Armed with an arsenal of new talent surrounding a strong group of veterans, Andover Baseball played seven games at its preseason training in Florida. The team took a 10-4 win against Avon Old Farms, an 11-2 win over Rivers, and a 4-4 tie against Cheshire Academy. It also played four games against teams from Canada.
After spending the winter practicing indoors in Massachusetts, the team headed to Florida to play in an outdoor environment and get used to playing competitively before the regular season.
Head Coach Kevin Graber said, “The Florida trip’s always interesting because by and large, it’s our first time setting foot outside. This year, we didn’t have one practice. So we got to Florida, and we played a game on our first day and it’s like going from zero to 100 miles an hour in the blink of an eye. So, the first goal is to keep everybody healthy. But it is nice to get out there and see fly balls under a blue sky, and ground balls on green grass, and play catch outside and see live pitching and stuff like that. That’s just the goal, to get out there and play baseball outside.”
Andover faced tough competition from Cheshire. In its second day together as a team, Andover played a full nine-inning game with its top players in the lineup.
Coach Graber said, “Two of the best teams in the region are Cheshire Academy and Avon Old Farms. We played Cheshire day two, on Tuesday, and we finished with Avon on Friday. Those are really competitive games in which we try to run our strongest lineups out there and actually try to win those games, and they save their best for us as well.”
“Against Avon, we faced Matt Gill – one of the top pitchers in the northeast – and we had him out of the game two or three innings in; we hit him up pretty well. It was our last game, so it felt pretty good to bring that win up north with us as we head into the season. We beat a good team that’s from the New England area, so I think that in general gave us a lot of momentum,” said Post Graduate (PG) Richie Ciufo ’16.
Andover saw incredible offensive capability throughout the lineup, putting up ten runs to Avon’s four. With the addition of PG Ciufo to an offensive core consisting of catcher John Simourian ’16 and infielder Matt Whalen ’16, Andover expects to win games with its dominant hitters.
Coach Graber said, “Offensively, you can’t hide from us, anywhere in the lineup. I think we’re going to score a lot of runs… We’ve always been very pitching centered. This year we’re going to be very offensively minded and the pitching will have to prove itself. It’s a bit of a role reversal from years past.”
Despite the transition to a more offense-minded gameplan this season, Andover still bolstered its pitching rotation over the offseason. PG Matt Wesolowski ’16, who stands at an intimidating 6’ 6”, and Sam Conte ’18 joined returners Robbie Cerulle ’17 and Travis Lane ’18 on the mound in the Florida games. As a team, the Andover defense gave up four runs in each game.
The transition from a pitching centric team was noticeable and effective immediately, as Andover’s offense proved itself in a dominant performance against Avon. Despite the change, the team is now confident that it has a chance to win the Central New England Prep School Baseball League (CNEPSBL) title this year. Andover’s baseball program, which has earned six titles since 1995, suffered a devastating loss in last year’s championship game. Now that it has seen the new offense in action, there is confidence throughout the program that it can hang another championship banner.
Ciufo said, “The team definitely built more chemistry down south then we would have just practicing in the cage. [In the batter’s box], we squared up really well and we played exceptional defense.” Andover’s first game of the season will be at St. John’s Prep on Saturday.