MARION, Mass. -- P.J. Poulin and Jeremiah Adams grew up not far from one another in Mattapoisett and have known each other for nine years. It seems only fitting now that these two baseball prodigies have come full circle together on the grounds of Tabor Academy.
After spending his first two years of high school at nearby Old Rochester Regional, Poulin and his family felt it was in his best interest to leave the public school setting and enroll into Tabor.
"It was really about the academic and athletic opportunities that Tabor could provide me," said Poulin, a senior left-handed pitcher who throws in the low 90's. "It was one of the best decisions I've made up to this point."
Adams, a junior catcher, came to Tabor straight out of middle school. Like Poulin, he excelled in the classroom and on the diamond, realizing his short and long term goals as a student-athlete could only be met within the private school domain.
"Just growing up around here and coming to Tabor to watch games and seeing the different level of athletics here really caught my attention," Adams said. "I also did my research and saw how great this school was academically. I am just lucky it has all worked out for me."
Poulin and Adams have already secured their academic and athletic futures as well. The 6-foot, 180-pound Poulin standing will attend UConn next season, while the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Adams will be heading off to the University of Oklahoma in two years. It is doubtful any of this would have been possible had they gone the public school route.
A sizable number of talented high schoolers, good enough to play baseball at the Division 1 college level, primarily come from independent and Catholic programs. No doubt Poulin and Adams have proven they are well-equipped to implement whatever comes their way. You need not look further than the tail end of last season's success to realize that.
This duo was instrumental in helping the Seawolves (19-5 a year ago) win the Central New England Prep School Baseball League/Thomas Blackburn championship last May -- their first crown in 35 years. In the title game, Tabor battled back from a four run deficit against Cushing Academy, scoring five times in the final inning to prevail 7-6.
Poulin started the game, tossing three shutout innings -- this coming after a no-hitter against Phillips Andover Academy earlier in the day in a semifinal contest. Having thrown just 70 pitches versus Phillips Andover, Poulin felt strong enough to go back out against Cushing, but was put on a 30 pitch restriction which is why he only went the first three innings.
"P.J. is a straight forward, go get them type of player," Tabor head coach Kenneth Ackerman said. "He has become more efficient with his pitching and has become more of a pitcher than a thrower over his time here. What he did against Phillips Andover last year was a masterpiece. That was from years of hard work. His head game on that day was just amazing. Then we had him come back to start the championship game because he only topped out at 70 pitches against Phillips Andover.
"We asked his family first about him going back out there to start the second game and they were fine with it. Sure we wanted to win but not at all costs. P.J.'s health was the most important thing to us. That is why he was limited to 30 pitches against Cushing. I truly believe there is still a lot more upside for him. He has not yet hit his plateau. No doubt, the sky is the limit for him."
Ackerman served as assistant coach here for two seasons before taking over the reins this year. He replaces long-time coach Tom Angelo, who stepped down due to health concerns, along with his acceptance of being named athletic director at Somerset-Berkley Regional High School last August.
During last season's championship run, Adams batted .442 while Poulin hit .400. On the mound, Poulin maintained a remarkable 0.90 ERA, while striking out 36. This year the Seawolves return all but one starter (David Mitchell) and are considered one of the favorites to win another CNEPSBL title. In addition, they've added former New Bedford High School lefty ace Jared Shuster to the mix. Shuster transferred to Tabor after a superb freshman season going 6-0 with an ERA of 0.45.
But the success of last year is now a thing of the past for the Seawolves. Rest assured, no one here will be resting on past laurels.
"For us now, it's all about the next pitch, the next play and the next game," Adams said. "All the teams in this league are good but I like our chances and I like our team. The chemistry is getting better every day. Everyone here loves the game so I expect for us to compete hard each and every day.
"Last year coach Angelo was sort of sidelined in the early spring. He had been here for a long time and last year was his first championship. So to see him go out on top was great, especially with the trouble he had over the spring in regards to his health. That is what was most memorable for me, to get that title for him."
