“Brett’s steady back there, and Mike is a good contact hitter and a great defensive catcher. Genaro’s strong, too,” Ward said. “We’re playing about 40 games in seven weeks, so it’s good to have some guys who can give you innings back there.”
The same is true of pitching. Senior Ryan Hyjek, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound power righty, anchors the Vikings’ staff and was 4-0 last season before an injury. Sean Buckland, a sophomore, pitched well at the end of his freshman season and tossed a shutout in last year’s MASCAC title game. He’s coming off his first win of the year, over Bates last weekend.
Senior Ed Deren is another valuable rotation cog, while Lynn English grad Matt Burnham transferred in from junior college and looks like he could throw some important innings. Matt Termenne is also a reliable bullpen arm.
Another transfer, Pete Gonski, has been nearly flawless in three appearances. He’s 1-0 with one save and has struck out 11 with zero walks in 12 innings of work.
“It’s a real mix,” Ward said. “We have a lot of experienced position players, but we’re calling on some young pitchers to give us innings. We have a real good freshman class, but there’s an adjustment as they learn. Ryan’s our anchor.”
Some young players from around the North Shore have stepped in and contributed for Salem State. Beverly’s Alex Toomey, a freshman, is hitting .379 with six RBI in nine starts, and fellow ex-Panther Anthony DiOrio has made eight starts with four RBI.
Kevin Carens is another lineup mainstay, batting in the .370-range with a team-high seven stolen bases.
“We have guys that have been with us, that know what it takes, and some young guys with ability that are learning what this level is about,” said Ward. “It’s coming together. I’ve seen a lot of improvement since we’ve been back from Florida, and the goal is to get more consistent. If we can get more consistent, we’re hoping we can repeat and go back to the NCAA tournament. We’re optimistic we can find that consistency.”