Boston High School: Jack Riley

Recap: No. 11 Northbridge 6, No. 17 St. Peter-Marian 3

May, 4, 2013
NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. -- Back in 2010 Northbridge captured the MIAA Division 2 state title, doing so with a collective mixture of timely hitting, solid defense and pitchers who threw strikes.

Fast forward to the present and Northbridge is embarking on a similar path with identical results.

With their 6-3 victory over St. Peter-Marian on Saturday, the Rams improved their record to 12-1. Having registered triumphs over two of its most challenging foes -- Auburn and the aforementioned SPM -- in a span of 24 hours, few will argue the notion that Northbridge appears primed to make another serious run towards a championship.

“This team is really starting to come together," senior outfielder/pitcher Matt Phelan said. “The intensity is there 1-to-9 in our lineup. Everyone is making the plays and doing their jobs and that is why we’ve been coming out with wins.”

Against the Guardians, the only Division 1 opponent on their schedule, the Rams came out of the starting gate on fire and were never headed. Facing SPM ace lefty Jack Riley, Northbridge plated three runs against in the first inning. A pair of run-scoring singles by Phelan and Rob Fraser were sandwiched around an RBI double off the bat of Jake Ryan.

The Guardians narrowed the gap to 3-2 in the third. With two runners on and one out, junior Nate Frederick blasted an Austin Young pitch deep to left for a triple. Young, a sophomore, avoided further trouble by retiring the next two SPM batters.

Riley (4 IP, 5 hits, 4 Ks) ran into more difficulty in the the Rams fourth. Young opened with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Mike Ferraro followed with a line single to right scoring Young. Moments later, Ferraro crossed the plate after Tyler Galimi’s grounder to third baseman John Roy was thrown away giving Northbridge a 5-2 advantage.

“You can’t give a good team like that extra runs," said SPM coach Ed Riley. “I thought we hit the ball good overall today. We just came out flat defensively. Northbridge is a good team that took it to us. Their pitcher threw strikes and put us in a position where we had to battle throughout. I thought Jack kept us in the game but he just wasn’t feeling it today."

The Guardians (5-6) got a run back in their half of the fifth but could’ve had more had it not been for the stellar defense of Phelan in center fielder. After Cam Frederick led off the frame with a bloop single, Riley and Nate Frederick followed with deep blasts to center that were run down by Phelan. Brandon O’Connor, SPM’s next batter, made sure his hit wouldn’t be caught as the junior roped a deep drive over left fielder Rich Scherer’s head for an RBI triple.

Leading by only two, and with the Guardians’ bats starting to heat up, Northbridge knew it needed to grab some extra insurance. In the bottom of the fifth, the Rams did just that, scoring a run without the benefit of a hit. Against reliever Danny Bushe, Ryan drew a one-out walk. Kyle Stanley followed with a SAC bunt to Roy, who threw Stanley out. But on the play, nobody covered third thus allowing Ryan to reach the bag safely. Bushe next walked Young to put runners on the corners. Young then attempted a delayed steal in which Bushe was called for a balk sending Ryan home to give the Rams a three-run cushion.

“We persevered today," Northbridge coach John Damagian said. “These guys have been busting their tails for us all year. They seem to rise to the level of the competition. Today we faced a Division 1 team and told the kids let’s see where we are at and they passed. These kids know who the good teams are and when they play them they get up for them."

Having pitched a couple of innings the day before, Young (5-2/3 IP, 6 hits, 3 Ks) began to tire on the hill. The right-hander was pulled after surrendering a single and a walk with two out in the sixth. Phelan came on to record the final out of the frame and set down SPM in order in the seventh to earn the save.

“We knew coming into this game that we needed to get the lead and hold the lead,” said Phelan, who plans to play football next season at St. Anselm College. “With Austin pitching the way he was that was all we needed to do.”

Zona, Riley lead 1-2 punch for SPM

April, 15, 2013
WORCESTER, Mass. -- It is a uncommon, especially in New England, to have two pitchers from the same high school being coveted by Division 1 college baseball programs.

To the naked eye you do not need to be a baseball expert to understand how talented a duo Zach Zona and Jack Riley have become.

