Home runs are the easiest way to get runs around the bases, followed next by extra-base hits to the wall.
The best way to get runs home? Now that’s something that’s open to interpretation.
Sure, there are a lot less variables when you club the ball towards or over the fence; that’s why pro baseball’s analytical minds love homers. Variance makes baseball fun, however.
It makes it the thinking man’s game, and few situations make a hitter think more than striding to the plate with ducks on the proverbial pond.
How many outs are there? Is my team behind by one run, or multiple runs, or are we ahead? How fast is my teammate on the basepaths? What’s the pitcher trying to make me do, is he going to offer something flat or with a little life, and what can I do with it?
Those are just a few questions hitters ask themselves in the 10 seconds between pitches as they try to collect the almighty RBI.
“You do have to adjust to certain situations to get the job done,” Danvers senior captain Brendan Trohon said. “If it’s a harder thrower, I try to stand closer to the plate and get up a little bit. If he’s attacking, I might move back and try to sit on a fastball.”
Assumption-bound slugger Sean Moynihan of Masconomet has led the North Shore in RBI all year and still tops the leaderboard with 20. He’s hitting .425 for the Chieftains (8-4) and has been remarkably consistent this spring by focusing on using all fields and making the most of whatever the pitcher offers up.
“I try and keep my approach gap-to-gap,” said Moynihan. “If we’re down, especially in a one run game, I’ll try and shorten up a bit for a line drive. If there’s someone on third with less than two outs, you want to free up and put the ball in the air to get him home.”
Not that the home run is a bad thing. Hamilton-Wenham’s Nick Freni has five of those so far this year and a team-leading 18 RBI. He insists he’s not looking to stroke the ball over the fence when he gets up, whether or not there are men on base.
“The biggest thing is just putting a good swing on the ball,” said Freni, who’s hitting .444 this year. “The ball’s carrying for me right now and I’m generating good power. It’s important not to go up there trying to do too much and get out of control.”
Faith in teammates is a huge part of being a good RBI-guy. Every run counts the same, so a willingness to roll over a groundball if it lets a man sneak in the backdoor from third comes in handy. Finding a way to get the ball deep enough to tie a game with a sacrifice fly can be just as meaningful as a round-tripper, in certain situations.
“We talk about doing jobs,” said Hamilton-Wenham senior captain Ryan Hutchinson, who has 12 RBI with a.372 average this year. “Your job is going to change in different situations and you’ve got to be willing to change your approach as it goes; the thing I love about our team is the lineup is do deep that no one guy feels like he’s up there doing it by himself.”
It’s also impossible to knock in runs without teammates finding their way on in front of you. Sluggers like Moynihan at Masconomet are grateful to hit behind tremendous hitters like Aaron Zenus (.333) and others.
“I struck gold having Z in front of me and all the different guys we’ve had in the two-hole,” said Moynihan. “They’ve given me a ton of great chances (to drive in runs).”
The approach can even change from ballpark to ballpark. It’s easier to swing for the fences in a place like Swampscott or at St. John’s Prep in Danvers. A spacious park like Seaside in Marblehead requires a different sort of discipline.
“With our field, if you just put the ball in play there’s a good chance it’s getting through,” said Trohon, one of four Danvers Falcons with 9 RBI this year. “The infield’s a little choppy and there seems to be wind tunnels like no where else.”
The Falcons (8-6) could share the NEC North title with Gloucester if they win the rest of their league games. They’ve been succeeding with a great approach at the plate, since Trohon, John Curran, Nolan Hills and Zack Hamel are all doing a great job making contact with runners on base. Tyler O’Neill and Steve Reardon are excelling at getting on base in front of them (and even scoring in bunches on wild pitches even without RBI).
“It’s the work they put in; these guys are the first at practice and the last to leave with their own buckets of balls to take extra hits. The results follow,” Danvers coach Shawn Secondini said.
“These are guys that understand they’re not just swinging, they have a job to do. They’re understanding baseball inside and out, whether it’s moving a guy over or driving something, we can trust them in all situations.”
Catcher Charlie Titus leads a high-scoring Marblehead team with 18 RBI followed closely by Shane Keough’s 14. St. John’s Prep also has a remarkably even RBI chart, with Pat D’Amico and Nick Sollitro each having 11. Peabody’s another team with multiple-leaders: Ryan Knight (9), Juan Tolentino (8) and Brendan Smith (8).
For Beverly and Salem, youngsters are topping the RBI charts with Witches sophomore Jack Doyle having 10 and Beverly sophomore Logan Petrosino also having 10.
