FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
, Norwood: The senior may wear No. 12 on his jersey, but “3’’could be his lucky number this spring. He will cover third base for the Mustangs and, according to coach Kevin Igoe, will likely bat third. “We expect him to do huge things,’’ Igoe said.
, Cohasset: The Skippers’ hopes for a fourth straight South Shore League title could rest not only on the senior captain’s on-field performance, but also his health. The pitcher/three-year starting catcher hurt his right shoulder — his throwing shoulder — during hockey season and has been limited to DH duties early on. Coach Pete Afanasiw hopes to have him back at full strength by tournament time at the latest.
, Walpole: The Rebels graduated most of their top hitters, but not their senior captain. He has a strong arm and good range that will serve him well when he plays third base, and he will look to follow up on a junior season in which he hit .300 and was the team’s second-leading RBI man — behind only his brother, Craig, who now plays football at Bentley.
, Oliver Ames: The Merrimack-bound senior captain returns for his third and final varsity campaign on the diamond, fresh off his season as the highest-scoring defenseman on the hockey team. Coach Leo Duggan said Mancini has moved all around the field, and played mostly outfield and first base last spring, but will likely spend most of his senior season behind the plate.
, Xaverian: Replacing Tim Duggan and Nick Ahearn is a tall task, but the senior righthander’s experience from last season could go a long way in helping him do just that. Person, according to coach Gerry Lambert, is an efficient innings eater who posted a WHIP just over 1.00 and ERA around 3.00 a year ago. He also finished the season strong, and was on the mound for the Hawks’ state title win.
FIVE TEAMS TO WATCH
East Bridgewater: The Vikings return three pitchers from a staff that posted a collective 1.51 earned run average en route to a Division 2 South championship last season. Senior co-captain and ace Ethan Forest will also see time at shortstop, while catcher Austin Goldberg, who hit over .400 in the cleanup spot in 2012, is one of several key seniors who can do some damage at the plate. Speedy outfielder Andrew Benson and third baseman Jake Pierce provide a strong one-two punch at the top of the batting order.
Norwood: The upperclassmen-laden Mustangs have five juniors complementing 15 seniors after last year’s trip to the Division 1 South semifinals. Senior captains Kenny Michael (shortstop/pitcher), Anthony Perriello (right fielder), and Mark Saulnier (Bay State League all-star catcher) will provide the leadership, not to mention the production. There are also a number of the school’s hockey players, including center fielder Tyler Gover, plus middle infielders Anthony Delmonico and Jordan Davis. As coach Kevin Igoe put it, “You need hockey players to be good in baseball.’’
Oliver Ames: Like a lot of teams, the Tigers had a little trouble getting on their field the first couple weeks of the season, but should be coming into shape now. Aside from captains David MacKinnon, Andrew Mancini, and Mike McMillan, OA returns junior Brian Holmes, who had a strong season at the hot corner in 2012 while the team made a run to the Division 2 South semifinals. It also features sophomore pitchers Alex Geban and Brendan Welch, both of whom gained valuable varsity experience as freshmen.
Walpole: Longtime coach Bill Tompkins and the Rams were ousted in the first round of the Division 1 South tournament last season, but should be able to make a run at matching their 18-2 regular-season mark. The left side of the infield features Northeastern-bound Cam Hanley at third base and Boston College signee Johnny Adams at shortstop. Mike Gaughan, set to play for Division 2 Rollins College near Orlando next year, could prove to be one of the Bay State League’s best pitchers.
Xaverian: The Hawks graduated quite a bit of talent, but it’s never a good idea to discount the defending Division 1 state champions. Junior Andrew Elliott, who had a breakout second half in 2012, will split at first base and catcher with classmate Ricky Smith for at least the start of the season, while senior pitchers Alex Person and Austin DeCarr shoulder the load on the mound. Left fielder Aidan Desrosiers and third baseman Aaron Drummey will provide some pop at the plate.