SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 10, 2013

Around the Horn: Fenwick's St. A's bound Levasseur ready to carry pitching load

Around the Horn
Matt Williams

---- — Around the Horn

Matt Williams

PEABODY — The Bishop Fenwick baseball team had a tough outing in their season opener at home Monday, falling to Catholic Central League rival Arlington Catholic.

The Crusaders were disappointed, but they’re not going to panic. They plan to be around at the end of the season.

It’s easy to understand why; Fenwick has been to the Division 3 North semi-finals each of the last three seasons, and while they had some turnover in graduation, the Brown-and-Gold return three-year contributors seniors in Joe Levasseur, Gianni Esposito, Mike MacKenzie, Brian Burke, Andrew Lessard and junior Nick Bona.

“The year really flew by. We couldn’t wait for the seasons to start,” said Levasseur. “We almost wish it would slow down now, but its well worth it. I love this team, everybody gets together and we’re excited.”

Levassuer, who went 7-0 on the hill as a sophomore and won state tourmaments games in both his 10th and 11th grade years, is ready to take the mantle as Fenwick’s top starting pitcher.

The righty from Rowley took the ball in the opener and struck out eight over five innings. He’s also committed to throw for St. Anselm College next year.

“I feel like I can lead us,” said Levasseur. “When I get the ball, I’m always going to give it 110 percent and do my best to win for the team.”

After spending the offseason working out and adding strentch, Levasseur’s fastball has a little more zip this spring. When he’s locating his breaking ball, he’s proven very difficult to hit.

“His velocity is definitely up,” said Fenwick coach Kevin Canty. “When he’s on with that breaking stuff, he’s tough. I think what you saw from him in the middle innings (against AC) is what you’ll see more of this year.”

Levassuer also hits in the No. 4 spot for the Crusaders, who were frustrated by AC pitcher Evan Walsh and struck out 13 times in the game

“I think we’ll bounce back. It was a tough day getting used to things, but like coach told us, we’ll make those adjustments,” said Levasseur.

Lessard and junior James Dellisola threw well in Monday’s game and Tommy Parsons is a reliable hurler, giving Fenwick solid pitching depth.

At the plate, there’s speed at the top of the order in Jhon Oliveira and MacKenzie, followed by plenty of power with Bona, Levasseur, catcher Esposito and first baseman Burke. Eric Razney is like a second leadoff man with his speed in the No. 9 hole and nearly ignited a rally when he reached to lead off the bottom of the seventh Monday.

“Our guys might have lost the focus on their approach at the plate (Monday), but we’ll get that back,” said Canty. “We have two more tough games this week and we have to be playing our type of baseball. We have to be up for all of them.”

Levasseur will join former Fenwick standout Zach Brian in Manchester, New Hampshire, pitching for St. A’s. Brian is a junior on the Hawks staff.

“One of my overnight visits was with Zach. He was a captain my freshman year and he was a great leader,” Levasseur said. “That class, and David Ruggereo’s class, were all about leadership and how to play the game right. They showed my class and we’re trying to pass that on now.”

Losing a frontline pitcher like Kevin Church to graduation is never easy, but the Crusaders are thrilled to have an arm like Levasseur’s to slot into those games against top-flight competition. The last few years, that’s been the Fenwick way: Reloading and making a run at the D3 title.

“I want the ball. I love getting out there and going my thing, showing that I can compete,” said Levasseur. “The seniors here, we feel like once everything clicks we can get on a roll. We hope we’re ready to go.”

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Longtime St. John’s Prep coach Pat Yanchus confirmed over the weekend that 2013 will indeed be his last season as Eagles head coach. Inducted into the Mass. State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame last spring, the 1967 St. John’s graduate has upwards of 460 wins in his 33 seasons; he’s one of the all-time winningest coaches in North Shore history in any sport.

The Eagles are mashing the ball at the plate, with 26 runs scored in their last two games. Senior catcher Paul Crehan and senior centerfielder Alex Moore, both starting full-time for the first time, have looked excellent with two hits each in their last two games.

It could be said that the Prep now has five Division 1 commits on their roster. Third baseman Tyler Noe will play for coach Ken Harring at UMass-Lowell next season as the River Hawks make the jump to D1 in America East. You may recall Noe’s older brother Rob landed at Lowell and had a dynamite senior season catching Beverly lefty Jack Leathersich.

St. John’s first baseman Nick Bragole is also committed at play at St. Anselm, giving the Eagles an all-college bound infield in Noe, Brandon Bingel (Bryant), Tommy Buonopane (Rhode Island) and Bragole.

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Pingree beat Brooks in their season opener, then fell twice to Worcester Academy over the weekend. The Highlanders are going up against more bigger schools in Concord and Cushing later this week; it’s a tough stretch, especially against teams with post-graduate students, but the Highlanders feel they’ll benefit in the long run.

“We loaded up the front end with some bigger schools,” coach Chris Powers said. “There’s some tough competition there so we’ll be ready when its time to play in the league.”

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Peabody is looking to snap a two game home losing streak dating back to last year’s state tournament exit this afternoon against Beverly. It’s an early season NEC Large test that will be followed up another home challenge against Lynn English. The Panthers and Bulldogs play their first game next Wednesday, which will gave us an early barometer of where teams stand in the division.

In the Small, for any matchup between Danvers, Marblehead and Gloucester to be telling. The fun begins Friday when the Magicians go over the bridge to visit Gloucester and continues Monday morning as the Falcons visit Seaside Park.

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Around the Horn, a column on North Shore high school baseball, appears in The Salem News every Wednesday during the spring sports season. Contact assistant sports editor Matt Williams at 978-338-2669, MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN. #StrikeOutALS.