Rivier baseball looks to get a boost from locals

Photo courtesy of Rivier University Former Nashua South catcher A.J. Mele has done a good job handling the Rivier University pitching staff as a freshman this early spring.

NASHUA – The Rivier University baseball coaching staff are using an old newspaper philosophy as they move ahead this season and beyond:

Local leads.

Thus the Raiders are trying to get more New Hampshire players into their program. This year’s team has 10 freshmen, four from New Hampshire of which two are from the area – former Nashua South catcher A.J. Mele and former Merrimack pitcher Jake Mainey. The other two are from Salem – outfielder James Desmond and pitcher Corey Cochran.

“It’s always great to have local kids,” Raiders coach Anthony Perry said. “I’m a little biased as I’m local-ish. But they get it, they know what baseball is like in New England, having to find fields, change practice times, game schedules, etc. But having that local flavor is key, and it’s something myself and my associate head coach, Louie Bernardini, set out to do this past year.”

Mele, the former Panther, has been a huge plus as all three of Perry’s catchers are freshmen. “He’s really taken charge,” Perry said. “I like having the young catchers, because being a former catcher, I can train them the way I want them to be.”

And Mele is holding his own at the plate, hitting .269 at last look. Mainey, meanwhile, has picked up one of the Raiders’ three wins in relief, while Cochran has two wins, including a complete game shutout over Baruch College, with a 2.25 earned run average.

“Obviously you’re as good as you’re pitching,” Perry said. “We’ve got all good arms out there. It’s the experience and learning that they need, because of the 12 pitchers we have, seven are freshmen.”

A couple of other talented arms for the Raiders are sophomore Ryan Schaefe out of Everett, Mass., and senior Kyle Flanagan of Bradford, Mass.

Flanagan is one of just four seniors on the Raiders, and one of them, infielder Jorge Martinez out of Methuen, Mass., leads them in hitting at .342 at last look. Meanwhile, starting center fielder Fred Kazalski, a sophomore out of Dracut, Mass., is second in hitting (.311) but leads the team in RBIs with 12.

“I like they’re approach at the plate,” Perry said of the duo. “Jorge is one of our guys that bought in from Day One, and the same with Fred, who hit .310 for us last year.”

In fact, Kazalski was hitting leadoff but was moved to third in the order due to his run production. The Raiders were struggling otherwise at the plate at a team average of .202, but Perry says they haven’t forgotten about their mission – make opposing pitchers work.

“Our stats don’t reflect our approach at the plate,” he said. “But we have a state QABs, or quality at bats, and that’s what’s driving us. It’s the ability to make pitchers throw at least six pitches per at-bat. We may strike out, but we’ll make them work and get into their bullpen. We’ve done a good job at that.”

It’s a young team, and as Perry says, “What we need to get better at is the overall experience.” The Raiders did a season opening spring break trip to Fort Meyers, Fla., and in their first game against Thiel College of Greenville, Pa., they got plastered 26-6. But Perry saw something he liked, believe it or not.

“Even though we were getting smoked, we kept working, we kept encouraging each other and supporting each other,” Perry said. “And we kept competing, not talking about where we were going to dinner that night, etc.

“The hallmark of a good team is keeping good character and good work ethic. That’s what we as a staff have focused on, kids who are here for the right reasons.That’s good to see from a coaching perspective.”

The Raiders, who hope to get into Holman Stadium when it’s ready, have played a few of their games in the region at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Mass. They begin conference play in Providence, R.I.on Saturday at Johnson & Wales. They’re one of nine Great Northeast Athletic Conference teams battling for six spots.

“We’re hoping to get one of those last spots,” Perry said. “All we can do is take care of business, especially against the teams we’ll be fighting with for those spots. With such a young team, it’s simply one game at a time.”

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Still on Rivier, there’s been a couple of honors coming the Raiders way this early spring. Men’s lacrosse standout Eric Guinnasso, a senior midfielder from Pelham, was named the GNAC Player of the Week.

