By Matt Williams
---- — You can’t win seven consecutive league titles without reloading somewhere along the way.
So while the Peabody High baseball team has some holes to fill as they took to make it eight straight this spring, its nothing the Tanners haven’t faced before.
Senior ace Pat Ruotolo, who is committed to the University of Connecticut, gives them a rock atop the starting rotation. He’s coming off a junior season in which he threw three no-hitters and was MVP of the Northeastern Conference.
He’ll be throwing to a new catcher in senior transfer Brandon Polignone, and the strikeout artist could have all of Peabody’s senior captains behind him in the infield in George Tsonis (third base), Matt McIsaac (shortstop/second base), Steve Leavitt (second base) and Frank Lowry (first base).
Positionally, some things for Peabody are up in the air. The Tanners typically like to play as many as seven scrimmages, but were limited to three by inclement weather. That and the influx of a talented sophomore class have some moving parts in the lineup in the early going.
“A lot of things haven’t played out yet. There are young guys putting pressure on the players ahead of them, and they’ll continue to do that as the season progresses,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt, who has 130 wins in nine seasons.
Four junior hurlers are vying for the No. 2 spot in the pitching rotation: Andrew McLaughlin, David Apostolitis, Brandon Butcher and Derek Demild. They dedicated themselves to Bettencourt’s offseason program and are prepared to carry the load, though they could be challenged by sophomores Mike Raymond and Matt Correale.
“They put in a lot of time with (pitching coach) Gary Linehan, and we’re hoping that effort will pay dividends,” said Bettencourt. “It’s a chess match sometimes to see who matches up where and we’ve been evaluating them day by day.”
Seniors Maynard Wheeler and Robbie Crovo are in line to step into outfield roles, though Correale, Raymond and classmate Matt Gonick had strong preseasons. Sean McGrath started as a sophomore last year and will contend for time when he recovers from an injury.
In the infield, sophomores Ryan Collins, Tanner Moquin and Mike Petrosino could challenge for playing time. Senior Max Gordon is a solid bat that could contribute as well.
The names may be changing, but the general philosophy remains for the Tanners. They’ll be a prepared, aggressive team that takes on all comers and works for every out.
“That’s the way we’ve always done things and our goals don’t change,” Bettencourt said. “Our guys are motivated to keep that going, though our league looks very good with Lynn English, Beverly, Danvers, Gloucester and other. It’s tough top to bottom.”