For the Panthers, Petrosino came up from the junior varsity after four games. Hitting behind some great on-base men like a returning Austin Bernard (.353), Sam Armbruster (.333) and Ryan Rushton (.343 also 10 RBI), among others, has given Petrosino plenty of chances to knock in runs.
“We trust all our guys to do a job when it’s their turn to have that moment,” said Beverly coach Jon Cahill, his team 6-5. “Logan’s had his number called in some big spots early in his career and he’s been up to the challenge every time.”
Even though one player earns an RBI, it’s a team responsibility to get a runner home and (outside a solo homer) it wouldn’t be possible without contributions from teammates. That’s why the most cohesive, unselfish teams also tend to be the ones that score the most runs.
“With us, the number of seniors we have is a big contributing factor,” H-W coach Reggie Madiment said. “They’re such a tight-knit bunch, they don’t care who gets the credit or who gets the RBI, they just want the run on the board for team. That makes everyone willing to do the job for the team.”
It’d be hard to argue the best defensive outfielder in the Northeastern Conference isn’t Peabody senior captain Ryan Knight. His range in center is incredible and he seems to make at least one diving catch per game on a ball he has no business getting.
“It’s not an accident,” Tanner coach Mark Bettencourt said. “Come to our batting practice and you’ll see Ryan diving all over the field, chasing balls, finding out what he can and can’t get to. He knows exactly when to dive and when to let the ball fall ... and at the next level, he’s learning how to fake a catch to freeze a runner so he can scoop it on a hop and throw a guy out.”
Signed to play at Hartford University, Knight is no slouch with the bat even though he’s not getting many pitches to hit. He’s drawn 14 walks this year while hitting .400 and getting on base at a .571 clip.
Swampscott catcher Connor Correnti made some great throws in Sunday’s narrow loss to Peabody, playing a major role in the Tanners making five outs on the basepaths. It wasn’t all throwing runners out stealing in conventional ways; twice Correnti recovered from plays at the plate to fire the ball up the third base line. His throws beat the runner by several steps on both occasions for easy tags.
“Defensively, he’s been a great backstop. 100 percent everything you want from your catcher, controlling the game and calling the defense,” Big Blue coach Joe Caponigro said. “He’s a really high baseball IQ kid and he’s been our most consistent player all year.”
Great to see Bishop Fenwick’s Chris Faraca earn his first pitching win since 2018 with a victory over Winthrop over the weekend. The Crusaders’ primary catcher this year, he made his first appearance in the mound since undergoing Tommy John surgery after his freshman year and struck out four.
“We were happy for Chris. We were a little leery with the surgery and definitely felt like three innings was the max but he threw it really well,” said Fenwick coach Russ Steeves.
The Crusaders (8-8) have used 11 different pitchers this year and have five guys with at least one win, one of the largest staffs among all North Shore teams. As the stretch run approaches, they’re still getting their ducks in a row to work out bullpen roles and possible rotation arms behind aces Christian Loescher, Anthony Marino and Brendan Bloom.
“We’ve just walked too many guys,” Steeves said. “That lends itself to long innings and having to use a lot of different guys.”
St. John’s Prep (10-2) is locked into the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Catholic Conference playoffs. The Eagles will get a bye into the semifinals, which they’ll tentatively host Saturday morning at Frates Diamond. Should they advance, the title game would be next Monday at No. 1 seed Xaverian (unless the Hawks lose, in which case the Prep would host).
The MIAA is using its previous alignments for this year’s North tournament, which will be seeded next Wednesday and Thursday with games as early as Friday June 18.
That means Division 1 North (St. John’s Prep and Peabody) could have as many as 25 teams; Division 2 North (Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Masconomet, Salem) could also have as many as 25; Division 3 North (Bishop Fenwick, Essex Tech, Swampscott) could have as many as 29; and Division 4 North (Hamilton-Wenham, Ipswich) could have as many as 35.
Each bracket will be seeded by win percentage with preliminary or first round games played to get the bracket to even numbers (16 or 32). So in a 25 team bracket there would be seven byes, etc.
North Attleboro’s Nick Sinacola struck out 139 batters and was named an All-American for Maine this spring, which has me thinking about his epic battle with Beverly’s Spencer Brown in the 2018 Division 2 state title game.
Sincaola struck out nine in a 4-3 win but Brown took him to the warning track with a 3-run triple to the wall at Lowell’s LeLacheur Park. Another two inches and it would’ve been a grand slam. Brown now plays in the LA Angles organization and soon Sinacola will also be a drafted ... pretty cool to look back on a battle between two future professionals.
Around the Horn, a column on North Shore high school baseball, appears in The Salem News each Wednesday during the spring season. Contact Matt Williams at MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow along on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN #StrikeOutALS