brings back three players (Bryce Charron, Peyton Marshall, Jack Morrall) who were freshman starters on the 2019 team that went 16-5 and lost to White Mountains in the D-III final. Hopkinton also has senior pitcher/infielder Logan Briand, a transfer from Mascoma, and Chase likes what he’s seen from juniors Max Aframe and Owen O’Brien and sophomores Joe Yanko and Armen Laylagian.

“We have some really good young arms,” Chase said, “and if they throw strikes we should be in most games.”

Bow returns only two starters from the team 2019 D-II title team that finished 18-2 after a walk-off championship win against Hollis Brookline. But those two are juniors Matt Lamy and Kyle Martin, a talented, athletic pair that can both pitch and play multiple defensive positions. Forbes believes senior Anthony Constant and juniors Myles Rheinhardt, Owen Petretta and Ethan Clark are ready for the varsity level, but he’s not so sure about the top teams in D-II.

“It’s baseball in New Hampshire, it could be anyone,” Forbes said.

That certainly includes John Stark, which had the best season in program history in 2019 when the Generals reached the D-II semifinals and finished 16-3. Senior co-captains Brady Phillibotte and Austin Hazzard were starters on that team and both versatile players who can hit. They’re already planning on playing together next year just down Route 114 from Stark at New England College. Junior Nathan Innerfield was a Third Team D-II pick in 2019 and will bat leadoff, play centerfield and see time on the mound this season for coach Dennis Pelletier, who has upperclassmen-only roster – seven seniors and six juniors. 

“Plenty of newcomers to the program will have major roles on the team this year,” Pelletier said. “We hope to be contender again in a wide open Division II.”

Merrimack Valley might make some noise in D-II, especially with its pitching depth. Senior Griffin Wheeler and junior Ben Rose, the two returning starters from the 2019 team that went 9-7, lead that good group of arms that includes senior Aiden Wood and junior Owen Bernier. When he’s not on the mound, Wheeler will play short and anchor MV’s infield defense, which should be another strength with Bryant Heath, Aidan Lacasse and Rose capable of playing any position and a group of three vying for time at first base.

Coe-Brown also seems to have some nice pitching depth, which will help first-year coach Greg Gilbert as he learns about his team. Seniors Cole Smith and Thomas Trumble, the only returning varsity players from the 2019 squad that went 11-7 and reached the D-II quarterfinals, are part of that pitching group, as are juniors Jack Lano and Camren Winde and sophomore Tommy Flanagan. Gilbert likes the Bears athleticism, especially the speed he’s seen in the outfield and on the basepaths.

Pembroke Academy has three starters back from 2019 that can all pitch and play the infield – seniors Lucas Escabi and Cove Boucher and junior Ryan Ardine. Coach Josh Coughlin, now in his 11th season at PA, has more pitching arms to work with in juniors Preston Wallis, Brent Cloonen and Jayden King, and the coach likes what he’s seen from sophomore Landon Pearson, who has been playing multiple positions during the preseason.

“All positions are up for grabs this spring,” said Coughlin, whose team finished 7-10 in 2019 after losing in the first round of the D-II playoffs.

Kearsarge went 1-15 in D-II in 2019, but the Cougars are in D-III this year, although the regionalized schedules make divisions somewhat irrelevant until tournament time. Senior infielder Noah Gray is the Cougars leader and one of three returning starters along with senior catcher Graham Biagiotti and junior outfielder Nate Taylor. Senior Will Cleveland can fill in at several spots for coach Jon Hamel, who will five mound time to some young arms in sophomores Ben Biagiotti and Riley Daniels, and freshmen Eli Gray and Davin Selby.

“Although I’m fully aware of how competitive D-III is, I’m hoping moving down a division from two years ago will give the team a little more confidence and hopefully we can keep games competitive,” Hamel said.

Bishop Brady and coach Skip Foy, now in his 16th year with the Giants, will once again be in the D-III playoffs when the season ends, but Brady will open its season agaisnt D-II Stark on Monday and six of its 11 games will be against D-II teams. The Giants have four seniors with varsity experience, including lefthanded pitcher Connor Treybig, who is expected to be one of the top pitchers in D-III. Seniors Darren Earley (catcher), Jake Blake (shortstop, pitcher) and Cody Fuller (pitcher, first base) are the other Giants with varsity time. Sophomore Michael Thresher figures to slot in at No. 2 in the rotation behind Treybig, while Fuller and junior Matt Wiley will pitch in relief.

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