A shot of reliefStarter or reliever? John Farrell
is pretty clear in his preference.
for William & Mary
“If I had to choose, I'd like to start, because I am a competitor and I'd like to have the ball in my hand as long as possible,'' said the Andover High graduate, who, nonetheless has made his mark working out of the bullpen for the William & Mary baseball program.
W&M baseball coach Frank Leoni, however, spells relief one way this season: F-A-R-R-E-L-L.
“He has developed into a legitimate D1 closer,’’ said Leoni, “and right now he's our one truly dependable option at the back end of games.’’
The 6-foot, 200-pound junior righthander has appeared in 23 games for William & Mary, which is 31-23 entering this weekend’s regular-season-ending series at Hofstra. He has racked up eight saves, two shy of matching the program’s single-season record, while compiling a 2-2 record with a 2.04 earned run average in 39.2 innings of work. He is averaging more than one strikeout per inning.
And he is not just a one-inning stopper. Farrell worked four innings against University of North Carolina Wilmington,and twice — against Virginia and Georgia State — Leoni used him for three innings.
“[Farrell] is our closer, but he can go multiple innings for sure,’’ said Leoni.
“I'm not afraid to send him out there in the seventh or earlier if we need him to finish a game. Usually he pitches in save situations, but we have used him in tie situations or if we need to keep a game close. He has a very good fastball [90 to 93 miles per hour] with an above-average slider. He has also worked on a changeup that has gotten much better this year. When he locates well, especially his fastball, he is lights out. His slider is a dominant pitch, but if he has to use it too much because of ineffective fastball location, it obviously becomes less effective.’’
Farrell, the Merrimack Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year as a senior at Andover after compiling a dazzling 0.70 earned run average, went to William & Mary with the intention of being a starter.
But as Leoni points out, all pitchers come to his program as “starters.”
“Roles develop from there,” said the coach. “We felt that [Farrell] had two pro-type pitches, a fastball and slider, that were a good match for the back end of games. He handled the transition well, and while I'm sure there are times he would like to be a starter, he likes to have the ball in his hand with the game on the line.’’
Farrell was an impact performer the moment he stepped on campus, named to the All-Rookie team in the Colonial Athletic Association while recording six saves. In 20 appearances, he had a 3-3 record with a 3.99 earned run average.
He was roughed up a bit his sophomore year (0-1, 6.55 ERA in 20 appearances), but this season, he has written his name into the Tribe’s record book. He holds the record for career saves (14) and games finished (40).
Farrell says he thrives on being in save situations.
“The reality of it is that it is hard,’’ admitted Farrell. “However, it is my job as a closer to want to be in those situations, and I do. I would rather have myself out there than anybody else. That's just the way I am. My slider is my out pitch. I feel comfortable throwing it to anybody. I average a strikeout per inning pitched and my slider has a lot to do with that. My fastball is in the low 90s consistently, and I've touched 94.’’
He has not yet been drafted by a Major League team, but has his eye on the June draft.
The mailbag is overflowing with postseason accolades for area athletes.
Cam Kneeland of Rowley, a senior third baseman at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, along with softball standout Elyssa Boris (Gardner), received the Lester H. Cushing Award as Athletes of the Year at the college. Kneeland was sixth in the Northeast-10 in hitting (.363) and ranked in the top 10 in RBIs (45), hits (69), and doubles (14). Boris graduates as the career leaders in home runs (35) and RBI (151). . . . Andrew Eckhoff of Chelmsford, a junior at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, is the America East Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the 2011-12 winter season. Eckhoff, a diver, swept the one- and three-meter competitions at the America East Championships and holds a 3.53 grade point average with a major in environmental science. . . . Salem State dominated the All-MASCAC baseball team with a half-dozen players honored, including Nick Conti (.346) of Lynn; Kevin Salines (.333) of Melrose; Brett Cahill (.361) of Gloucester; Steve Buitkas (.340) of Reading; and Matt Kerr of East Freetown, who was named Pitcher of the Year after going 9-0 with a 3.63 earned run average. Also chosen was Framingham State pitcher Matt DiCato (7-3, 2.97 ERA) of Winthrop. All-MASCAC softball honors were accorded to Salem State's Michelle Grifoni (.317) of Peabody and pitcher Alyssa Bryan (17-5, 2.87 ERA) of Stoneham. Worcester State's Hannah Everson (14-8, 2.21 ERA) of Methuen was MASCAC's Co-Pitcher of the Year. . . . Will Corkum of Ipswich, a freshman pitcher at St. Michael’s, landed a spot on the Northeast-10 Conference All-Rookie team after going 3-4 with a 2.98 earned run average. . . . Salem State senior Bridget Dullea of Peabody bagged 65 goals to earn a first-team berth on the All-New England Women's Lacrosse Alliance team.
Around and about
Nice touch by Boston College, which late last month held an ALS Awareness Day to honor Pete Frates of Beverly, its director of baseball operations. The event drew a record Shea Field crowd of more than 2,200. Frates, 27, a former St. John's Prep and BC standout, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/Lou Gehrig's disease two months ago. . . .
Condolences to the family of Pete Gonnella, a Globe All-Scholastic basketball player at Wakefield High in 1981, who died in Sandwich of pancreatic cancer on May 10. He was 48. Gonnella coached Northeast Voke to three state tournament appearances.
John Vellante can be reached at JohnPVel@aol.com.