Boston High School: Matt Tulley

B-R's Joe Freiday commits to Virginia Tech

July, 23, 2013
Bridgewater-Raynham Class of 2014 catcher Joe Freiday verbally committed to Virginia Tech tonight, becoming the second Trojan in as many months to commit to an Atlantic Coast Conference baseball program.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Freiday was one of the state’s leaders in runs plated, batting .425, with a .573 on-base percentage, 31 RBI and five home runs as the Trojans captured the MIAA Division 1 State Championship for the first time in school history. He also drew 21 walks and struck out just 10 times. Behind the plate, Freiday demonstrates above-average arm strength, recording a pop time as fast as 1.82 seconds.

At the time of his commitment, Freiday was also considering Coastal Carolina and Virginia, as well as a full ride from the University of Maine. He is the second B-R player in as many months to commit to an ACC program, joining his cousin, 2015 righthander Jack Connolly, who committed to Notre Dame in late June.

Freiday is the second Bay Stater from the Class of 2014 to pledge to the Hokies, joining Boston Latin lefthander Pat Naughton, who committed last fall. When Freiday arrives in Blacksburg in the fall of 2014, he'll join BC High's Ryan Tufts (a fellow Bridgewater resident), Lowell's Matt Tulley, and Noble & Greenough's Phil Sciretta among the Massachusetts natives on the roster. B-R product Eddie Campbell, a lefty for Tech the last three seasons, was drafted in the 15th round by the Seattle Mariners last month.

"Its unreal, it's better than winning a state championship," Freiday said tonight from Richmond, Va., where he is playing in a tournament with his summer club, Team Nokona.

Really? Better than winning a state title?

"I dunno," he laughed. "But it feels great. I don’t know how to put my feelings into words right now."

Freiday visited Blacksburg yesterday, and says he was immediately enamored with the campus.

"Obviously what attracted me there [initially] is they have an elite baseball team -- they're absolutely unreal at baseball, number one," Freiday said. "And then, once I got there, the campus was absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It's everything I wanted in a school -- athletically, the campus, and great academics -- there's so much to offer."

Since the Hokies first began evaluating Freiday, they've had a change in head coaches, with Peter Hughes leaving for the University of Oklahoma and Tech internally promoting pitching coach Patrick Mason. Mason, a Franklin native and former Northeastern University standout, watched Freiday in the Trojans' MIAA Division 1 South Final against BC High (of which Hughes is a graduate). He watched Freiday again a week later at Area Code Games tryouts on the campus of Bentley University.

"He's a real nice guy," Freiday said of Mason. "I know Hughes showed interest at first, and I know he texted [B-R coach John] Kearney. He [Mason] impressed me. He knew his stuff about baseball. He was also a catcher at Northeastern back in the day, so he probably saw me from a different perspective."

ESPN Boston's MIAA All-State Baseball Team

June, 22, 2012

All-StateRHP – Matt Tulley, Sr., Lowell
The Virginia Tech signee lived up to every ounce of his preseason hype, taking ESPN Boston’s 2012 Mr. Baseball Award earlier this week as the state’s top player. He earned his third consecutive Merrimack Valley Conference Player of the Year honor, going 7-1 with 90 strikeouts in 59 innings and one save, for a 1.46 earned run average. Opponents batted just .159 against Tulley on the season. At the plate, Tulley batted .306 for the Raiders, leading the team in RBI (20) and ranking second in runs scored (19). For his career, Tulley went 20-2 with a 1.57 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 140 innings.

All-StateRHP – Pat Ruotolo, Jr., Peabody
The 5-foot-10 craftsman caught national attention this year after throwing three no-hitters in a span of four starts, and finished the season as the state’s runner-up in strikeouts (130). In 76 innings of work, he went 8-1 with two saves, 31 hits allowed and 12 walks, for an ERA of 0.83, to earn Northeastern Conference MVP honors. He has 232 strikeouts since the start of his sophomore season, and over 300 for his career. Ruotolo is considering interest from a handful of Division 1 schools.

All-StateRHP – Alex Rozak, Sr., Plymouth North
The UMass-bound Rozak catapulted himself into discussion as one of the state’s best pitchers with his postseason play, winning three games as the Blue Eagles made their fourth Division 2 state final appearance in five seasons. He also carried a no-hitter into the final out in the Division 2 Eastern Mass final. For the season, Rozak was 8-3 with 61 strikeouts and 13 walks, with a 1.02 ERA. He won 24 games in his career at North, including a 9-1 campaign in the Eagles’ 2011 state championship season.

All-StateLHP – Steve Moyers, Sr., East Longmeadow
One of a handful of returning All-Staters, the University of Rhode Island signee is making his second appearance in the “Starting Rotation” after compiling a 7-2 record with 106 strikeouts. Over his last two seasons, he has gone 15-3 with 194 strikeouts, and he leaves East Longmeadow as one of the school’s winningest, compiling a 30-3 career record.

All-StateLHP – Ben Bowden, Jr., Lynn English
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound southpaw got off to a hot start, throwing a perfect game on April 7, and didn't cool off. On the mound he had six wins, with 82 strikeouts in 51.2 innings for a 2.19 ERA. At the plate, he played a key role in the Bulldogs' stunning upset of Peabody in the Division 1 North tournament; on the season, he batted .394 with 21 RBI, two home runs and nine extra-base hits, and also drew 17 walks.


All-StateCF – Casey DeAndrade, Sr., East Bridgewater
The speedster joins exclusive company as one of several players to make All-State in two sports, having made the football squad last fall. This spring, he put up .455/.506/.682 totals at the plate, with 25 RBI, two home runs, 19 runs and 15 stolen bases. On the mound, he went 5-2 with 67 K’s in 50.2 innings, holding opponents to a .106 average as the Vikings captured their first Division 3 South title since 1993. DeAndrade is headed to the University of New Hampshire in the fall for football.

All-State2B – Chris Hoyt, Sr., Xaverian
Nobody elevated their stock in the playoffs more than the Stonehill College-bound Hoyt, who pounded out eight RBI in the MIAA tournament – including four in the Division 1 state final. Batting out of the leadoff spot this spring, Hoyt batted .411/.477/.526 totals, with 19 RBI, two home runs, stole 19 bases and only struck out three times in 107 plate appearances. He also posted a ridiculous OPS of 1.003.

All-StateC – Bobby Melley, Sr., BC High
A returning All-Stater, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Centerville resident was one of the state’s most dangerous power hitters, compiling .370/.557/.685 totals with 13 RBI, three home runs and drawing 22 walks. Behind the plate, only two runners attempted to steal on him, both of which were caught out. Melley will continue his career next year at UConn.

All-State1B – Chris Shaw, Sr., Lexington
A returning All-Stater, Shaw was one of three Bay Staters taken in this year’s MLB Draft, going to the New York Mets in the 26th round. This spring, he batted .480 with seven home runs and 27 RBI, and also went 5-0 on the mound with 95 strikeouts in 45 innings. Shaw will be honoring his commitment to Boston College rather than signing.

All-State3B – Frank Crinella, Sr., Springfield Cathedral
In addition to flawless defense, Crinella was a tough out at the plate, hitting .456 on 26 hits, with 27 RBI and four home runs to go along with it as the Panthers went 18-2 before a surprise upset in the Division 1 West quarterfinals. Crinella will continue his career next year at Merrimack College.

All-StateSS – Matt O’Neil, Sr., East Longmeadow
Coupled with Moyers, the returning All-Stater formed an imposing 1-2 punch on the mound for the Spartans, who suffered a surprise upset in the Division 1 West semifinals. O’Neil batted four home runs to go along with 21 RBI; on the mound, he was 4-3 with 70 strikeouts in 41.1 innings. O’Neil will continue his career next year UConn.

All-State1B – John Jennings, Sr., Newton South
The Dual County League’s Large Division MVP was a force at the plate for the Lions, batting .415 with five home runs and 31 RBI. On the mound, he was 4-1 with 31 K’s in 27.2 innings, for a 1.27 ERA. He will continue his career next year at UMass.

All-StateSS – Regan Aghdam, Sr., Burncoat
One of the state’s premier leadoff hitters, Aghdam was solid at the plate, leading the Inter-High league in batting average (.463). On the mound, he went 6-0 with 43 strikeouts in 49 innings pitched. Aghdam will continue his career next year t the University of Rhode Island.

All-StateSS – Brandon Bingel, Jr., St. John’s Prep
The Catholic Conference’s co-MVP was a driving force for the Eagles, hitting .418 with 25 RBI and five home runs. On the mound, he was 5-1 with a 1.20 ERA in 40.2 innings pitched. Bingel is currently committed to Bryant University.


All-StateLHP – Scott Tully, Jr., Reading
Tully had a breakout junior season, going 8-2 with four saves with a 0.99 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 63.1 innings, tied for third-most K’s in the state. Tully also allowed just 27 hits this spring. He is currently committed to Notre Dame.
All-StateRHP – Pat Delano, Sr., Braintree
Nearly two years after Tommy John surgery, the 6-foot-7 fireballer found his way back to the top, going in the 35th round to the Boston Red Sox in the MLB Draft, and earning MVP honors in the Bay State Conference’s Carey Division. He posted a 1.21 ERA with four wins and 50 strikeouts in 57 innings, and added four home runs at the plate. He was also named a Region 1 All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association. Delano is currently committed to Vanderbilt, but has until the August 15 deadline to decide whether he’ll sign or not.

