Well-armed team’s first challenge is getting outside
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — There is hope for the local spring sport teams who’ve yet to experience outside practice time as their opening days loom. For the Melrose Red Raider baseball team, both Pine Banks and Morrelli Field are actually visible and that’s a good thing, a far cry from last week when they were completely buried under snow.
The challenge now is to get out there and get their cleats wet.
The team has completed their pre-season training indoors, with some outfield practice on Fred Green Field. Whether or not that is enough to have the team ready for their season opener on Saturday remains to be seen. But that’s a problem across all of Massachusetts – no one knows how the conditions will affect the schedules of the local high school baseball and softball teams.
Lousy conditions or not, there is no reason to expect anything less than a competitive baseball squad this spring. It’s almost a given they will not open their home game at Morrelli Field (natural grass) which lands them back to their old home turf of Pine Banks Park.
“Pine Banks looks about 85 percent ready,” reports Hirschfeld. “The good thing is that the pitcher’s mound and home plate are the only natural areas. In the meantime we’re doing a lot of inside practice, hoping not to develop any bad habits inside. By the time we get outside it may feel more like spring training.”
Melrose lost a numbers of seniors last season but returns to 2015 with their captains, seniors Jake Karelas and Jack Hickey and pitcher Dylan Gaita. Both Karelas and Hickey should provide plenty of offensive punch this year, with Hickey likely seeing the #3 or #4 slot. Gaita should be at the top of the pitching rotation along with senior Christian Pizzotti.
On the pitching staff, Melrose will be well equipped. Look for Gaita, Pizzotti, Derek Scemeni and Justin McCarthy to hit the mound for Melrose. Karelas will return behind the plate in the catcher’s position and he could see some help from Alex Dervartanian.
Around the horn look for infield spots to be filled by Hickey, Ryan Censullo, Cal McDonald, Chris Pizzotti, Cam Markt, Nick Markley and Malden Catholic transfer Alex Turro, whom head coach Bill Hirschfeld describes as a “real bonus” for the team. In the outfield look to see spots filled by Justin McCarthy, Nick Cordeau, Sean Connolly, among others. New players expected to join the mix are John Casparriello and Bill Kaliris.
Last year the Red Raiders fell just shy of making playoffs, but overall, the program has seen postseason a number of times in the last five years.
“We have some tough players on our roster,” says Hirschfeld. “It would be nice to see [the athleticism] transfer over. We also have a few pitchers with a lot of experience under our belt.”
Their goal is, of course, to return to playoffs. “That’s the plan,” he quips. “The league will be competitive. We’re going to work to get some runs on the board and remain tight defensively. We just need to get outside and prepare for it.”
2015 Season Schedule
(*subject to chance due to field conditions)
Sat. 4/4 1:30 p.m. vs. Malden (Pine Banks)
Tue. 4/7 3:45 p.m. vs. Winchester (Morelli Field)*
Thu. 4/9 3:45 p.m. @ Belmont
Sat. 4/11 10 a.m. @ Malden (Pine Banks)
Mon. 4/13 3:45 p.m. @ Arlington
Wed. 4/15 3:45 p.m. vs. Stoneham (Morelli)
Fri. 4/17 3:45 p.m. vs. Wilmington (Morelli)
Wed. 4/22 10 a.m. vs. Burlington (Morelli)
Fri. 4/24 10 a.m. @ Wakefield
Mon. 4/27 3:45 p.m. @ Watertown
Wed. 4/29 3:45 p.m. vs. Lexington (Morelli)
Fri. 5/1 3:45 p.m. vs. Reading (Morelli)
Mon. 5/4 3:45 p.m. @ Woburn
Wed. 5/06 3:45 p.m. @ Stoneham
Mon. 5/11 3:45 p.m. @ Burlington
Wed. 5/13 3:45 p.m. vs. Wakefield (Morelli)
Fri. 5/15 3:45 p.m. vs. Watertown (Morelli)
Mon. 5/18 3:45 p.m. @ Wilmington
Wed. 5/20 3:45 p.m. @ No. Quincy