MASSENA - The Massena Central baseball team will face a familiar foe in the opening round of the NYSPHSAA Class A playoffs.
“We played Peru in a non-league game back in the middle of May. We won in extra-innings but we didn’t see their ace and they didn’t see ours. It should be another real good matchup,” said coach Greg Paquin as the Raiders get set to take on Peru at SLU’s Tom Fay Field on Friday starting at 1 p.m.
The Raiders successfully defended their Section 10 title by grinding out a 2-1 decision over Franklin Academy in the championship last week at the SLU diamond while Peru enters the game as the uncontested Section 7 champion.
The Raiders improved to 13-3 overall with their sectional tournament win over the Huskies. Senior Rory Corcoran, who tossed the complete-game win against FA, has emerged as the top starter in what has evolved into a solid pitching rotation that includes senior southpaw Tyler Haas along with junior righties Josh LaShomb and Jacob Vierno.
“Our pitching has really been one of our strengths,” noted Paquin.
The Massena offense boasts an even mix of right-handed and left-handed batters.
“We have a lot of flexibility at the plate. Depending on the pitching, we can go five righties, four lefties or we can go with five lefties and four righties. We view that as an advantage for us,” noted Paquin.
Junior shortstop Bailey Hewlett has steadily handled lead-off duties for a balanced Raider offense that has been led this season by junior Isaac Ward, who has successfully returned from Tommy John Surgery last July, to bat over .400 this spring.
Senior catcher Connor Paquin, who was honored with the Jim Pinkerton Memorial Award as the outstanding all-around baseball player in Section 10 for 2014, and junior Isaiah Dillabough have both overcome early-season struggles at the plate to raise their batting averages over .300. Haas and sophomore firstbaseman Patrick Manning have both been productive from the left side of the plate. Senior Jeremiah Reagan and juniors Logan Deshane and Devin Page have also made key offensive contributions throughtout the season.
“At the beginning of the season, I would have said that we’d be a good hitting team and that our pitching and defense would have to come around but just the opposite has been true. Our pitching and our defense have been solid and our offense has been inconsistent,” said Paquin.
“I think one reason for that is we’ve seen a lot of outstanding pitching this year,” he added. “But this team has shown a lot of character and when we’ve needed to, we’ve been able to piece things together at the plate.”
The lone Class A program in Section 7, Peru enters Friday’s game with a 9-6 record and wound up placing third in the CVAC Division I regular season standings.
Junior southpaw Connor Casey is the ace of the Peru pitching staff and will likely get the starting nod on Friday.
“It’s definitely a big game. Last year, we played Queensbury in the first round and quite honestly, we were overwhelmed. After that game, we talked about the difference between us and them and our guys really committed to getting better during the off-season,” said Paquin.
The winner of Friday’s opening round game will then hit the road on Saturday to take on the winner of another first-round match between Section 3 champion Jamesville-DeWitt and Section 2 champion Averill Park.