RHP – Charlie Butler, Sr., Nashoba
A returning All-Stater, Butler was once again dominant on the mound for the Chieftains, striking out 90 in 54 innings for a 0.91 ERA and 6-2 record. At the plate, he batted .365 with 14 RBI and two home runs. Butler will continue his career next year at the University of Maine.

All-StateRHP – Mike Walkowicz, Sr., Amherst
Another one of the state’s strikeout kings, Walkowicz went 5-4 on the mound as he rang up 112 batters in 65 innings of work for an average of nearly two K’s per inning. He will continue his career next year at Endicott College.
All-StateLHP – Tyler Buck, Sr., Franklin
One of the state’s most elusive lefties, Buck went 7-1 on the mound with 80 strikeouts and a 1.42 ERA for the Panthers, who were the No. 1 overall seed in Division 1 South. He also went .378 at the plate with 18 RBI and two home runs. Buck will play next year at St. Anselm College.

All-StateLHP – Mac Curran, Jr., Coyle-Cassidy
The hard-throwing 6-foot-4, 240-pound Lakeville resident was an intimidator for the Warriors, going 6-1 with a 0.52 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 49 innings. He also batted .351 at the plate, and is 14-3 so far as a starter for Coyle. Curran is currently fielding a slew of Division 1 interest.

All-StateRHP – Brandon Shileikis, Jr., Dighton-Rehoboth
The workhorse logged 68 innings and struck out 74 while walking just 12, going 9-1 with three saves, an ERA of 1.75 and a WHIP of 0.96. At the plate, Shileikis had .427/.456/.524 totals with 28 RBI and 27 runs. Shileikis is currently fielding various Division 1 interest.

All-StateRHP – Keegan Dellacona, Sr., Barnstable
The 6-foot-3 Dellacona formed a dynamic 1-2 punch on the mound along with UConn-bound Willie Nastasi, as the Red Raiders won the Old Colony League outright. For the season, Dellacona struck out 67 in 49.1 innings, for a 4-0 record and 0.89 ERA. He also threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes, registered a 0.67 WHIP, and held opponents to just a .136 batting average. Dellacona is undecided on college plans.

All-StateLHP – Ryan McDonald, Sr., Acton-Boxborough
Another of the state’s most deceiving lefties, McDonald went 5-2 with 71 strikeouts in 46 innings, for a 1.98 ERA. He also led the Dual County League in batting average (.468) and plated 16 runs, including two homers. McDonald had previously signed with Bryant University, but is currently uncommitted.

All-StateRHP – Lee Albertson, Sr., Westfield
Albertson was the ace of a Bombers staff that won its third Division 1 West title in five years this spring. He went 6-2 on the mount with two saves, and struck out 58 batters in 54 innings. Albertson will be heading to Holyoke Community College next season.


All-State3B – Joelfi Arias, Sr., Springfield Central
The Eagles scored one of the biggest upsets of the MIAA tournament by knocking off Springfield Cathedral, and Arias played a big role. He had five home runs on the season to go with 24 RBI, and on the mount he had 65 strikeouts in 62 innings, logging a 5-2 record. Arias is headed to Juco power Indian Hills Community College, in Ottumwa, Iowa.

All-StateOF – Adam Benvie, Sr., Dighton-Rehoboth
One of several mashers on a lineup that batted nearly .400 as a team, Benvie posted .386/.538/.771 totals with 37 RBI and five home runs, scoring 27 runs and drawing 22 walks. Benvie will continue his career next year at UMass.
All-StateC – Joe Walsh, Sr., Taunton
The Old Colony League MVP led the Tigers on a surprise run to the Division 1 South final, where they lost to eventual state champ Xaverian. He batted .447 with 31 RBI, 23 runs scored and three home runs, for an on-base percentage of .562. He leaves Taunton a career .379 hitter with a .486 on-base percentage and 50 RBI. Walsh will play next year at Eckard College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

All-StateSS – Evan Mondor, Sr., Dighton-Rehoboth
One of several big bats that led the Falcons to the No. 1 seed in Division 2 South, Mondor posted .478/.617/.791 totals with 10 doubles, three home runs, and 20 RBI. Mondor also scored 35 runs and only struck out three times all year. He will continue his career next year at Bentley University.

All-StateSS – Brendan Skidmore, Sr., Franklin
Skidmore took home Hockomock MVP honors this season after batting .467 with five home runs and 21 RBI for the Panthers, who won the league outright as well as the No. 1 seed in Division 1 South. Skidmore will do a post-graduate year at Bridgton Academy next season.

OF – Jarrod Casey, Sr., Milford
A returning All-Stater and the reigning Mid-Wach A MVP, Casey put in another dominant season for the Scarlet Hawks, batting .490 with 22 RBI. On the mound, he was 6-2 with 73 strikeouts in 47 innings, for a 0.91 ERA. Over the last two years, Casey has gone 14-3 on the mound.

All-StateSS – Sean O’Neill, Sr., Norwood
The senior played a significant impact on the Mustangs’ run to the Division 1 South quarterfinals, taking MVP of the Bay State Conference’s Herget Division in the process after batting .416 with 16 RBI and a home run in the wood-bat league. O’Neill will play next year at Merrimack College.

All-StateSS – Dan Cellucci, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury
Another returning All-Stater, Cellucci was consistent once again for the Warriors, batting .435 with 18 RBI and two home runs as the Warriors came up short in the Division 1 state title defense. Cellucci will continue his career next year at Bryant University.

All-State1B – Adam Mayhew, Sr., Westfield
His numbers probably don’t reflect his importance to the team (12 RBI; 3-0, 15 IP), but his defensive presence was without question as the Bombers won their third Division 1 West title in five years. Mayhew will continue his career next year at Westfield State University.

Photos of Adam Mayhew, Mike Walkowicz, Lee Albertson, Matt O'Neil and Joelfi Arias are courtesy of the Springfield Republican. Photos of Pat Ruotolo, Ben Bowden and Mac Curran are courtesy of the Area Code Games.

Lowell's Tulley is ESPN Boston Mr. Baseball

June, 20, 2012
PM ET and its high school section announced today that Matt Tulley, senior righthanded pitcher for the Lowell High Red Raiders, is the recipient of its second annual “Mr. Baseball” award, presented annually to the top player in Massachusetts.

The Mr. Baseball Award winner was chosen by a panel of experts made up of staff and correspondents, as well as local area coaches. Tulley will be presented the award at a later date.

[+] EnlargeLowell
Brendan Hall Matt Tulley is headed to Virginia Tech to play baseball.
“We are proud to present our Mr. Baseball award to Matt Tulley,” said ESPN Boston High Schools co-editor Brendan Hall, who coordinates the site’s baseball coverage. “Of all the awards we’ve handed out in our two years of existence, this was the most difficult choice, because there was no clear-cut favorite. It speaks to the uniqueness of this year’s talent pool, but also to Tulley’s prowess that he was the unanimous choice by our panel.”

After a junior season in which he earned a spot on ESPN Boston’s inaugural MIAA All-State Team, Tulley followed up with an even stronger senior campaign. He earned his third consecutive Merrimack Valley Conference Player of the Year honor, going 7-1 with 90 strikeouts in 59 innings and one save, for a 1.46 earned run average. Two of those wins came in the Division 1 North tournament, including the sectional final at LeLacheur Park.

Opponents batted just .159 against Tulley on the season, and in turn he also provided some spark at the plate. Tulley batted .306 for the Raiders, leading the team in RBI (20) and ranking second in hits (28) and runs scored (19).

The Raiders earned the No. 1 overall seed in a loaded Division 1 North bracket of the MIAA tournament, and came up just short in their quest for a state title, falling to eventual state champion Xaverian in the D1 Eastern Mass Final.

“We were spoiled with superior pitching in Massachusetts last year, and the amount of local position players taken in this year’s MLB Draft speaks to that,” Hall said. “But Matt clearly separated himself from the pack this spring. Others might have better numbers, but Matt always took the ball in the big games, and he always performed consistently well.

“In addition to his fortitude in big-game situations on the field, you’ll find a really humble and polite kid off the field. He’s dedicated to his craft, and is never one to boast. He always lets his 90-mile per hour heat do the talking.”

For his career, Tulley went 20-2 with a 1.57 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 140 innings. He will continue his career in the fall at Virginia Tech, where he signed a National Letter of Intent last November.

Video: Recapping the state baseball tournament

June, 17, 2012
WORCESTER, Mass. -- ESPN Boston High Schools co-editor Brendan Hall, correspondent Andy Smith, and host Lynn Herman review the exciting action from this year's MIAA baseball tournament, and give their picks for our Mr. Baseball Award, following last night's state championships at Fitton Field.

D1 EMass Final: Xaverian 3, Lowell 2

June, 13, 2012

BROCKTON, Mass. -– Simply put, this was a scary situation for Xaverian lefty Mark Stefaniak to launch himself into. Or to be more polite, one that demanded gumption.