Tabor knows the road back to the CNEPSBL finals will not come easy. The level of competition throughout the league is expected to be strong once again. Besides Tabor, teams such as Cushing, Phillips Andover, Worcester Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy are all expected to make a serious push towards a title.
"I don't think anyone here is expecting to win it again but people say we only lost one full time player and we filled that by adding Jared Shuster," Ackerman said. "There are so many things beyond the game that will need to come into play for us this year. Chemistry will be a major part of it. So, too, is stroking 18 upperclassmen's egos on how to get them all into a game. But in six weeks it will all be decided. The kids are excited about the challenges ahead and having that target on their backs."
As you might expect, leading that challenge will be Poulin and Adams. The relationship between the two has no boundries. Each has built trusting coalition with one another that cannot be broken.
"Jeremiah is the best catcher I have ever played with," said Poulin. "I can say that confidently 100 percent. He's a great person, a great leader and a high character guy. That is what you want from your teammates, especially a pitcher-catcher combo. He is also one of my best friends."
Like Poulin, Ackerman also applauds the intangibles Adams brings to this team on a daily basis.
"We refer to him as a game changer behind the plate," he said. "Pitchers can throw any pitch in any count in any situation and they know they have somebody they can trust back there. Jeremiah is a leader vocally, physically and mentally. He brings all of those attributes to the game. There is no ego about him and he is very humble. He works the game for you like another coach on the field."
Adams' superior talents have not gone unnoticed. He received strong inquiries from Boston College, St. John's, Stetson and Duke before settling on Oklahoma. New Sooners head coach Pete Hughes -- a Brockton native and BC High grad who previously served as head coach for BC and Virginia Tech -- was very active in his pursuit of him.
"I went out there on a visit and thought Norman (OK) was a pretty cool place," Adams said. "I've lived up here my whole life so I wanted to experience some place different. Coach Hughes was awesome. I got to meet his family and he has four boys and one girl. I have four sisters so if I'm going to be away from my family, it's cool that I'll have another family out there with me."
This summer Adams says he plans on playing for the East Coast Grays college development program based in Depew, N.Y. Last summer, he played for the Boston Scorpions AAU club.
Much like Adams, Poulin was also hotly pursued by some top collegiate programs, including Boston College, St. John's and UMass-Lowell. But his decision to go to Storrs, CT was more family orientated.
"A lot of my family lives close by to UConn so that was a big reason," said Poulin, considered possible MLB Draft selection in June. "I loved the school and the campus. I visited city schools like BC and St. John's but it wasn't for me. I'm more of a country guy. Sure I would love to play pro ball someday but I'm just not sure if or when it will be this year or 3 or 4 years from now. You just need to take it one step at a time and see how it goes."
Poulin played for the New England Stampede AAU program last summer and will join the Brockton Rox of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League once the Seawolves season is finished.
"Hands down he is the best pitcher I've ever caught," said Adams of Poulin. "We have really good chemistry. He trusts me and I trust him. We just work really well together. He's thinking what I'm thinking and I'm thinking what he is thinking. It really works well."
It also would not be surprising to see these two possibly playing alongside one another again down the road in the Cape Cod League.
Adams also isn't ruling out the possibility of playing at the professional level one day. Like Poulin, he certainly has all the tools to get there.
"For me, it has been a dream since I was a little kid to play professional baseball," said Adams, also a point guard on Tabor's basketball team. "My favorite thing in the world is baseball. It's real easy to be motivated when you love something that much. I was counting down the days during the last 3 months until baseball would begin. My face has been hurting so much from me smiling because it's baseball season here again."
Both Poulin and Adams, along with Sam Bacchiocchi and Wiley Knight, have all been named captains for this season. Bacchiocchi, a pitcher/OF, plans to attend WPI next fall. Knight, a first baseman, is headed off to Union College.
"P.J. and Jeremiah are two of the most hardest working kids in the classroom and outside the classroom," Ackerman added. "They are both great students and on the field, they are baseball through and through. They do whatever they need to do because they love the game. Their baseball IQ is pretty amazing. It's that unspoken language that they have. It's almost a once in a lifetime opportunity for a coach to have two quality guys like that."