Warriors won first league title since 1989, clinched first tourney berth since 2009
Published in the July 1, 2015
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Memorial High baseball team reached its first goal by making the state tournament which was something that eluded the Warriors in 2014.
Wakefield also reached goal number two by capturing the Middlesex League Freedom division title, its first league championship since 1989.
The third goal of making a state tournament run wasn’t realized and will be a focal point for the Warriors next year.
Wakefield had one of its finest seasons ever as it posted a 15-6 overall record and 13-3 record in the M.L. Freedom division. The Warriors hosted Concord-Carlisle in a Div. 2 North first tournament game, their first postseason game in six years and came up short by a 4-2 score to have its season come to an end.
“Our first goal was to make the playoffs. The second goal was to win the Freedom division. The third goal was to make a run in the playoffs,” said Coach Keith Forbes, who completed his second year as head coach for the Warriors. “We achieved our first two goals.”
Wakefield finished with a 9-11 record in ‘14 and missed qualifying for the state tournament by one game. This year, Wakefield not only made the state tournament but finished at the top of the league. The Warriors won a lot of close games this past spring, something Forbes isn’t sure Wakefield would’ve done a year ago.
“There were a lot of games where we gutted it out,” said Forbes. “This was my second season and we made the natural progression. We got off to a good start last year but struggled in the second half. This year, we were able to battle through to get the wins. Next year, we’ll look to do that in the playoffs.
“There was definitely a different atmosphere for the playoffs with the big crowd. We weren’t used to that,” continued Forbes. “There were nine teams from our league that made the playoffs and they were all close games. Fortunately in most games we came out on the right side. The teams in our league were relatively close from top to bottom and we were involved in a lot of tight games.”
The Warriors had the ability to make the plays in the field, get good pitching and had some big at bats. They nearly came back against Concord-Carlisle with a late seventh inning rally as well.
“Going forward we want to get a win in the tournament and make a run,” said Forbes. “Over the 20 games, I think we played well. At the varsity level when you make the plays and have some timely base hits, you give yourself a chance to win. That makes a difference in tight games.”
While Wakefield was fairly consistent during the regular season, the state tournament is a different animal, particularly the first postseason game when higher and lower seeded teams have their ace pitchers going. The Warriors will be better for having the experience this year.
“On any given day with any given pitcher, that’s why the first game of the tournament is so tough,” said Forbes. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but the lefty for Concord (Spencer Meyer) won 10 games for them. You really have to be on your game in the tournament because all the teams are good.”
Although the Warriors will be graduating eight seniors, they have plenty of returning juniors and sophomores with significant varsity experience to make another run at a state tournament berth, the league title and a postseason run.
“The JV went 18-1 and had a fantastic season and I believe the freshmen went 11-5 and also had a good season,” said Forbes. “The talent is there to step up and pick up the slack left by the seniors. What the seniors did this year was one of the biggest reasons why we had the success we did. They showed tremendous leadership in the dugout. I would expect this year’s juniors to do the same next year.”
The Warrior seniors included Mike Caraglia, Anthony Cecere, Neil Fitzgerald, Luke Martin, Andrew Patti, Shawn Smeglin, Joe Stackhouse and Joe Greer. Martin and Cecere were the captains of this year’s team.
Caraglia, Cecere, Fitzgerald, Patti and Smeglin all batted over .300. As a team, the Warriors batted. 302. Caraglia batted .314, Cecere hit .333, Fitzgerald batted .324, Patti had a .339 batting average and Smeglin batted .302.
Cecere had 22 hits, 16 runs scored, four doubles, three triples and a home run. He was second on the team in RBIs with 14. Cecere also stole eight bases.
Patti had 21 hits with 15 runs scored, three doubles, two triples and had six RBIs.
Smeglin and Stackhouse were also two of Wakefield’s top pitchers.
Smeglin logged 38 2/3 innings and had a 2-1-2 record. The right-hander gave up 20 runs (18 earned) on 38 hits for a 3.26 ERA. Smeglin struck out 35 batters and walked 17.
Stackhouse hurled 23 innings mostly out of the bullpen with an occasional spot start. The senior left-hander had a 3-0-2 record with a 1.52 ERA. Stackhouse gave up eight runs (five earned) on 13 hits. He walked walked 18 batters, struck out nine and hit five batters.
The five returning juniors this spring included Andrew Auld, Tighe Beck, Corey Imbriano, Paul McGunigle and Matt Mercurio.
Auld was Wakefield’s number one pitcher as he hurled 44 2/3 innings and had a 5-2-1 record. The right-hander gave up 23 runs (14 earned) on 35 hits. He struck out 38 batters, walked 18 and hit 11 batters. He had an ERA of 2.19.
Mercurio was Wakefield’s catcher and he had a terrific season and was named the M.L. Freedom division MVP. Mercurio batted .339 with 21 hits. The junior scored five runs, had eight doubles and led the team in RBIs with 18.
“Defensively, Mercurio played very well. Teams had just 12 stolen bases against him while he was behind the plate. He threw out eight out of 20 runners which is pretty good for high school,” said Forbes. “He blocked everything in front of him behind the plate and he led the team in RBIs. He really improved on pop-ups and you don’t always realize how important it is to make those tough plays in foul territory. He really matured.”
Imbriano batted leadoff for the Warriors and hit .323 with 21 hits. He scored 19 runs, had two doubles, one triple and drove in six runs. He stole nine bases, which was tied for the team high with Beck. Imbriano had a sore right arm and pitched just three innings this season. But he could move into the rotation next year.
Wakefield had several players that saw time with both the varsity and JV teams this year. One of those players was sophomore pitcher Mike Guanci.
Guanci had a 5-1 record for the Warriors as he pitched 26 innings. The right-hander gave up 13 runs (six earned) on 20 hits. Guanci struck out 12, walked 12 and hit two batters. Guanci, who had an ERA of 1.62, gives the varsity another strong arm returning next year.
The rest of the JV players that saw varsity time included juniors Adam Chanley, Max Marchino, Dylan Melanson, Zach Kane and Zach Thomas and sophomores Tim Hurley, Will Shea, Carmen Sorrentino, Ben Coccoluto and John Evangelista.
“We have a great group of juniors and sophomores,” said Forbes. “I’m looking forward to next year.”