Clinging to a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh inning, under the lights at Campanelli Stadium, and with the meat of one of the state’s most feared lineups coming up, the senior came in to relieve Fairfield-bound lefty Tim Duggan. He promptly let Lowell load the bases up with no outs.

Stefaniak could have cracked after fielding Derek Reed’s bunt wildly with a bad relay to first to load the bases. And you couldn’t blame him if his heart skipped a beat when cleanup hitter Chad Gens, one of the state’s most feared deep-ball hitters, launched a 2-1 fastball over the left field fence -– but about 10 feet into foul territory.

Instead, Stefaniak went fastball again -– “I just thought hey, two strikes for me,” he later explained. Gens dunked the ball to third base, and the 5-2 putout at home was made cleanly. And then, an unreal sequence of events unraveled.

Matt Tulley popped up a fly ball to Xaverian second baseman Chris Hoyt. With the infield fly rule in play, Hoyt intentionally bobbled the pop-fly into the shallow infield grass, freezing pinch-runner Ricky Rosado at third with a quick throw to home.

Only, Hoyt’s throw sailed about 30 feet above catcher Andrew Elliott (unintentionally, of course), so Rosado gunned it for home after a split-second hesitation. First baseman Mike LaVita was there to cover, however, and Elliott fired from the backstop to make the 4-2-3 inning-ending double play.

And like that, the best threat of the night from Lowell (20-5) had been nullified. Six outs later, Xaverian (17-8) wrapped up its second Division 1 Eastern Mass. title in three years with a 3-2 win.

“We were all extremely fired up after that,” Hoyt said. “It was really, I thought, the momentum changer for them and for us. We were talking up real loud. It just changed the game, that whole entire play.”

Xaverian head coach Gerry Lambert commended his players for not giving up on the play.

“It’s hard to put into words,” he said. “You always hope that the guys have the presence of mind to realize something like that’s happening. Even as a coach who’s into the game and yelling all the time, I don’t have the time to communicate that. Guys just have to be able to react.

“You can’t practice that play right there, that situation. I’m proud of Mike, Andrew Elliott for getting back to the ball, Chris Hoyt for being able to initiate the play, and it just barely worked out in our favor. We’ll take it. It wasn’t executed picture-perfect, but we just did enough to get it done.”

Hoyt sends ‘em home: Years from now, Xaverian faithful are probably going to remember Hoyt’s throw to home more than they are the two-run single the inning prior that put the Hawks ahead for good. But it’s no less important.

With two outs, and runners on first and second, pinch-hitter Aaron Drummey got hit by a pitch from Cam Latta to load up the bases. Hoyt then shot a 1-0 dribbler through the left side of the infield, just out of reach of the outstretched arms of Gens, to score LaVita and Aidan Desrosiers. Wolfe was caught in a rundown trying to take an extra base during the sequence, but the runs came across before he was tagged out.

Hoyt finished the evening 3 for 5, with 2 RBI, a run and three stolen bases.

“He’s the guy we want,” Lambert said of Hoyt’s two-run single. “I remember when he stepped up with the bases loaded, I thought, you know, if I had to pick anybody on the team…that’s the guy. For him to come up the way he did, he’s done it for me for three years, and he did it again today. Obviously, that was an enormous single -- not his hardest-hit ball, but we’ll take it.”

Just Short: The Red Raiders came into this contest having completed one of the most impressive defensive runs in recent memory of the Division 1 tournament. Capped with two superb starts from Tulley, a Virginia Tech signee, the Raiders allowed just two runs in four games.

But on the flip side, they scored just 10 runs in the North sectional, with five of them coming in their semifinal win over Malden.

“The pitching, I couldn’t have been happier with,” head coach Danny Graham said. “Defense was good. It’s just, it would have been a little nice…I said, and my coaches agreed, at some point offense is going to have to win a game for us. Your luck’s going to run out.”

D1 North Final: Lowell 2, Newton North 1

June, 10, 2012

LOWELL, Mass. -- A runner in scoring position, one out left in the game and a full count left closer Cam Latta unfazed.

Working the outside edge, the junior caught Tigers' freshman Ben Porter swinging high, pumped his fist, and celebrated an MIAA Division 1 North championship.

Pitching has been the strength for the top-seeded Red Raiders (21-4) all season and was no different in their hometown on Saturday night. Lowell continued its throwing dominance allowing only two runs in its past four games, as they edged No. 22 seed Newton North (14-11) by a 2-1 margin at LeLacheur Park to advance to Tuesday's state semifinals.

[+] EnlargeMatt Tulley
Brendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comVirginia Tech-bound righty Matt Tulley tossed another gem for Lowell, striking out nine and allowing just one run as the Red Raiders won the Division 1 North title.
“To do it in our city was a great thing,” said Lowell senior starter Matt Tulley. “It is getting a little late in the season (and) I am a little fatigued now. You just have to bear down.”

Tulley tossed seven innings allowing only one score and four knocks with 104 throws, while striking out nine. Latta, gave up zero hits in relief and struck out a pair for the save.

“We have a new pitching coach,” said Lowell coach Dan Graham. “(He) looks like a genius now. Tulley threw 129 pitches on Sunday and I told him I only wanted one more inning and that was the seventh.”

Lowell pulled ahead in the fourth off a thrown away pitch and a single by senior Andrew Marasa.

A pair of low rips by fellow upperclassmen Derek Reed and Chad Gens put a runner on first and third with one out in the fourth, while a
missed toss to third by Tigers' starter Tommy Clarke slipped Reed home for the first score.

Tulley singled to push Gens to third and Marasa knock a short drive into the outfield to edge Lowell ahead 2-0 at the end of the inning.

“Derek wasn't sleeping there and the ball gets by,” said Graham. “Andrew has been swinging the bat really well lately. I have been
tempted to move him up.”

Newton North had loaded the bases with one out in the previous half inning, but a pair of strikeouts by Tulley prevented scoring.

A double by sophomore Alex Joyce and a sacrifice outfield pop by junior Ryan Brendan finally broke the shutout with one out in the

“Our strategy is work the pitcher,” said Newton North coach Joe Siciliano said. “Foul off until he gives us our pitch. Our kids battled.”

Tigers junior centerfielder Dan Swain back stepped to force an out falling over with a runner in scoring position in the six, while Marasa dove to snag a left field knock from senior Roger Roman in the seventh. Clarke chucked 105 pitches for five strikes and eight hits in a complete-game effort.

Newton North, which qualified for the tournament with a 3-1 win against Waltham in its final regular season game, came into the
postseason as the North tournament's second-lowest seed. It had previously rolled off four wins against the top 11 seeded teams.

“The game could have gotten out of hand, but Clarke is a bull,” said Siciliano. “The pressure in that game and the kids are still having

D1 North Baseball: Lowell 5, Malden 1

June, 8, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -- After hours of start time uncertainty and an eventual postponement the day before, and another hour rain delay the next day, Lowell is headed to Saturday’s Division 1 North Sectional Finals.

The Red Raiders beat Malden 5-1 at Alumni Field Friday, leaving only Newton North separating it from a sectional championship.

Lowell got strong pitching performances from R.J. Noel (5.1 innings pitched, 1 earned run, 3 hits, 3 strikeouts, 2 walks) and Nick Godfroy (3.2 innings pitched, 4 hits, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks).

With the team playing on back-to-back days, Lowell (20-4) coach Dan Graham was able to conserve most of the arms for Saturday, and any potential games next week.

“I take nothing for granted, but I knew coming into the game that R.J. was rested, Godfroy was rested, Chad (Gens) was rested, and if need be, I could use Matty (Tulley) too,” said Graham. “There’s no sense in holding anyone back today and planning ahead for tomorrow because if you don’t win today, there is no tomorrow. Coming in with the arms, we felt good with where we were at.”

The effort was aided in the second inning when Tulley, who was dropped into the No. 5 spot in the lineup, hit a bomb over the left field wall for the first run of the game.

Two batters later, Andrew Marasa hit a ball to right field that Malden’s Nick Powers misplayed, which turned Marasa’s single into a three-base hit. Roger Roman plated him with the third hit of the inning.

Lowell added another in the third when a Chad Gens sacrifice fly allowed Noel to cross the plate.

“We really wanted it,” he said. “We were upset that we really didn’t score as many runs as we should, but we definitely came ready to hit, play defense, and all that.”

Gens helped out again in the fifth when he crushed a 1-0 pitch from Malden (17-6) pitcher Brad Applin off the centerfield wall for a double. He scored two batters later on a Joe Parisi single to make the game 4-0.

Malden got on the board in the sixth inning when the heart of the batting order hit four straight singles, which knocked in Austin Teal.

On to LeLaucher: Lowell will play Newton North Saturday, the No. 22 seed that not many people, if any at all, expected to be playing in the sectional finals. In contrast, it will be playing a Lowell team that many prognosticators had pegged for a postseason run before the season even started.

North did not get there by blind luck, however. With postseason victories over Lexington, Billerica, St. John’s Prep, and Acton-Boxborough, it defeated four of the top 11 seeds in the tournament to get to where it is now. If it is able to defeat Lowell Saturday, it will add to that list.

Gens and the rest of the Red Raiders are confident they can keep this run going beyond Saturday.

“There’s always a sense of urgency when you’re playing in the North finals,” he said. “We can beat them. We beat A-B, we beat all the teams they played, so we can do it.”

