“I think if anything, it gives the pitching staff lot of confidence because they know they can challenge hitters. Good teams are strong up the middle and we’ve gotten strong catching, and our shortstop play has been outstanding,” said Ward. “Trowt is the best center fielder I’ve seen as far as getting a jump on ball and the range that he has.”
Ryan Hyjek, recently named team MVP, has been Salem State’s best arm on the mound this season. He’s 4-0 record in five starts with 38 strikeouts, seven walks and an ERA of 1.36. But he was injured for a portion of the spring and the Vikings needed other pitchers to step up, especially the last few weeks.
So step up they did. Ryan Sharp has been phenomenal with a perfect 5-0 record in five starts (covering 9 appearances) with an earned run average of 2.25. Cato Lacroix and Ed Deren have combined for 13 starts while Peabody native Andrew Guido, the team’s closer, has a team-high 15 appearances with a 3-0 record and three saves.
“A lot of guys on the staff have stepped up. Sharp’s a senior and has had a breakthrough year. Ed Duran struggled early, but in the second half he’s pitched real well,” said Ward, recently honored as the MASCAC’s Coach of the Year. “Andrew Guido has done a great job closing out games; he’s been in a lot of tough spots and pitched really well for us. It’s good to have a veteran at the back of bullpen.”
Salem State currently has four hitters with averages above .300 including Salines (.367), MASCAC Rookie of the Year Richard Fecteau (.359), Matt Burgess (.319), and Gloucester’s Cahill (.311) while Buitkus is at .299 and Newburyport native Kyle McElroy is hitting .287. But it’s been the aggressive baserunning that has really elevated the SSU offense, which has scored 199 runs and stolen 57 bags on 72 attempts. Buitkus (13-of-14 successful thefts), McElroy (8-of-11), Fecteau (8-of-10) and Burgess (8-of-9) have all been consistent threats on the basepaths.
“Starting about three years ago, we’ve focused on baserunning and attacking other teams,” said Ward, who had previously been an assistant for longtime coach Ken Perrone’s staff. “It’s something we practice every day, and it’s a big part of our strategy. We’re fortunate to have the athletes who can take advantage of that.”