The two St. Peter-Marian standouts are as good a one-two punch on the mound as anywhere to be found. Although the team’s current 1-4 record does not reflect it, these two aces are, without a doubt, the real deal. Enough so that both already have their futures planned beyond high school.

Zona, a senior, will play at UMass next year while Riley, only a junior, has verbally committed to UConn.

“I feel that I am very lucky and fortunate to have two guys of their caliber go out there and compete because you know most of the time the both of them are going to keep you in a baseball game,” fourth-year head coach and SPM legend Ed Riley said. “The other players on this team know it too. With Zach and Jack, whomever the opponent is, we know we are going to have a good shot at winning with either of them on the mound.”

Zona, a right-hander, is beginning his second year with the Guardians. As a freshman and sophomore, he played for archrival St. John’s of Shrewsbury before transferring.

“It really wasn’t a tough transition for me,” said Zona, also a prolific hockey player for the Guardians. “I knew a lot of the kids here prior so I was pretty comfortable coming over here when I did. I am a very out-going person so I can make friends pretty easily.”

After getting feelers from a host of college programs, Zona -- who tossed a no-hitter in a victory over Burncoat last week -- opted to stay local and play at UMass.

“It was always one of the schools I wanted to go to,” said Zona, who also plays first base and outfield. “There were some other schools looking at me but nothing really fell through. During one of my last summer ball showcase tournaments I attended, UMass came through and it has looked good from there.

"They were the most-convincing in terms of me having an opportunity to come in and pitch right away. The other schools didn’t offer me that guarantee. To me, it’s all about how hard you work and the time and effort you put into it to get to this point. The saying we have here is ‘Everyday you aren’t working someone else is.’ ”

For Riley, a lefthander who also platoons at first base and is the son of the head coach, making the early decision to attend UConn has helped alleviate some of the pressure he was under. With his decision behind him, Riley says he can now focus on improving his overall game and help SPM secure a spot in the postseason tournament.

“I am a lot more relaxed now,” the younger Riley said. “Now I can just go out and do what I have to do on the field. I started off here at SPM (since the eighth grade) with great leadership and it really has kept me very humble where I’ve never gotten a big head or anything like that. It’s a great school.”

The conventional wisdom and genes Jack has picked up from his father are certainly there too. Ed Riley is well-regarded as one of the greatest high school pitchers to ever come out of Massachusetts. During his time with the Guardians in the late 1980s, Riley posted an astonishing career record of 33-1 with a 1.57 ERA. His senior year he was named Gatorade Massachusetts High School Baseball Player of the Year; he also won a state title his junior season.

Drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 1988 MLB Draft, he spent eight seasons with the organization, reaching the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket. He later went on to have successful campaigns in the Northeast League, Atlantic League and Can-Am League. He later succeeded another SPM alum, and former Red Sox catcher, Rich Gedman as manager of the Worcester Tornadoes of the Can-Am League.

When you comprehend the kind of of success Ed Riley basked in, the general consensus by some, albeit unfairly, is to presume Jack will follow a similar path. But in the Riley household there is no such talk.

“People always try to compare me to him but I think I have better mechanics than him,” laughs Jack Riley. “To be honest I don’t listen to what anybody says because it is irrelevant. I just go out and do what I have to do to try and help my team win a game.”

In regards to coaching his son, Ed Riley is quick to say there is no preferential treatment given.

“Jack is treated just like any other player on this team," he said. “We have a mutual understanding that I am the coach and he is a player. I think he has handled things pretty well because there has been a lot of pressure in him trying to form his own identity which I will say he has done very well.

"I believe he is going to have a lot more success than I ever did. He has learned a lot more up to now than I did at his age when I was pitching. He is going to a college program where he will receive a real good clue of how to pitch. When I got drafted I had no idea and basically had to learn things on the fly."

Even though the Guardians have stumble out of the starting gate in the early going, it is ironic that they started out the same way last season before turning things and earning a postseason berth. The mutual belief around here is they will do it again.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here,” Zona said. “No matter what our record is right now I think we’re better than most of the teams we play around here and we should be proving that soon. I know we can do it.”