Flawless on the mound -- and field: Lowell’s pitching and defense has been as good as it could ask for over the past three games. It has now given up one run in 27 innings. While there were times in the later innings when Godfroy got behind in counts and seemed to struggle with his command, Graham stuck with him and the senior rewarded him by pitching out of trouble.

Instead of having a quick trigger and burning through pitchers, Graham left himself the opportunity to use his ace (Tulley) on six days rest Saturday, with other fresh arms (Gens, Cam Latta, etc.) to use if necessary.

“It worked out today,” said Graham. “We only had one pitching change today. It took Nick a minute or two to get settled in once he got out there, but once he did he started doing his thing, changing speeds and throwing strikes. He was our No. 2 starter most of the year.

“I like our team, I think we’ve got talent,” he added. “I’m very happy these kids are going in there and playing to their ability, not getting nervous, and executing. It makes my job a little bit easier.”

No more delays: Saturday’s games will mark the end of an unorthodox two-week stretch for most of the teams in the state playoffs. A week of inclement weather and end of the school year activities has brought about many scheduling conflicts for the remaining teams in the state playoffs, and Lowell is no exception.

“Those kids had their prom two weeks ago on Tuesday,” said Graham. “It’s been tough from the time the prom rolled around, through graduation this last Wednesday, and in preparation for the state tournament.”

“Monday (May 28) we won the league. Tuesday (May 29) these kids had the prom, they had the day off. Wednesday, I didn’t bring them back until late at night. Then the tournament’s starting. We know we have a bye, we’re waiting until Saturday to play. We got rained out on Saturday and ended up playing on Sunday.

“We win that game 1-0 (against Westford), then we’re supposed to come back on Monday, and we end up getting rained out so we have a day to actually go indoors and get some work in and talk to the kids and work on some offensive stuff. We did a better job when we came back out on Tuesday (against Malden Catholic). We got a dynamite pitching performance from Cam Latta. Then these kids graduated on Wednesday (June 6) so we got a quick day of work. We were supposed to play yesterday, so we got out here and did most of our pregame out here on the field. We were waiting to take the bus to Fraser Field to play a game, it got rained out there, then we had to come back and get ready to go today."

Graham continued, “The good part about today was the kids got out of school early so, with a 4 p.m. game, we were able to get out here early, take a full pregame, and make sure we were ready to play. So it was a little bit more routine, which was nice, with not as many distractions, which is nice. I think the focus was where it needs to be.”

The scheduling was more of an inconvenience to the players, but not anything that couldn’t be worked around.

“It’s a pain,” said Gens. “We were ready to play yesterday, but I guess it was kind of good that it rained yesterday since we played well today. We got extra swings in in practice and we hit good today.”

D1 Baseball: Lowell 2, Malden Catholic 0

June, 5, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -- For its second straight Division 1 North tournament game, Lowell kept its opponent off the scoreboard entirely.

With strong defense and a complete game by Cam Latta, Lowell advanced to the tournament semi-finals with a 2-0 victory over Malden Catholic Tuesday.

While Latta was not overpowering hitters (7 strikeouts over 9 innings), he relied on the team behind him to take care of the balls in play. This allowed him to work quickly and efficiently throughout the game, while allowing only four hits and stranding 7 MC runners.

Malden Catholic (14-8) led off the second and third innings with doubles, but each time, Latta was able to work around them and not let the runner advance beyond second base.

“I knew my defense would help me behind me, so I just tried to throw as many strikes as possible and not put too many guys on base,” he said.

Lowell (19-4) got on the board in the second after having runners on the corners with one out. Dylan Dennis, the MC starter, threw to first to check on Roger Roman. The ball ricocheted off the first baseman’s glove and got away from him.

This allowed Andrew Marasa to score from third and for Roman to advance to third.

It’s other run came in the fifth on a bases loaded Chad Gens sacrifice fly.

“What’s encouraging for me is, I still think we have better days ahead, especially from an offensive standpoint,” said Lowell coach Dan Graham. “I think we’re capable of doing a better job, and I think we will.”

MC’s threatened in the third inning when it had runners on first and second with two outs, but Latta was able to induce two flyouts to end any scoring chance MC had.

Sixteen of MC’s 27 outs came on fly balls.

Lowell warmed up three pitchers during the eighth and ninth innings, but they weren’t needed. He struck out Manny Powers looking to end the game and helped his team move on to the semi-finals.

Under the Radar: Latta’s quiet emergence as a reliable starting pitcher gives Lowell more potential arms to throw at teams as the postseason rolls on. While Matt Tulley is the well-publicized ace of the staff, Latta has earned the trust of his coach and his teammates to be put on the mound as the team’s No. 2 starter.

“He’s a kid that, early in the year, pitched in relief, and pitched in relief a lot,” said Graham. “I think like 15 games into the season, the kid had 12 appearances. He was doing so well in relief, we put him into the rotation, then he put three great starts together. Seeing that, with a kid like Matty, I have all the confidence in the world with Cam, against anyone, to give us a shot to win.

“So for him to come out of the bullpen and establish himself in the rotation, to prove everyone right, and to come out and pitch the way he pitched today, is awesome.”

After warming up arms in the late innings, it appeared Graham was waiting for the opportune time to make a move. He decided to ride the wave and keep his starter in, even after he approached -- and eventually went over -- 100 pitches.

“That means a lot to me,” said Latta. “He believes in me and we’re trying to go far in this tournament.”

Latta was assisted by MC’s tendency to jump on pitches early in the count and try to drive them. In 10 of its 15 at-bats between the third and sixth innings, he had to throw at most two pitches to each hitter. That quick work helped keep the fatigue at a minimum, and helped him go farther in the game.

“It was good because they were first-pitch swinging,” he said. “They were getting pop-ups, so they were quick and easy outs.”

No tax on the staff: Because Latta and Matt Tulley combined to pitch 17.1 innings for Lowell over the past two games, the rest of the team’s arms are available for Thursday, when it is expected to play Malden in the Division 1 North Semi-finals.

R.J. Noel, who pitched two-thirds of an inning Sunday against Westford, has been the only non-starter arm Lowell has used in the state tournament so far.

“Eighteen innings of tournament baseball, we haven’t given up a run yet,” said Graham. “We’ve gone to the pen one time, that’s it. Our defense has been great. To see the pitching in the first two games be the way it was, you have some arms rested. You have some other kids you can go to. (Cam) was unbelievable today.”

Wiseman likely to honor Vandy commitment

June, 4, 2012
Last Thursday, in the Red Sox’ annual pre-draft press conference with the Boston media, general manager Ben Cherington was asked about the local talent, and declared “We bet there’s a big leaguer this year out of New England, even if we don’t know for sure who it is.”

The MLB amateur draft kicks off tonight with the first round, followed by 39 more rounds over tomorrow and Wednesday, and there’s probably one overwhelming guess as to who that individual might be. But the reality is it’s anyone’s guess –- and, with the new rules enacted by the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, perhaps more so.

Most notable among the new rules is a tax penalty on teams that exceed the designated slot salary recommendation for the sum of their first 10 picks. Also, players taken after the 10th round cannot sign for more than $100,000 (including bonuses).

“I think the changes in the draft from an industry standpoint are generally intended to create more meritocracy, where the first player taken is the best player, and on down from there,” Cherington said. “And in that, you know, spread the talent out more. I think that’s part of the intent. The reality is, no matter what you do to create meritocracy in scouting, there’s always going to be, you know, one player taken, and then 20 picks later a player taken that’s better, no matter what the rules are.”

That makes for an interesting situation for Buckingham, Browne & Nichols outfield Rhett Wiseman, the most high-profile of the bunch, with projections as high as the late first round. The state’s Gatorade Player of the Year and a Vanderbilt signee, has explosive speed both on foot and at the plate, and drew as many as 75 scouts to a game last March during the Knights’ spring training trip.

The Red Sox, Angels, and a slew of National League teams have shown significant interest in the Mansfield resident. But this morning, Wiseman confirmed to that it is highly likely he will honor his commitment to Vanderbilt unless he is taken in the first 40 picks.

“I’m so excited about Vanderbilt, and I’m very fortunate with all the pro attention this spring," Wiseman said. "But what we’re looking for as a family I don’t think is there right now out of high school. Hopefully in three years the attention is still there and I can start my professional career after going to Vanderbilt.”

Asked about a potential asking price, Wiseman said that wasn’t the case.

“We took in a lot of questions about a possible asking price,” Wiseman said. “But for a Vanderbilt education, it’s tough to put a price on it, and a price on the college experience.”

Wiseman is close friends with Tyler Beede, the Lawrence Academy righthander and 2011 ESPN Boston Mr. Baseball who turned down $2.5 million from the Blue Jays at the signing deadline last August. And he was with Beede the night he got drafted last June, watching from the living room with nearly 100 others as the Jays made him their 21st overall selection.

But tonight, the Wiseman clan is keeping it low-key. Rhett will likely head to one of the Hockomock region's favorite pizza joints, Town Spa Pizza in Stoughton, and hole up for a bite with another close friend and draft hopeful -– Lawrence Academy lefty and Wake Forest commit Max Tishman.

