By STEPHEN MARTELLUCCI
NORTH READING — Last summer was a tough one for the North Reading A’s as they went 3-17-1 finishing in 11th-place out of 12 teams in the North Shore Baseball League (ages 18 and over). The team lost 15 veterans from that squad with 15 new members this year to replace them on the 30-man roster.
Joe Dardeno is back as the team’s player-manager. The North Reading resident has been on the team for 17 years and this is his 9th-season as both player and manager.
Overall, five of the A’s are from North Reading. The four other North Reading residents are Frank Cassarino (infielder), Ryan Baker (pitcher), Mike Vittozzi (second base) and Derek Reilly (catcher). Cassarino and Vittozzi were on the team last season.
The A’s will play a 24-game schedule with the top eight teams qualifying for the playoffs. North Reading has not made the postseason since 2018.
The A’s opened the season back on June 3 and the regular season will end on July 25.
After 14 games, the A’s record sits at 7-7 (sixth place) as they lost to the North Shore Phillies, 12-1, back on July 1.
“We had a lot of injuries the past couple of years, especially with our pitchers,” explained Dardeno. “This year we have been pretty healthy and our new guys at the top of the lineup have made a big difference.”
Derek Hoh leads the team in batting average at .469 while fellow newcomer, Evan Brown, is second at .455. A third new player, Cole Farmer, is third in average at .400.
Farmer leads the team in runs batted in with 12 while Brown is second with nine. Vittozzi is third with eight.
Hoh leads the team in walks with 11 while Brown is second with eight.
Pitcher Phil Nichols leads the team in innings with 21 as he is 2-2 with an earned-run average of 4.00. Dylan Stevens (1-0) has not allowed a run in 10 innings. He has one save and he has struck out 15.
Shawn Joubert is 2-0 with a 2.90 ERA.
The next game for the team is on Friday night (July 8) at 6 p.m. as they host the Marblehead Seasiders at Carey Park.
The A’s then go to Memorial Field in Essex on Sunday to take on the host Manchester Marlins at 4:30 p.m. On July 11, the A’s welcome the North Shore Storm at 6 p.m.
The next night, the A’s visit Erias Park to face the Rowley NorEasters at 6 p.m. as they play three games in three days.