Bay State Games: July 10 recap

July, 10, 2012
Bay State Games communications coordinator Craig Kaufman sends along results from today's baseball action:

WALTHAM, Mass. -– The second day of the 2012 Bay State Games baseball tournament saw a pitcher’s duel and two convincing wins as the Northeast and West teams picked up their second wins of the tournament. Those two teams will try to stay undefeated tomorrow when they play in the first game of Day 3 at 9:00 pm at Bentley University.

Coastal 2, Central 0
The Coastal Region out-dueled Central and scored the only two runs in the game in the fourth inning to improve to 1-1 in the 2012 tournament. A sacrifice fly from shortstop James Marcello (Duxbury) and an RBI single from right fielder Joshua Cabucio (East Freetown) brought across Cody Younger (Middleboro) and Matthew Peterson (South Dennis). Coastal had loaded the bases on walks to Younger and Peterson and a hit batsman.

Mike Bruemmel (Bridgewater) was outstanding on the mound for Coastal, pitching three innings and scattering just two hits while striking out three.

Central had their best threat in the sixth inning, loading the bases on singles by Owen Shea (Northborough) and Mike Vaitkunas (Auburn) but Bruemmel, who struck out four, shut the door. Central was held to just three hits in the game.

Central starter Jack Riley (West Boylston) went the first two innings and struck out two, allowing just one hit.

West 11, Metro 1
West got on the board early and often and scored six unearned runs in their second win of the tournament. The damage started in the first on a bloop RBI single from catcher Phillip Jasak (Palmer). Andrew Noonan (Springfield) followed with a single through the left side to plate another run, and Mackenzie Hale (Florence) drew a bases loaded walk to give the West a 3-0 lead.

West tacked on another run in the third inning, two more in the fourth and five unearned runs in the fifth, capped by a two-run double by Kenny Potts (Southwick). Metro escaped further damage when center fielder Mark Fusco (Medford) made a spectacular diving catch to end the top of the third inning with West stranding two base-runners.

West got great production out of their four-spot as Evan Delaney (Hadley) walked, singled and hit an RBI double and scored three times. He crossed the plate after his run-producing hit on Jasak’s second RBI single of the day before giving way to Potts.

West second baseman Mike Paleologopoulos (South Hadley) was 3-5 in the game, scoring twice and driving in a run.

Metro grabbed their lone run in the fifth when Tom McDonald (Quincy) doubled to lead off the inning and crossed the plate on after singles by Nathan Spielvogel (Brookline) and Seth Coiley (Arlington).

John Lavoie (Medford) pitched a perfect final two innings of relief for Metro, striking out four.

Northeast 9, Southeast 3
Northeast broke open a tight game with five runs on five hits in the top of the seventh inning to squash a Southeast comeback attempt. The Southeast, down 4-1, had scored twice in the bottom of the sixth.

Rory McHarg (Wayland) smacked a two-run single in the seventh and Jordan Roper (Lynnfield), Colby Ingraham (Georgetown) and Nicholas Comei (Bradford) also drove in runs for Northeast.

The top of the order for the Northeast was on base four times. Leadoff starter Cam Farnham (Andover) singled in the first and fourth, the second time driving in two runs before bein replaced by Ingraham.

Dan Connors was 2-2 with two RBI singles for the Northeast, who got five innings of one-run ball from starter Ryan McAuliffe (North Reading).

Southeast tied the game at one run apiece in the second inning when Gino Larossa (Braintree) doubled and scored on a single by center fielder Jake Fishman (Sharon). They pulled within a run in the sixth when substitute catcher Connor Goetz (Cohasset) delivered a two run single to center, scoring Sean Roche (Rockland) and Mark Saulnier (Norwood).

Northeast leadoff man Cam Farnham (Andover) opened the game with a single and stole second before scoring on a two-out single by second baseman Dan Connors (Danvers).

Southeast could have grabbed a run in the fifth as well on a single by Steven Gilbert (Franklin), but a tremendous play and a great lead by Northeast catcher Jose Cedrano (Lawrence) gunned out Brandon Eccher (Franklin) who was trying to score from second base.