“We had 26 pro teams in the house over the winter, hundreds of guys come in during the season, and if I had to do it all again I wouldn’t do it any other way, that’s for sure,” said Rhett’s father, Mike Wiseman. “It is an incredible decision for a 17-year-old kid to make when you think about it. He did a great job handling it the whole way, and I’ve been proud of him from start to finish.

“He had some great games this year when a lot of people were in there to watch him. It was great to see everyone, I enjoyed it. I loved talking to all the scouts, talking real baseball with baseball guys.”

Some other thoughts as we head into tonight’s first round:

The skinny on Rhett
Wiseman put together a solid season in the ISL to win Gatorade Player of the Year, batting .444 with eight home runs, 24 RBI and 26 runs scored. But just what part of the outfield he ultimately lands on is not universally agreed upon in the scouting fraternity.

Two American League scouts offered different takes on how he projects.

“I don’t know if he has the arm for right,” says one scout. “I think ideally he’ll end up in centerfield, because of his speed and it takes some pressure off the bat a little bit. He’ll need to improve on his defense. He’s not a finished product yet.”

Says another, “Everyone was interested in seeing what he’d come out and do in the spring, making changes to his swing in the offseason, and I’d say he’s pretty similar to the player he was last summer, but more advanced and with more years under his belt. His bat speed and running speed, there’s two really useful tools right now, it’s just a question of whether or not he can put it together against elite pitching.”

Gens on the rise?
Virginia Tech-bound righthander Matt Tulley garners the most attention for Lowell High, and is a potential late-rounder, but the most interesting prospect to rise on the local radar this spring might be one of his teammates.

Chad Gens, a senior bound for College of San Mateo (Calif.) who roams the left side of the infield and pitches relief, doesn’t have the impressive numbers of other more high-profile position players (.356, 20 runs, 14 RBI, 3 HR, 10 stolen bases; 1-1, 2 saves, 3.00 ERA, 20 K, 9 IP). But his physical tools are impressive, demonstrating power from the plate, and his athletic 6-foot-2 frame is almost prototypical.

Late last month, for instance, Gens came in for relief in the Red Raiders’ game with Andover at Lelaucher Park, and was clocked at 90 miles per hour on his fastball –- and 62 on his curve.

“He’s probably one of the most intriguing kids to pop up around here,” says an American League scout. “His overall athletic ability makes him intriguing as a position player, he’s got the raw tools and he’s physical offensively.

“Going to a junior college he’s viewed as more signable than a kid going to Vanderbilt, and I think that’s the intriguing part. Gens is really raw and could learn a lot from the lower levels if you spend time developing him. So the question is, do you draft a kid like that this year with immaturity and raw tools, and hope you have a diamond in the rough, or do you wait?”

Lowell head coach Danny Graham says he’s been told by scouts that day three is a possibility for Gens, just as it is for Tulley.

“Here’s a kid who’s never been in the right situation, but he eats, sleeps and drinks baseball, the whole nine yards,” Graham said. “I was told by someone in the scouting bureau that talks to a bunch of people, Chad is going to get drafted somewhere around the 30th round. Whether or not any of that happens, I don’t know.”

Others on the cusp
At the beginning of the spring, we targeted five players who could hear their name called. Looking at that number again, there seems to be only one sure thing -– Wiseman, but where is anyone’s guess. But there are a number of other players who could see themselves in the mix.

In addition to the aforementioned Tishman and Tulley, keep an eye out for Lexington’s Chris Shaw and St. Sebastian’s John Nicklas, who are both heading to Boston College.

Also keep an eye out for another one of Wiseman’s future Vanderbilt teammates, Braintree rigthhander Pat Delano. Two years out from undergoing Tommy John surgery from world-renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, Delano’s velocity –- once clocked in the low-90’s as a sophomore –- appears to be coming back. Standing 6-foot-7 and showing quality leg strength, the Bay State Conference MVP could develop into a draft-ready prospect in three years’ time, if not this year.

D1 Baseball: Lowell 1, Westford 0

June, 3, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -- As a blanket of dreary clouds rolled in overhead, Lowell’s Matt Tulley toed the rubber and stared in at Westford’s Luke Morse, Sunday’s opposing pitcher.

A hit batsman, throwing error, and single put Westford players on every base with only one out in the sixth inning. Neither team could get on the board up until that inning. A pop fly, at the very least, a ground ball to either the second baseman or shortstop would plate a Westford run.

With the count 1-2, Morse swung and hit a soft ground ball back to Tulley. He flipped it to his catcher, Mike Hart, for the force out to keep the score tied at zero. After working the count full against Danny Cerullo, he threw a fastball down the middle that Cerullo took and started jogging down to first base. Except it was strike three. The inning was over, the crisis was averted.

It was that kind of a game for Westford: the Grey Ghosts got runners in scoring position, but could never get any to cross the plate. It took a 129-pitch effort from Tulley, but Lowell hung on for the 1-0 victory to move on to the Division 1 North Quarterfinals.

“I don’t let anything bother me,” said Tulley. “No matter what the situation is, I don’t let it bother me, no matter what it is.”

The only run for Lowell (18-4) came in the seventh inning. After Morse walked Andrew Marasa and Joe Parisi to start the inning, he was relieve in favor of John Troy.

Marasa got picked off second base after Matt Sullivan, the catcher for Westford (11-10), threw down to second after noticing Marasa took too big a lead off the bag. He then got RJ Gray to fly out to center for the second out of the inning.

Roger Roman came up next and sent a ball into centerfield a single. The ball got by Mike Bibinski and kept rolling towards the warning track. This allowed Parisi to score all the way from first and Roman to roll into third.

It was a tough game for Bibinski, who went 1-for-5 at the plate with four strikeouts to go along with the fielding error.

Tulley had nine strikeouts heading into the final frame, and added another before being relieved by R.J. Noel.

If it was up to the senior righthander, he would have stayed in the game. However, the team knew Noel was more than capable of getting the final two outs in the game.

“I definitely wanted to throw the complete game, but it was a certain situation where R.J. is quick to the plate, and I was getting up there in pitches, so it was smart decision,” he said.

Rainy Day Fund: Due to inclement weather over the weekend, many of the remaining playoff teams have to play again on Monday, a back-to-back scenario rarely seen in high school baseball.

While having an extra day of rest would be preferred, Lowell coach Dan Graham doesn’t think the immediate turnaround will be a detrimental to his team.

“It’s not a bad thing,” he said. “I’m sure some of these kids are anxious. I’m sure they’d like to get some more at-bats right now. I think it will be a good thing for us to get right back out here tomorrow and play.”

Lowell plays against Malden Catholic on Monday at 4 p.m.

Morse leaves it all on the field: Morse deserved the standing ovation the fans gave him when he came out of the game in the sixth inning. He did everything he could to keep his team in the game against a powerful offensive team.

There was a stretch between the second and sixth innings when he allowed only two hits and four runners to reach base.

He ended his six-inning outing allowing four hits, three walks, one earned run, and two strikeouts. He pitched out of jams in the first and second innings where, each time, Lowell had runners on second and third with one out.

“He threw the ball well, credit him,” said Graham. “He was starting kids off offspeed, getting it for strikes and getting ahead in the count. He had enough on his fastball where, if you show them offspeed early, you can sneak fastballs by people.”

“I feel like we should’ve got out of those first couple innings with a run or two, which probably could have changed the complexion of the game. We probably would’ve settled in and been a little more comfortable at the plate. You’re not going to win many state tournament games putting up only one run. But we feel fortunate that it didn’t come back to bite us at the end of the game.”

Draft Tracking: By the time Lowell’s Division 1 North Quarterfinal matchup versus Malden Catholic is over Monday night, the Major League Baseball Player Draft will be underway.

The Red Raiders have two potential draftees in Tulley and infielder Chad Gens. Don’t look for them to be distracted from the task at hand though.

“I don’t think they’ll be distracted,” said Graham. “I don’t think they’re going to be bringing their cell phones into the dugout or anything waiting for a phone call. That’s really out of their control. They’ve played the season up until this point, so if it happens for them, great, if it doesn’t happen for them, it’s not like they’re finishing their college careers here. They’re just finishing the tail end of their high school careers. They have a lot of baseball in front of them.”

Tulley knows that even if he doesn’t get that phone call in the next few days, it won’t be the end of the line for him. The Virginia Tech commit will work to make the most of his time in the land of Division 1 college baseball.

“I’m just going to let it play out,” he said. “I hope I do (get drafted). It would be an honor. If it doesn’t happen, then I’ve got three years at Virginia Tech, and I’ll try my best to do it then.”

Tulley shows his 'gritty' side to BC High

May, 19, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -– The fire remained within.

Matt Tulley leaned against the fence at the top of Lowell High’s dugout, arms outstretched, and gazed out at the BC High players warming up in the outfield at Alumni Field. He was his usual self -– that is, quiet, calm, relaxed, but locked in.

[+] EnlargeLowell
Brendan Hall Lowell's prized righthander Matt Tulley (11 K's, 4 hits, 2 runs) displayed what coach Dan Graham called "grittiness" in the team's win Friday over BC High.
“Do you have the time, sir?” he politely called out to a nearby reporter in the dugout.

“Quarter past,” the reporter responded, and the senior righthander flashed a small grin. Forty-five minutes before first pitch meant time to warm up, time to go to work, time to buckle down and brace himself for one of the state’s best hitting lineups.

