By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — The Pioneers opened their 2015 baseball season virtually a month after preseason training began with a 13-8 loss to Amesbury on Sunday afternoon.
The extreme winter weather bled into the spring preseason and left all the fields throughout the league in such a deplorable state that multiple games had to be cancelled. The Pioneers were due to open their season back on April 4, but they were forced to postpone the first four games and struggled to get preseason scrimmages played.
As of last week they finally fit in some scrimmages against Reading, Everett, Belmont and North Andover, head coach John O’Brien said. Games against Manchester-Essex, Georgetown, Amesbury and Arlington Catholic were postponed. Sunday’s make-up game against the Indians became the season opener by default.
“The preseason has been a struggle,” admits O’Brien. Since the mound on their new field was not completed at the end of the construction season last fall and snow covered the new artificial turf surface for most of the preseason, it has been inaccessible to them until late last week. They have been practicing as much as possible in the gym and the parking lot at the high school, along with some playing time on the other multipurpose fields.
Amesbury was in the same boat. Sunday’s game was supposed to be an away game for Lynnfield, but instead it was played at Lynnfield Middle School. And the only reason it was played at all was due to the efforts of the baseball program’s freshman, JV and varsity members who served as the grounds crew preparing that diamond.
“They worked for three days raking that field out to get it ready,” O’Brien said, adding he was proud of their efforts and dedication.
This year’s Pioneers are young, with just four seniors on the roster. They are led by a crew of five captains, seniors Nick Pascucci, Greg Basilesco and Traverse Briana, and juniors Spencer Balian and Dan O’Leary.
All five of these talented players cover a breadth of positions. Pascucci and Basilesco are both pitchers. When not on the mound, Pascucci plays shortstop and Basilesco is a third baseman. Briana and O’Leary are both catchers and outfielders while O’Leary can also play third and Balian is the starting first baseman.
Also playing either first base or an outfield position is senior Andrew Moorman.
The team has a multitude of younger pitchers who will be vying for time on the mound. Among them are Tom Anastasi, Nick Colucci, Michael Stellato, Nick Aslanian and Kyle Hawes. Aslanian, Hawes, Anastasi and Colucci also play outfield positions while Stellato can play either third or first base and Anastasi has also seen time at second.
Junior Nick Theophiles is a third baseman while fellow juniors Jake Sheehan plays outfield and Andrew Robins doubles as an outfielder and a catcher. Sophomore Justin Juliano is vying for time at shortstop. Sophomore Bryant Dana has shown promise in the outfield and behind the plate.
Against Amesbury on Sunday, on the first truly warm day of spring, the Pioneers proved they could hit as they outhit their opponents 15 to 11. Unfortunately, they struggled getting around the bases. “We stranded 10 runners,” O’Brien said, at least one every inning.
That fact combined with several mental and physical errors in the field ultimately led to the loss, he said.
“They were up 5-0 and we came back to tie it,” O’Brien said. After that, both teams continued to trade runs, but the Indians pulled away for good in the sixth.
While the state tournament seems a long way off, plenty of members of this young team were part of the crew that made it to the Div. 3 North quarterfinals last year and finished 15-7 overall.
With the promise of warmer weather and simply taking it one game at a time to build upon their successes, these Pioneers know what it will take to earn a post-season bid and O’Brien will find the right combination of players that will get them back to the states.
The team was slated to travel to Rockport Tuesday (after press time). If all goes as planned, the team’s home opener on their new diamond will take place Saturday, April 18 at 11 a.m. when the Woburn Tanners come to town.