Last year, Andover Baseball fought tooth and nail to reach the finals of the Central New England Prep School Baseball League (CNEPSBL) tournament, beating Tabor Academy 4-1 in the semifinals before facing Worcester Academy for the championship. In the game, the team struggled to gain the upper hand and ultimately fell short. The team ended the season with a record of 17-5, and this year it hopes to return to the championship and produce a different result.
Since last year, the team has experienced fundamental changes in its strengths and weaknesses. In the past, the team relied on strong pitching and defense. However, this year’s group will rely on its strong offense.
Head Coach Kevin Graber said, “In years past, our team has been built on really strong pitching. In fact, our top four pitchers from last year are all pitching at the college level in Division I. And our fifth pitcher, who got a lot of innings, is playing college baseball this year as well. So we had five graduating players last year that pretty much did all the pitching. Those guys have all graduated. And now we’re filling that void with capable pitchers, but they’re younger.”
Even with many of last year’s senior pitchers gone, Andover hopes to keep its pitching staff strong with the addition of multiple new faces.
“Matt Wesoloski is a one year Post Graduate and he’s going to be our front line guy. We have some younger guys who were on the pitching staff last year but didn’t get a ton of innings because we had such a Senior heavy staff. So that includes Robby Cerulle, Travis Lane, and Anthony Redfern who is a newcomer that is going to see a lot of innings. Nick Latham will get on the mound every once in awhile to help out. Sam Conte is also going to have to contribute,” Coach Graber said.
Looking forward, the team’s biggest threat is Worcester Academy.
Coach Graber said, “Worcester Academy is going to be really good. They beat us in the championship game last year. They’re returning basically their whole team and they’ve added some new pieces and they’re really strong on the mound and they have a really potent lineup. And they really like beating us. So that’s going to be a tough match-up for us.”
The team this year is not afraid of a challenge, rising to the occasion when faced by strong opponents.
Coach Graber said, “This year I see a team that’s very competitive. During our Florida trip for instance, we played really good teams and our guys were energized by that. When they saw real good competition they rose to the occasion instead of shrinking from it.”
The team is confident in its ability and is undaunted by tough competition.
Co-Captain Payton Jancsy ’16 said, “We have the talent and the depth to be the best team in the league. The only thing that could stop us, is focusing on the end goal instead of playing a game at a time.”
Co-Captain John Simourian, the only member of the team who played on the 2013 CNEPSBL Championship team, added, “Our biggest opposition is ourselves. We play our best when we focus on the little things and work to accomplish smaller, short-term goals. When we do that, the big things like a championship usually fall into place.”
The team’s strength does not lie in a single area, but rather in its well-balanced nature.
“I think the strongest area of our lineup is the balance throughout. There’s not really any place in our lineup that opponents can hide from. Whether you’re talking the lead off spot with Joe Simourian or Richie Ciufo in the two hole or our three hitter Taylor Beckett, John Simourian in the cleanup spot. Then you follow that with people like Nick Latham and Travis Lane and Robby Cerulle and Payton Jancsy and Matt Whalen. And then you add in Sam Conte and some other capable guys off the bench. That’s a pretty balanced lineup of guys that can hit throughout. There’s not a lot of dull spots there,” said Coach Graber. Andover hopes to recreate the strong leadership that led the team to its last championship.
Simourian said, “When we won a championship my freshman year, it all really started with great leadership from seniors like Rory Ziomek ’13 and Seamus O’Neill ’13. I hope that our other captain Payton Jancsy and I, along with seniors like Matt Whalen and all our PGs, can provide the leadership necessary for another championship. That and camaraderie.”
Jancsy said, “Last year we had a very successful season. As a result, we know what it takes to win. We have a lot of returners and a lot of kids that know what our program is all about. Although we have a young team, they are all experienced and know how to play at a high level.”