Tulley earned a scholarship to Virginia Tech this past offseason in part for the low-90’s velocity and late life on his fastball, but also for his competitive streak. In the big games, Tulley always wants the ball, and he never gives off signs of panic.

Unlike his earlier starts this season, there weren't scouts visibly out front, radar gun in tow, clocking his every pitch warming up in the bullpen. Tonight was a change of pace –- a capacity crowd for “Senior Night”, charting each of his strikeouts with “K” signs posted just below the press box windows –- and as usual, he rose to the occasion.

To end the first inning he delivered the looping 12-to-6 curveball that has become his vicious outpitch, and punched the air as he stormed back to the dugout. The next time up, Tulley ran into some trouble when an Eagles baserunner took two bases off a throwing error by Tulley on the pickoff to first. Head coach Danny Graham walked out to the mound to calm him down; Tulley exhaled, and retired the next batter to end the inning.

More trouble came in the fifth, when Rich Roach raced home on a wild pitch and easily beat Tulley’s would-be tag at home plate, tying it up at 1. Roach appeared to mutter something as he got up, and Tulley jawed right back. Tulley then got No. 2 hitter Ryan Tufts looking on another breaking ball to end the inning.

“Kid slides into home, beats the throw, Matt tags him, no big deal,” Graham said. “Kid says something to him, Matt says something right back. It probably lit a little fire under his a--. He is kind of mellow, a little bit laid-back sometimes, but the fire is within.”

More trouble in the sixth. UConn-bound cleanup hitter Bobby Melley crushed one off the wall in left-center, for a stand-up triple, then came home on another passed ball.

You get the idea by now -– Tulley grabbed the ball, and finished what he started. That was the final hit Tulley allowed, as he struck out 11 batters with just four hits scattered to pick up his fourth win of the season. That accompanies a pretty decent job at the plate, which included a sacrifice bunt and an RBI double.

“I knew I had to not just be on my A-game, but my A-plus game,” Tulley said. “They were coming for me, and everyone else.”

“His pitch count’s getting up there, I don’t know whether I’m going to have to make a move or not, how tired he’s getting,” Graham said. “When he came in in the sixth, he grabbed the pitching chart, and he’s studying it. And I know he’s not studying it for our relief pitchers that are coming in.

“So maybe that did ring true in the back of his head. This is a meaningful spot for him, with a two-run lead, and if there’s anybody out there finishing this game out, I want it to be me.”

Tulley went into the last offseason with some kinks to be worked out with his curve. And so he went to a local legend, Mark Deschenes, a Lowell native and UMass-Lowell star who at one point was one of the Cleveland Indians’ top pitching prospects. Among other things, Deschenes stressed the importance of not tipping his pitches, and keeping a consistent release point.

To say it’s worked would be fair. Whereas a year ago at this time, Tulley went mostly fastball-cutter, he was now pounding four pitches for strikes. Half of his strikeouts tonight came by way of the backwards-K.

“Coming into this season, I didn’t think my curveball was going to be my plus pitch,” Tulley said. “But it has been all year. I could always throw it for a strike.”

Noted BC High head coach Norm Walsh, “It’s not so much the fastball, it’s the ability to change speeds on the breaking balls. He goes from the hard slider to the softer curve with a bigger break to it. And he competes – that’s the biggest thing.”

And to that last point, Tulley recalled a recent conversation with Graham, where the coach reminisced about legendary former Peabody hurler Jeff Allison, a former first-round draft pick seemingly destined for a promising big league career before highly-publicized off-field issues derailed the path.

In Allison, Graham always appreciated the gritty side. Asked about recalling the conversation with Tulley, Graham lit up.

“Grittiness, that’s it,” he said. “I think people want to see grittiness. They want to see you be the guy that wants the ball in the most meaningful spots in the game. That’s it. If you’ve got something in the tank to give, they want to see it.

“He doesn’t necessarily have to show emotion out there, it’s just the grittiness. It’s in your body language, it’s your presence out there on the mound. Just showing it.”

Across the basepath, Tulley’s toughness drew praise from Walsh as well.

“He gets right back up on the mound, and he wants to go right after you,” Walsh said. “That’s exactly what you want to see in a pitcher. Be aggressive, go after hitters. Melley took him deep and he’s right back up there, and that’s exactly what you want from a pitcher.

“Nothing phases him. The passed ball, wild pitch, whatever you want to call it, he didn’t care. He went right back out and threw it again.”

Recap: No. 13 Lowell 4, No. 7 BC High 2

May, 18, 2012

LOWELL, Mass. -- It is a known fact that big-time pitchers are usually at their best in big-game situations.

Lowell High’s Matt Tulley certainly falls into that classification of big-time pitcher. Tonight the senior righty showed why, as he surrendered just four hits while striking out 11 in a complete game 4-2 non-league victory effort over BC High at Alumni Field.

“I knew this was the most-anticipated game of the year for us,” said Tulley, who will play for Virginia Tech next season. “I was just very excited to play. Coach (Danny) Graham told me about a pitcher from this area named Jeff Allison (who played at Peabody High and was a first-round pick of the Florida Marlins) and how gritty a player he was and I just tried to follow that.

"Warming up in the bullpen I didn't feel that good. I don't know what it was but I wasn't to worried about it. I just knew I had to zone in more and get focused. Once I got out there I felt great.”

Tulley mixed his fastball and cutter with a knee-buckling curve, which proved to be his most effective pitch of the evening as it kept Eagles (13-5) off-balanced throughout.

“We had chances but let to many opportunities go by,” BC High coach Norm Walsh said. “(Tulley) is obviously one of the top 4-5 guys we’ve seen all year. Him changing speeds on his breaking ball was the biggest thing. It wasn't so much the fastball but the ability for him to change speeds on the breaking ball. He competes. That’s what you want to see out of your pitchers -- to be aggressive and go after hitters like he did tonight.”

With the contest tied 2-2 through 5 1/2 innings, the Red Raiders (13-3) put this one to rest in their half of the sixth. With John Arens in relief of starter Trent Berg (5 IP, 2 runs, 7 hits, 4 Ks) on the mound, Lowell’s Roger Roman opened the frame with a single. After advancing to second on Matt Cassella’s well-executed sacrifice bunt, the senior eventually came around to score the go-ahead run on a Chad Gens fielder’s choice. The Red Raiders added another run moments later on a Tulley (2 hits, 2 RBI) single to left that scored Mike Hart, who walked.

“We knew it was going to be a good game,” Graham said. “It was a great performance by Matt, and he was very gutsy right to the end. Credit our kids. This one was fun to watch. (BC High) is a helluva team and they compete hard. You could see at the end of the game how meaningful it was to beat a program like BC High. Anytime you win it’s great but when you beat a quality team it’s even better. Our kids were definitely up for the challenge.”

The Red Raiders looked to put this contest away in their half of the first after loading the bases with no out. But Berg, who also used his 12-to-6 curveball with authority, pitched his way out of trouble by striking out Tulley and R.J. Noel before inducing Derek Reed to fly out. Walking the proverbial tightrope much of the evening, Berg, a junior, failed to escape trouble in the third.

Back-to-back singles by R.J. Gray and Gens started things. A Tulley sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. After Berg set Noel with a strike out, Reed next singled to plate Gray with Lowell’s first run.

The Eagles tied it up in the fifth. Rich Roach opened with a double to left, took third on a deep fly out by Chuckie Connors and sprinted home on a wild pitch. Lowell got that run back its half of the fifth. Gens singled, stole second and came around to score on Tulley’s double down the left field line which short-hopped over the glove of third baseman Justin Silvestro making it 2-1.

Showing great resiliency, the Eagles answered back to begin the sixth. Bobby Melley blasted a triple to right and scored moments later on a passed ball to deadlock this tilt yet again, 2-2.

But on this night, the Red Raiders simply had too much firepower offensively and it showed in the bottom of the frame after taking a two-run advantage. With Tulley in full command on the hill, that would prove to be more than enough run support for him to secure the win.

“We put some pressure on them,” said Walsh. “When we kept it on them we scored but we just didn’t get it done as often as we needed to do it.”

Roundtable: Is Milford the new D1 softball favorite?

April, 20, 2012
In this week's edition of "Roundtable", ESPN Boston High Schools Editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall are joined by correspondent Bruce Lerch and Brockton Enterprise staff writer John Botelho as we discuss the best hitting lineups, the best faceoff specialist in lacrosse, and whether Milford is now the team to beat in softball.


ESPN Boston High Schools Editor Scott Barboza: In a word, yes. Shannon Smith is simply pitching out of her mind right now, but it's not as though we haven't seen this before from the University of Kentucky commit. Two years ago, Smith was named Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year after recording a 0.36 ERA. This year, she's been dominant, including a 20-strikeout performance against Shrewsbury and 17 K's against KP. Not to mention, the Scarlet Hawks haven't even been playing with their opening day lineup, after All-State catcher Taylor Archer suffered a leg injury in the first week of the season. Freshman Taylor LeBrun has done a terrific job behind the plate in the interim, but MIlford will only be that much more potent with their top battery in place. I'm certainly not ruling out KP, as anything short of a rematch between the two teams in the state final would be unexpected.

