By STEPHEN MARTELLUCCI
NORTH READING — Although the North Reading A’s just missed out on a playoff spot by one point in the North Shore Baseball League this summer, it was still a very good season for the team. Last year, they went 3-17-1 finishing in 11th-place out of 12 teams.
The team lost 15 veterans from that squad with 15 new members this year to replace them on the 30-man roster and they improved to 11-13 this summer coming in 9th place.
“I was proud of the team this year,” said A’s player-manager Joe Dardeno, who just completed his 17th-year on the team and ninth as the team’s manager. “Yes, is was disappointing not to make the playoffs but it was still a good season.”
The A’s last made the postseason in 2016.
Dardeno, the team’s oldest player, had a strong season hitting .319 with 17 runs batted in playing only 16 games.
According to Dardeno, four new players on the roster made a big difference: Derek Hoh, Cole Farmer, Evan Brown and Phil Nichols.
Hoh led off, Farmer batted second and Brown hit third. Nichols was the team’s top pitcher.
“Derek grinded out at-bats and had a great on-base percentage,” said Dardeno.
Hoh was 11th in the league in average at .431 with an on-base percentage of .605. He drew 21 walks (tied for second in the league) and had 11 RBI. He tied for seventh in the league in steals with 11.
Farmer, an outfielder and second baseman, was 15th in the league in average at .423. He was tied for fourth in RBI with 20 and tied for 14th in on-base percentage at .506.
“Cole is one of the toughest kids I have ever coaches,” stated Dardeno.
Brown finished fifth in the league in average at .452. He came in sixth overall in RBI with 18 and fourth in on-base percentage at .561.
“He was clutch for us with several big games,” said Dardeno.
Nichols went 5-2 on the mound with an earned-run average of 3.33. He pitched 40 innings walking 13 and striking out 56. The five wins were tied for first in the league and the strikeouts were second overall.
“He was our ace all year,” said Dardeno.
The A’s were the second-best hitting team in the league hitting .315, only behind the first-place North Shore Phillies who hit .324.
Overall, five of the A’s were from North Reading. The four other North Reading residents were Frank Cassarino (infielder), Ryan Baker (pitcher), Mike Vittozzi (second base) and Derek Reilly (catcher). Cassarino and Vittozzi were on the team last season.
Vittozzi had a big year as he hit .431 which was ninth in the league. He had an on-base percentage of .547 which is seventh overall in the league.
“Mike was impressive,” said Dardeno, about the second and third baseman. “He took a giant step forward this season.”
Early next week, the All-Stars and other individual awards will be given out by the league.