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Plymouth North grad catching praise as a freshman at Franklin Pierce

Plymouth’s Walsh a star catcher who understands the risks

He’s a freshman at Franklin Pierce University hitting .337 with power to all fields and an arm like a cannon.

Matt Walsh (inset) could probably play other positions on the diamond that put less strain on his body. Catching, though, adds risk.

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  Squatting behind the plate for nine innings a game (and he’s caught just about every inning of all 46 games this spring for the Ravens) isn’t friendly on the knees, nor does it bode well for longevity in one’s career. Walsh knows that. He just loves the position too much to care.

  “I’ve known all along that I wanted to be a catcher,” said Walsh, a Louisville Slugger All-American and the Globe’s Division 2 Player of the Year in 2011 while playing for his uncle, Dwane Follette , at Plymouth North.

“I just love the game and love playing it. And I fully understand that every day, any game, could be my last. I just try to enjoy it.”  

Of the team’s 352 putouts from the position this season, Walsh has recorded 346 (or 98 percent). Last Saturday, he caught all nine innings in both games of a double-header against Merrimack.  

“It definitely takes a toll on guys catching that many games,” says Franklin Pierce coach Jayson King , whose starting catcher last season, East Bridgewater High grad Mike Dowd , was drafted in the 12th round by the Seattle Mariners.

“Catching will mess you up,” said Oakland Athletics third baseman Brandon Inge , in Boston last week for a three-game series against the Red Sox. In 1997, he played shortstop for King with the Bourne Braves on the Cape.

Drafted by the Tigers the following summer, he was asked to switch to catcher, made his big league debut in 2001, and was behind the plate for 273 games the next three seasons.

The impact nearly ruined his career. He moved to third base in 2004, and aside from 2008 (60 games behind the plate), has played elsewhere.

“My knees were messed up,” Inge said.

Walsh is not too concerned.

He is an excellent receiver -- his throws to second base have been clocked at 1.9 seconds, and he has thrown out nearly 30 percent (16-of-56) of basestealers this season.  

Walsh, 5-foot-10, and 215 pounds, said it all starts with maintain a steady diet.  

“Otherwise my body won’t be able to recover,” he said. “And my knees aren’t that bad. My legs will get sore, but I do light lifting in the gym on off days. And I keep my legs fresh.”

  But with his pure ability at the plate – which has become even better since he shortened his swing and took a two-strike approach to every pitch (his average has gone up more than 30 points since, and has with 2 home runs and 32 RBIs this season) – Walsh’s desire to be a long-term catcher is perhaps even more admirable.  

Franklin Pierce is perennially of the top Division 2 programs in the region. The Ravens entered a three-game weekend series at St. Michael’s at 31-15-1.

McDonough determined to play

Here’s a story about love for the game: Braintree’s Laura McDonough suffered a torn labrum in her right shoulder twice and was told she probably should give up her softball career at Bentley University.  

Her first surgery came two years ago this month, she then needed the same one again seven months later.  

Said McDonough: “My doctor was like, ‘How badly do you want to play?’ He wanted to make sure I could have my arm for things other than throwing a softball.”  

She was hardly on the field during her first two years at Bentley, but McDonough made a comeback this spring and started all 38 games for the Falcons at second base, an easier throw to first than from shortstop, her former position.  

McDonough hit .222 (compared with her .475 average in high school), but vows to get her timing back this summer and come back strong next year.

  “People always say you have to play like this is your last game,” she said. “But I was actually faced with that, so I appreciate it so much more.”

Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at jasonmastrodonato@yahoo.com.
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