Andrew Wells has an aura of confidence on the mound that is impeccable.
The 6-foot righthander, headed to Worcester State University this fall, has an uncanny competitive nature, and whenever he is on the hill for the Methuen Post 122 Legion team, it is a pretty good bet that he will not walk off as the losing pitcher.
“Every time he goes out, we know he’s going to win,” said Dave Mosher , manager of Post 122. “That’s just the way it is. You’re going to get 1,000 percent effort from him all the time.”
With a 3-0 record, 35 strikeouts, and a 0.80 earned run average through last Tuesday, Wells, in his second full year on the Methuen Post team, has been the focal point of the top team in District 8, which boasts an 11-4-1 record so far.
It is not the first time he has led a team to success.
One of the best athletes to ever walk through the doors at Whittier Regional Vocational Tech in Haverhill, he helped transform the Wildcat basketball and baseball programs into Division 3 North powers.
In carrying Whittier to its second D3 North title in four years, Wells started 12 games on the mound this spring; all of them were complete games.
“[Nearly] every game that I start, I finish,” said the 18-year-old Wells. “That’s just how I am, I don’t like to be taken out. I want to finish what I started because I want to win.”
And there is rarely a need to take him out.
With an 11-1 record, 1.10 ERA, and 111 strikeouts in 89 innings pitched this spring, Wells earned his second straight Commonwealth Conference MVP and was a CAC All-Star for the third straight year. He was also named pitcher of the game in June’s New England Challenge Championship senior all-star game.
Joe Boland , who has coached the Whittier Tech team for the last 22 years, said Wells was the leader of the best group of guys he has ever coached.
“He’s a kid with a lot of integrity, a lot of character,” Boland said of Wells, whose presence and control on the mound reminds him of Hall of Fame-bound pitcher Greg Maddux . “He took the younger kids under his wing this year, and he told them, “We can do this,” and they believed him.”
With a roster consisting mostly of underclassmen, Wells convinced his Whittier players that they could advance deep in the tourney. But even he was surprised.
“If you told me at the beginning of the year that we would be playing for the North championship game, I probably would have said you were crazy,” said Wells, who acted as player-coach this year; Boland had no assistants. “I wanted to win, so I knew I had to step up and lead by example.”
When he was leading on the mound, the team’s confidence was sky-high, especially for Whittier Tech catcher Anthony Licciardello , who is bound for Bridgewater State in the fall.
“He’s very easy to catch because he just picks the corners where you put your glove,” said Licciardello, who currently plays for the rival Haverhill Post 4 team. “We feel good whenever he’s on the mound because we know he’s a competitor and is going to give it his all.”
And Wells, who has a five-pitch repertoire, certainly gives it his all when it matters most.
He won three playoff games this year alone — including the 4-3 North title winner over St. Mary’s — and picked up a save as Whittier Tech won its first-ever state vocational title, against Blackstone Valley Tech.
At Worcester State, Wells said he plans not only to play for the baseball team, but is hoping to make the Lancer basketball team as a walk-on.
Wells, who holds the career 3-point record at Whittier Tech (177 shots made from beyond the arc), is not guaranteed a spot as he is for baseball, but he said he believes he can make the team.
“I assume I have a decent shot at making it,” said Wells, who has been practicing his basketball game consistently since last season’s North semifinal loss to Danvers. “I’m perfectly fine coming off the bench and just shooting threes and playing some defense. I’m not looking to be a starter.”
Four-year Whittier basketball coach Tom Sipsey said Wells was a once-in-a-lifetime type of player.
“I haven’t been coaching for long,” he said. “But I know that if I continue to coach for a long time and have a long career, I’m not going to find too many kids like him.”
Wells, who studied the electrical trade at Whittier, will major in math in college. He said he hopes to possibly become a teacher, while coaching baseball on the side.
While he loves basketball and baseball equally, his education at Worcester will be his first priority.
“I don’t know if I’ll be playing [sports] after college, so I’ve got to focus on my degree and get a good job,” said Wells, who was ranked eighth in his class of 287. “It will be good to get a little taste of living on my own and seeing how hard you have to work if you want to accomplish something.”
And as high school-level baseball winds down, Wells looks forward to the sporting challenges that await him.
“Worcester State is giving me the opportunity to go out and play, and I’m going to continue to work hard and reach my goals,” he said. “And if I don’t get playing time [at first], I’m just going to keep going, and work harder and harder.”
District 8 all-stars provide true drama
For those wanting to see an exciting all-star game Tuesday night, New York’s Citi Field was not the place to be.
A true showcase with drama was displayed that same evening at Lynn’s Fraser Field, as the South defeated the North 5-4 on a walk-off single, in the American Legion District 8 All-Star Game.
Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the South chased Lawrence Post 15 pitcher Cody Demers (Central Catholic) out of the game after he allowed two runs.
Newburyport Post 150’s Colby Ingraham (Georgetown High) relieved Demers and inherited a bases-loaded jam, with the North still up by two. He then threw a wild pitch, advancing all three runners, before Middleton Post 227’s Mike Manni smacked a walk-off single up the middle, scoring the game-tying and winning runs.
“We were kind of relaxed and still hopeful [going into the ninth] and then we just started stringing stuff together,” said Manni, who caught the entire game for the South.
The teams were made up almost entirely of rising seniors, in a game designed to attract college coaches, which excited the walk-off hero. “It’s cool; it feels good knowing that you play well and someone’s there watching you,” said the rising senior at Masconomet High.
About a dozen college coaches were in attendance, along with Dave Soper, a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies.Taylor C. Snow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @taylorcsnow.