Bruce Lerch, correspondent: While there are several teams with good enough pitching to shut down the Scarlet Hawks bats, how many are strong enough offensively to hit against Milford ace Shannon Smith? The only team that really comes to mind is...King Philip. The Kentucky-bound Smith two-hit the Warriors and struck out 17 Monday afternoon, so you have to think they are the lead horse in the race right now. KP has hit Smith before, however, as a 10-1 result in the state championship game two years ago proves. Of course, Smith was but a freshman then, and having faced King Philip several times since then her knowledge of that dangerous lineup has grown considerably.

Oh yeah...KP also has Meghan Rico. I've heard she's a pretty good pitcher too...something about a reigning player of the year? If both aces are on their game, then the state championship softball game may have to be scheduled for more than one day

John Botelho, Brockton Enterprise: Even with Milford knocking off K-P, it's still hard to call anyone but the Warriors - the two-time defending state champ - the favorite to win it all. This means Milford might have closed the gap, but until someone proves Meghan Rico is possible to beat in the playoffs, the Warriors remain the class of softball in this state. Keep in mind how difficult it is to beat a good team twice, and chances are Milford will have to do just that if they're to bring home the state crown.


Scott Barboza: We might have seen a Division 2 Eastern Mass final matchup preview on Thursday when Concord-Carlisle and Hingham squared off in a Coaches Challenge Cup semifinal. The Patriots beat the Harbormen, 9-4, with Jackson Finigan, Tim Badgley and Kevin Delehey scoring two goals each. If both teams take care of business hereon out, we should expect to see both of them at Harvard Stadium. Of course, none of this makes mention of Dover-Sherborn. The Raiders fell just short of an upset over Lincoln-Sudbury before falling, 12-11, but they've proven their among the elite in Division 3.

Bruce Lerch: That team would Dover-Sherborn. Lincoln-Sudbury will enter the Division 1 tournament as one of the teams best suited to make a run at Duxbury, but betting against the Dragons has been mostly a losing proposition for the past decade. The six Div. 2 teams that participated in the tournament are perennially among the last teams standing in June, so while a state champion could come from this group, picking who it will be requires a crystal ball.

Dover-Sherborn has the talent to compete with the best teams in the state, something the Raiders proved three years running now at the Coaches Challenge Cup, and is likely going to snag one of the top four seeds in the Div. 3 tourney and will be included in the group of favorites that should also include Weston and Norwell.


ESPN Boston High Schools Editor Brendan Hall: I have seen both BC High and Lowell multiple times, and I don't think you can go wrong either way.

BC High can mash 1 through 9, but at the top is where they're especially dangerous. UConn signee Bob Melley is the Eagles' most powerful bat out of the No. 3 spot, but he's surrounded by plenty of college-ready talent in seniors Chuckie Connors, Justin Silvestro, Brian Hocking, and juniors Ryan Tufts and Dan Dougherty. I will put the Eagles' top six hitters against any team's top six in the state...

...Unless that top six is Lowell. The Red Raiders are only going to get stronger as the season goes on, but they're showing some real nice stuff through the first three weeks of the season. Rory O'Connor, Derek Reed and Andrew Marasa form what is regarded as the state's best outfield, but they can manufacture runs from the plate, too. Matt Tulley is headed to Virginia Tech for his low-90's fastball, but he's got a heavy swing from the cleanup spot too. My favorite hitter to watch in this lineup is senior Chad Gens, who can square up and plant it deep as good as anyone. After Lexington's Chris Shaw, he might be one of the better power hitters in Eastern Mass. I expect him to be near the top in extra base hits this year.

Also of note, take a look at Dighton-Rehoboth, which comes in this week at No. 18 this week. With a top of the order led by Bryan Rocha, Adam Benvie, Evan Mondor and Mike St. John, the Falcons are averaging 11 runs per game, including shellackings over Somerset (22-0) and Case (17-6). When it comes to manufacturing runs, you can't forget Walpole, between leadoff shortstop Johnny Adams, catcher Dan King, and brothers Cam and Craig Hanley.

John Botelho: Despite getting shutout by Marshfield for their first loss of the season on Thursday, the East Bridgewater Vikings offense is certainly among the best in southeastern Mass, and could be the class of the D3 South Sectional later this season. Even with the setback against the Rams, E-B is still averaging just over 10 runs per game.

In the Hockomock League both Oliver Ames has emerged as a team with an electric pitching staff, but the offense is plenty capable of flexing muscle too. With sweet swinging David MacKinnon - whose emerging as one of the best hitters in the Hock - hitting third and powerful Matt Harding hitting fourth, the Tigers have one of the best 3-4 combos going. Matt Mancini, Ryan O'Shea, Mike McMillan and Jim Sullivan help bolster a lineup that features plenty of hitting ability.


Scott Barboza: I think there's no doubt that Clay Richard of Medfield is the best true FOGO in the state, but as we saw during Wednesday's matchup against No. 1 Duxbury, Dragons midfielder Henry Narlee might be the best faceoff man in the state. Sqauring off against Richard and the Warriors, Narlee won an amazing 21 of 28 draws.

Bruce Lerch: The two best were on display Wednesday night in Duxbury as Medfield's Clay Richard went to work against the Dragons Henry Narlee. Richard more than held his own against Narlee in their individual battle, but in addition to the Duxbury junior's elite skill, he also has the advantage of having James Burke and Reilly Naton flying off the wings to grab every loose ball in sight. Not only is Narlee at winning the draws to himself, but is deadly accurate when shooting the ball into space for his two LSM's to chase it down.


Scott Barboza: Don't really know if this would count as such, but I'm calling Duxbury's take down of Garden City (N.Y.) this weekend. Looks like the Dragons' regained their top form in the last week. In softball, I have a feeling about Hudson taking down Shrewsbury this weekend.

Brendan Hall: Boston Latin has a two-game swing at the beginning of next month that could have big implications in the Dual County League: May 4 at Lincoln-Sudbury, and May 7 at Acton-Boxborough. The Wolfpack seem to be everyone's favorite little underdog in the league (no pun intended), but I wouldn't be surprised to see them take one of two here. L-S has some talent, but has been searching for that staff ace; meanwhile A-B has had a knack for the dramatic so far, twice winning one-run games, the latest a 1-0 decision over Waltham on Wednesday. Can Latin pull 1 of 2 here? It might depend on who's pitching.

Elsewhere, I've got May 10's matchup between No. 14 Burncoat and No. 3 St. John's of Shrewsbury circled on the calendar. The Patriots just lost their first game to Danvers the other day, while St. John's sits at 7-0 with a nice win over St. John's Prep. This is building into one of the best regular-season matchups in Central Mass., but I'm going to go with Burncoat in the upset.

John Botelho: On April 26, when No. 16 Barnstable comes to town, Bridgewater-Raynham will take a big step toward winning the Old Colony League by knocking them off in a pitcher's duel. The Trojans have to deal with league foe Dartmouth just two days before, and if the rotation stays the path it's on lefty Pat Chalmers will be throwing that game. That means fellow southpaw Shane Holmes, who has been piling up strikeouts and shutting offenses down, will take the mound against the Red Raiders. The lefty is one of the toughest in the area and B-R could come away with this one without needing much in the way of run support.

Recap: No. 2 Lowell 13, No. 5 Lexington 3

April, 9, 2012
LOWELL, Mass. -- Roughly a dozen major league scouts were behind the plate at Alumni Stadium, radar guns at the ready, to watch Lowell’s Matt Tulley go up against Lexington’s Chris Shaw on Monday.

Lowell’s hard-throwing right-hander got the better of the battle, holding Shaw to 0-for-3 during his at-bats against him.

He was also a big reason his team was able to come away with the 13-3 victory over the Minutemen (0-1). He struck out 10 batters, while allowing only two hits, over five innings.

“I’ve played against Chris for probably three or four years now,” said Tulley. “I was with him in California [last summer at Area Code Games] and talked to him a bit and kind of got some hints from that. I just attacked him. No fear. I don’t fear anyone.”

[+] EnlargeMatt Tulley
Brendan Hall/ESPN.comAfter allowing a sacrifice fly early, Matt Tulley buckled down and fanned 10 Lexington batters over five innings.
The only blemish to Tulley’s box score came in the first inning. Lexington's Nick Murray lead off the game with a fly ball to right field. The right fielder, Roger Roman, made a play at the ball, but appeared to misjudge it in the wind. He spun around, missed the ball, which allowed it to roll all the way to the wall.

Murray was able to get to third on the play, and was driven by a Shaw sacrifice fly two batters later.

Lowell (3-0) answered back in the bottom of the first with hits by Derek Reed, Tulley, and Chad Gens. Reed hit a two-out triple, and was driven home by Tulley’s double. Gens got up after him and hit a bomb to left-center that cleared the 365-foot wall with ease.

After that, Tulley got rolling. He struck out three batters in both the second and fourth innings. He did not allow an official hit until the fourth.

The Lowell offense tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the fourth, and blew the game open in the fifth with a four-hit inning that saw seven players cross the plate.