Guinasso registered nine points on five goals and four assists in a recent 17-7 win over Northern Vermont-Lyndon.

He converted 55.6 percent of his shots into goals with 88.9 percent on target and scooped up one ground ball. The Raiders are off to a 4-0 start and Guinasso already has 14 goals on 20 shots.

Meanwhile, Rivier men’s volleyball standout Khaynen Yocca, a senior from Pittsburgh (Pa.), was named the GNAC Offensive Player of the Week. In two recent wins he hit an even .500 with an average of 2.44 kills per set. He had 13 kills in a 3-2 win at Wentworth to go with seven digs and five blocks. Then he had nine kills in 14 tries vs. Johnson&Wales, a four-set Raider win. He is currently tops in the GNAC with a .388 hitting percentage for Riv, which was 14-7 overall at last look and the only unbeaten team in the conference at 5-0.

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Here’s a look at what some other local athletes have been doing at their respective schools, this past winter and so far this spring:

The current numbers on former Souhegan infield standout Bryce Reagan at the University of Texas:

He is hitting .227 with a double, a homer and four RBIs, but the better news is he is getting regular work for the Longhorns, having started 15 of their 18 games thus far. He also has a steal…

Colby Sawyer sophomore swimmer Zoe Daudier of Milford was named to the New England Swimming and Diving Association All-Academic team…

Former Bishop Guertin standout Mark Zoda, now at Bentley University, had quite a freshman season for the Falcons. During the winter he earned Northeast 10 Swimmer of the Week as well as Rookie of the Week honors, and he helped Bently capture the Northeast 10 championship.

Zoda was part of a record-setting 200 free relay team, but also won the individual 200 freestyle gold medal race in 1:41.53, as well as the 100 free.

Zoda twice broke the school record in the 100, posting a time of 46.08 seconds in the preliminaries and 45.83 in the finals. That’s quite a freshman season.

Former Bishop Guertin standout Meghan Cramb had a solid sophomore basketball season for Assumption College, starting 27 of 28 games while averaging 9.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. She scored a career high 24 points vs. SNHU back in early December…

UMass Dartmouth junior and Bishop Guertin alum Ted McCaffery was recently named the Little East Conference’s men’s lacrosse Goalie of the Week. McCaffery had eight saves in a 10-6 win over Dean College. McCaffery is a native of Pepperell, Mass…

Spring track has begun for most schools and Southern New Hampshire University junior Alanna Murphy of Nashua ran a 15.92 in the 100 hurdles and a 1:15.03 in the 400 hurdles, and also anchored the Penmen’s eighth place 4×100 relay team in the recent Black and Gold Challenge meet in Orlando, Fla….

Merrimack College women’s lacrosse senior goalie Lauren Trepaney of Amherst, a Bishop Guertin grad, had a couple of key saves down the stretch of the Warriors’ big recent 10-6 win over Pace. Merrimack at last look was ranked 19th in the nation in Division II…

Milford’s Erin Tyrell, a junior infielder at Southern New Hampshire University, is hitting .362 in 18 games with two homers, four doubles, a triple and five RBIs…

The UMass Lowell softball team has a definite Hudson presence. Alvirne alum Sarah Siteman has four doubles in 14 games as a catcher for the River Hawks, who have Hudson’s Taylor Carbone as an assistant coach…

Nashua North alum Brendan Barrett is hitting .393 in nine games with a double and a triple for the Colby Sawyer as a senior infielder…

Meanwhile, Nashua South alum Alex Parrott had a homer, double, and six RBIs in going 3 for 5 for Brandeis in a 10-6 win over WPI. Parrott is a sophomore outfielder for the Judges and so far has hit .484 in nine games with an .839 slugging percentage and 12 RBIs…

Alvirne alum Greg Emanuelson is having quite a start to his senior season with Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, leading the Monks in RBIs with 22 in 11 games while hitting .375. He’s hit .313 over his first three seasons…

Merrimack’s Matt Brewster is off to a good start as a senior for the Franklin Pierce men’s lacrosse team with eight goals and three assists in the Ravens’ first three games.