Warriors pick up first win for new head coach Canty

ROBERT SHAW shut out Winchester through 5 2/3 innings during Wakefield’s 6-0 season-opening win on Saturday at Walsh Field. (Donna Larsson Photo)

Published in the April 17, 2018 edition.


WAKEFIELD — It’s taken a long time to get a glimpse of the 2018 WMHS baseball team, but if their 6-0 season-opening victory over Winchester on Saturday makes any kind of statement it’s this: The Warriors want to win now.

Even on a relatively young team with plenty of first-time varsity players, rebuilding is not a term Wakefield fans will hear from first-year head coach Kevin Canty. Building, yes; rebuilding, no. The distinction is important.

After six successful years as the head coach at Bishop Fenwick, Canty is excited about building a great program in his current hometown. He doesn’t see any reason why that can’t start in year one.

“Making the tournament is our first goal,” said Canty. “We have a lot of young guys so we’re going to make mistakes. We’re not trying to go 20-0, we just want to set a realistic goal which is to make the tournament.”

To accomplish that feat, the Warriors will no doubt lean on the returning varsity players, and specifically the seniors, who have the unique responsibility of leading their team while also helping Canty get his message across to the younger guys in year one. Those senior leaders include co-captains Brendan Coughlin and Jake Nardone as well as Jordan Fauci, Cole Kraus, Mike McKean, Tyler Pugsley, Pat Roche and Robert Shaw.

One of those messages from the coach is aggressiveness. The Warriors want to put the ball in play, and get after it on the base paths. Something that the fans at Walsh got a good glimpse of on Saturday.

“We did some good things at the plate today,” said Canty. “I think the guys understand I want us to be as aggressive as possible.”

Wakefield’s first run came in the first inning when Pugsley walked with one out, took second on a delayed steal, and tagged to third after a deep fly ball to center off the bat of Nardone, setting up Coughlin’s first rip of the day, an RBI double to right-center.

“That’s a little bit of a preview of what we’re going to try to do,” said Canty in regards to getting Pugsley into scoring position.

On the mound, Wakefield will rely on three primary pitchers including southpaws Shaw and Roche and junior transfer Gabe Sanders.

Shaw went 5 2/3 innings with six strikeouts against Winchester, as he did a great job of keeping the batters off-balance with a nasty curve mixed in with some nicely located fastballs.

“He was outstanding,” said Canty. “That’s the kind of leadership you need from the seniors. He did everything we asked of him today.”

Shaw struck out the side in the 2nd and made plenty of big pitches to force outs in high-pressure situations to keep the Sachems off the board.

In an attempt to get all three loose, as Wakefield hasn’t really had any time to practice on Walsh during the preseason, Canty had Roche finish up the 6th, and Sanders close the 7th. Roche had a big strikeout to end the inning, and Sanders had a strikeout of his own in the final inning.

While defense certainly played their part, it was the offense that had the fans at Walsh really excited about the season.

Coughlin followed up his RBI double in the 1st with a solo-shot blast to left in the 5th. It was a good omen and a tradition for Canty in his first game.

“My first ever game at Fenwick we hit a home run and won,” said the coach with a smile. “But that was a shot. It takes a poke to get it out of here and that ball was crushed.”

Coughlin was also excellent behind the plate where the Warriors will need him to set the tone.

“He really leads us behind the plate. “He controls our pitching staff, he’s definitely a guy we are going to rely on heavily.”

Wakefield did most of their damage in the 2nd when they scored four runs. After a walk from left fielder Tommy Mottl and a nicely executed hit and run from first baseman Mike McKean, Wakefield had runners on first and third with one out, setting up an RBI single from right fielder Eric Hickey. After a wild pitch put the runners at second and third, Pugsley connected on a base hit to center, scoring two runs and making it 4-0. The centerfielder would cross the plate for the second time when Nardone smashed another one to deep center that couldn’t be handled.

A look around the diamond shows a nice mix of youth and experience.

Sophomore Robbie Fossett and freshman Dan Hurley will split time at third. The two played solid defense against Winchester which is all Canty is asking of them at this point in the season.

At shortstop will be Sanders when he isn’t on the mound. When he is, Kraus and sophomore Chris Coombs will rotate over from splitting time at second.

First base belongs to Nardone when he’s healthy. The Warriors will continue to count on Nardone in the middle of the order. The captain is still recovering from shoulder surgery, so he will be spelled at first by McKean and at times, freshman Chris Alden.

In right will be Hickey. He had a great game in the field to go along with his RBI single. He hit the cutoff man in the fourth after a base hit and the relay got to Coughlin at the plate in plenty of time to pick up the out and create the highlight of the day for the defense.

“We’ve been stressing hitting our cutoffs,” said Canty. “As long as we hit those, we have guys that can transition and get the ball where it needs to be, and that was a perfect example of it.”

In center, Canty will count on Pugsley, the number-two hitter who the coach said “will have to control everything in the outfield for us.”

In left is Mottl. Wakefield needed to find a place for his bat so the former catcher and infielder will rotate to the outfield. Wakefield will bring Fauci in to play defense late in games, something that Canty does a lot.

“I make a lot of roster moves. I have no problem using them to the best of their abilities to maximize our chances in all types of games.”

It certainly worked out in game one, but the Warriors know they have a long road ahead in a very tough league. As long as they can continue to improve every day, Wakefield can accomplish anything they set their minds to this year.

“I was shocked when I found out Wakefield hasn’t won a state tournament game in such a long time,” said Canty. “The tournament is such great baseball and such a great atmosphere and experience.”

There’s no doubt it’s a place he wants this group to experience and thrive in. By doing so, he can help build the program into a consistent winner.

“Hopefully we can build something really good here.”

Why not start right away?