“I said in the beginning of the year that I really like our pitching, I like our defense, but what I really think could be a difference-maker for us is our lineup,” said Lowell coach Dan Graham. “I think one through nine, if the kids have quality at-bats, we can get to any starter. That’s what we want to do and see what happens from there. I expect offense. With a kid like Matty on the mount, I’ll take 13 runs for sure.”

What Pressure? One could not help but be distracted by the bevy of MLB scouts stationed behind the backstop with their team-branded travel bags and team logos on their shirts. They had all arrived well before game time and made their way down the first base line to watch Tulley throw his pregame bullpen session.

As the game started, they each made their way back to their marked territory behind the plate. Some even took out handheld video cameras to watch Tulley’s delivery or Shaw’s swing at the plate and play in the field. The scouts were often scribbling in their notepads, checking their cell phones, or talking amongst themselves, but appeared to spring to life whenever Shaw came to the plate against Tulley.

Some even darted down the left field line, beyond the Lexington dugout, to get a side look at Shaw’s swing.

Their radar guns rose and fell in unison after every pitch, like a section of a symphony orchestra preparing to play its part in a song.

If a group of scouts drew this much attention from onlookers, the players had to have noticed them too, right?

“No, I didn’t notice,” said Tulley.

“Really?” he replied after being told there was at least a dozen watching him. “I mean, I see them back there, but I just try not to think about it because last game, I struggled and I didn’t really do good. That’s probably why I didn’t do good, because I was thinking too much.”

Improved Outing: While the final stat line for Tulley looks imposing, there were still things that Graham felt could have been better from his star pitcher. However, he is well aware there is a long season ahead.

While he ended the game with 10 strikeouts, he threw 3 balls to seven of the 21 batters he faced, including all four of the batters he faced in the fifth inning. However, when he was able to get ahead in counts, like in the second and fourth innings, he was able to attack the zone and come away with outs.

“He was better than his first time out,” said Graham. “It’s so early in the season too. If he’s in 2-0 counts and kids are sitting dead-red fastball and they’re going to be aggressive on it, they’re going to put balls in play. When he gets ahead in counts and gets in a groove and he starts using his off-speed pitches, he’s very tough. He had flashes of it in the middle innings, maybe the third, fourth inning it looked like he was getting in a little bit of a groove.

Even from a pitch count standpoint, I think he threw 97 pitches in five innings, which is kind of high for a point this early in the season. So he’s better, but he’s not where he’s gonna need to be.”

MLB Draft prospects to watch this spring

March, 30, 2012
Rhett WisemanBB&NBB&N outfielder Rhett Wiseman has the potential to be taken in the first five rounds of this year's MLB Draft.
Last season at this time, we identified eight players from Massachusetts that would go on to get selected in June's Major League Baseball Entry Draft. Of the eight listed, six were taken, including Lawrence Academy's Tyler Beede 21st overall to the Blue Jays. Winnisquam (N.H.) righthander Jordan Cotealso went in the third round to the Yankees.

By all measures, it was one of the most loaded draft classes for pitching prospects in years. This season the Bay State comes back to Earth a little bit, but it is once again a unique class. BB&N outfielder Rhett Wiseman and Lexington first baseman Chris Shaw are considered the most draft-ready prospects, something you don't see often around these parts. Typically, pitching dominates the draft classes in New England, due to their projectability from a lack of live action in the offseason.

Further complicating things this year will be the new regulations on signing draft picks under the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, which includes a tax penalty on teams exceeding the designated salary slot recommendations for the sum of their picks in the first 10 rounds. Last year, that would have made teams more reluctant to draft prospects such as Lincoln-Sudbury's Adam Ravenelle (Vanderbilt) and St. John's Prep's Pat Connaughton (Notre Dame) -- two pitchers with first five-round potential who made their intentions to pursue college baseball well-known, and subsequently dropped all the way to day three.

With that in mind, I went over the prospects with an American League scout earlier this week, and he identified five players in Massachusetts who could possibly see their named called in June.

Rhett Wiseman, OF, BB&N
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 195 lbs.
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Hometown: Mansfield, Mass.
College: Vanderbilt
2011 Stats: .447, 12 doubles, 5 triples, 11 home runs, 29/29 stolen bases.
Scout’s Take: “Rhett is one of those outfielders who you look at and try to figure out if he can continue to progress as a Centerfielder, or if eventually you have to move him to Left because of his arm strength. The way his speed plays, you could probably keep him in center until he proves he can't handle it. Then the bat comes into play – is he a power guy or is he more of a speed guy who can make his power play? His power was on display in the bigger events last summer, but he’s also shown a propensity to strike out quite a bit against top-tier pitching. Obviously the power is going to be there as he gets older, but putting the ball in play and allowing his speed to show itself more consistently will be a big piece for him. Ultimately, I think he's a gap to gap guy who will be able to hit HR's as he learns to stay within himself and take what he is given. He’s shown the ability to play at a really high level, but it’s going to be a matter of whether people are willing to buy into his swing. He tends to get a little stiff on his front side; if he can smooth that out and show development and the ability to go the other way a little bit, he's going to put himself into the mix. It's a tough sign because of his commitment to Vanderbilt and the new CBA rules, but I can see someone taking a chance on that.”
Projection: First five rounds.

Chris Shaw, 1B, Lexington
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 230 lbs.
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Hometown: Lexington, Mass.
College: Boston College
2011 Stats: .484, 10 doubles, 8 home runs, 27 runs; 25 IP, 49 K, 7 BB, 8 hits, 5-0, 0.00 ERA
Scout’s Take: “He’s an interesting one. You go and look at him, and he’s got that typical look of a power guy, goes about 6-3, 6-4 ,225, 235ish. Supposedly he’s put more weight on over the winter and got stronger. Obviously, he can hit for power, the question is whether he can hit consistently for contact against upper-echelon pitchers. His swing is really smooth from the left-side and he generates some nice loft and backspin. The only issue is he tends to lose his rhythm in the box a little bit when the velocity picks up and the swings and misses can add up. That’s definitely correctable as he sees more of it at the next level and learns to make adjustments on a consistent basis. He’s really intent on going to BC, so you have to really believe in his bat if someone's going to make a run at signing him, but he has a chance to go pretty high if he shows a willingness to sign.”
Projection: First 15 rounds.

Max Tishman, LHP, Lawrence Academy
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 200 lbs.
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Hometown: Wellesley, Mass.
College: Wake Forest
2011 Stats: 32.2 IP, 45 K, 8 BB, 8 runs, 5-0, 1.70 ERA
Scout’s Take: “He’s a loose-arm lefty with a chance to throw three pitches for strikes, and he’s still very projectable. He put on 25 or 30 pounds over the winter, we’ll see how that plays in his development. He’s got a little bit of an unorthodox delivery with a quick-tempo delivery and a high leg kick, but that creates some deception for him and he’s shown the ability to repeat it, so I think you leave that alone. He flew under the radar last year, pitching at 165 pounds, but his velocity climbed from 86-87 to the 88-90 range by the end of summer. He put on that weight over the winter, and supposedly his velocity has climbed into the 88-91 range coming into this season, so who knows as weather warms up where he’ll go. He’s in the same boat as Jordan Cote was last year [Yankees third-round pick from Sanbornton, N.H.], where people might be climbing onto the bandwagon as the season goes on. Nice three-pitch mix there with a fastball to both sides of the plate and a slider and changeup to complement that. He works really fast out there and has shown a propensity to pitch down in the zone. He could be really interesting if his velocity holds in that 88-92 range, because there aren't many high school lefties, who can mix three pitches of that quality.”
Projection: First 15 rounds.

Matt Tulley, RHP, Lowell
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 200 lbs.
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Hometown: Lowell, Mass.
College: Virginia Tech
2011 stats: 42 IP, 68 K, 7-0, 0.82 ERA; .280, 17 RBI
Scout’s Take: “He came onto the scene a little bit at some of the high profile events last summer like Area Code Games. He’s similar to Barrett O’Neill [Ashland resident and Virginia freshman], where there’s not a ton of projectability but his velocity is in the 88-91 range with some downward angle on his fastball and he's shown the ability to compete in the strike zone. He surprised a lot of guys at the Area Code tournament, putting his fastball by people, and complementing that by getting swings and misses with his cutter. Most people view him as a college guy right now, but that could change. His velocity climbed over the winter, and he’s got a chance at the 91-92 range as well. You never know with a player like that, if someone views him as being signable, a team might make a run at him in the middle rounds
Projection: Fringe/late rounds.

John Nicklas, RHP, St. Sebastian’s
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 180 lbs.
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Hometown: Foxborough, Mass.
College: Boston College
Scout’s Take: “Another competitor out of the ISL who’s a pretty polished three-pitch, four-pitch guy. His fastball is consistently in the 87-89 range, with a cutter, curve, and changeup; he attacks with all four of those pitches. He doesn’t necessarily have the projectable body you're looking for out of the high school ranks, but he’s got a quick arm and really competes well. He’s similar to John Gorman [former Catholic Memorial ace and BC freshman] or John Leonard from BC last year, just kind of a bulldog out there. His curve is a little bit more of a tighter two-plane breaking ball without a ton of depth and he throws it pretty firm. A lot of his pitches come in hard, and there’s not a ton of separation. That’s something he’ll want to improve upon. Very good high school pitcher, who I expect to have a lot of success in college as well.”
Projection: Fringe/late rounds.