Tech rounding into form
Franklin Tech senior Ethan Wickline will be a leader on the team this season as he plays shortstop and leads the pitching staff.
Franklin Tech sophomore Mason Dow may be a bigger part of the Eagles' staff this season as the team tries to improve upon a rebuilding year last spring.
Franklin Tech sophomore Mason Dow (getting thrown out at home last season) will start in right field and pitch this season.
Last season was a difficult one for first-year Franklin County Technical School baseball coach Brian Winslow.
The Eagles were loaded with freshmen and sophomores in the starting lineup and it showed, as they won just four games and finished dead last in the Tri-County League. This season Winslow has more change at home than he does on his team. The recent father of twins will have to deal with the loss of just one senior from a year ago, and with nearly his full compliment of players back this season, the team should be able to climb the standings.
The Tri-County League, like the other leagues in western Mass., also underwent a makeover during the offseason. Last season, the TCL was split into two divisions — North and South — and the Eagles were located in the much-tougher North along with perennial powers Smith Academy and Granby High School. Realignment has actually removed many of the top teams from the TCL, as Smith Academy moved to the Hampshire League, while Granby and St. Mary High School (last season’s North Division champion) both moved to the Bi-County North. That left the TCL with nine teams and moved the league back to one division of vocational/technical schools. Winslow said that while his team did struggle last season, he was somewhat sad to see some of the schools leave because he welcomed tough competition.
“I was kind of disappointed by the moves,” Winslow said. “Last year we lost to Granby but we played one of our best games of the year. We actually played our best games against the best teams. The moves will make the league as a whole more balanced.”
Last year’s TCL South Division champion Sabis International Charter School has also moved to the Bi-County North, leaving things very wide open this year. Winslow will be looking for improvement from multiple areas if his team is going to assume one of the top spots in the league this season.
“We struggled in every facet of the game last year,” he said. “But we were a very young, and we still are young. We have three seniors, five returning sophomores and a junior, and then three new freshmen and two new sophomores. It bodes well for the future of the program. And the kids we have here are a true team in every sense of the word. They want to be here, they like each other and they are working hard.”
Winslow has a large stable of arms to choose from, as 11 players could be called on to pitch. The coach said the thing he is looking for from his pitchers is more consistency.
“We had some guys that were really good in spots last season,” he said.
Senior Ethan Wickline is the No. 1 starter and the most consistent hurler last season. Classmate Alec Milton, an innings eater last season, will find himself in a bigger starting role this spring. Sophomore Joey Barcomb had a strong freshman campaign on the hill and is now a year stronger, making him someone to watch. Classmate Kyle Johnson is a newcomer but is a massive body who looks like he could throw a feather through a brick wall. Sophomores Austin Burdick, Mason Dow, Nate Crocker and Mitch Mailloux are each in the mix this season, while freshmen Dylan Mailloux, Ben Sherman and Seth Donovan are also potential candidates.
Sophomore Tim Momaney is back behind the plate after getting experience as a freshman; he’ll be backed up by Donovan and Crocker. Milton will start at first base, providing the big bat in the middle of the lineup. The senior hit over .300 last year and led the team in every offensive category. Johnson and Barcomb will also see time at first. Crocker and Burdick and battling for time at second base, while Wickline and Crocker will play shortstop. Senior Cooper Grace was a bit of a surprise last season. The starting third baseman was one of the team leaders in on-base percentage and was one of the more reliable bats in a team that really struggled to hit the ball. Dylan Mailloux will back him up.
Junior R.J. Hubert returns to center field after hitting over .250 last season. Burdick and Dow are both slated to start in the outfield as well, while Donovan, Mitch Mailloux, Crocker and Sherman will each see time.
One area where the team should see marked improvement is at the plate, where just three players hit over .250 last season. It all adds up to what Winslow believes can be a very successful season.
“I talk all the time that we would have been a very good JV team last year, but out of necessity they had to play at the varsity level,” he concluded. “Were they in over their heads? Yes. But the experience will only help them and benefit them moving forward.”