BRAINTREE — On a sunny and cloudless afternoon, Archbishop Williams senior James Daley stepped to the plate for a quick round of batting practice.
A 6-foot-4, 210-pound left-handed-hitting first baseman/DH with big-time pull power, Daley used a flick of the wrist to send line drives to the gaps, long fly ball after long fly ball to right field, bouncing them off — and sometimes over — Braintree Town Hall, which creeps into French’s Common, where Daley and his teammates play their home games.
All of it — the weather, Daley’s batting practice, the field — is a thing of beauty. Then he popped up his final pitch to shallow right.
“Time to hit the weight room, bud,” a teammate chided from the bench.
This is Archbishop Williams baseball, where the only thing more natural than the Bishops’ light and loose atmosphere is, of late, winning. The Bishops were a perfect 8-0 through Wednesday, including 6-0 at home, and have outscored opponents by a 3-1 ratio.
“There’s never a dull moment,” said junior captain Mike Sorenti of Bourne. “We’re always helping each other up. It’s fun at practice. It’s a good time all around. . . . No one does not like coming to baseball practice.”
There is no single reason for the 8-0 start, a dramatic spike from last year’s 11-10 campaign.
There is Jason Pekkinen of Quincy, a second-year captain who mans the hot corner and is batting a team-high .520. There has also been some timely weather, preventing coach Pat Clifford from having to truly delve into his pitching depth, and a trio of transfers — junior Mike Davis (Milton), sophomore Matt Downing (Hanover), and junior Dylan O’Brien (Holbrook) — who have come in and been key pieces of the puzzle.
But above all else is Ryan Earle , a sophomore pitcher/first baseman who, after leading the team in hitting (.371), RBIs (22), and ERA (2.77) as a freshman, was voted captain by his teammates this spring.
“He’s like a machine,” Clifford said. “Ball outside, he just crushes it the other way. Ball inside, he crushes it down the line. He does what you’re supposed to do. Wherever it’s pitched, he’s going to hit it.”
Earle, a Hanover resident, had some trouble last season locating his pitches and getting ahead in counts. This year that is a nonfactor.
“He’s already taken care of that,” Clifford said, adding that Earle throws a low-to-mid-80s fastball, by the coach’s estimation, as well as a slider and a work-in-progress curve. “He matures from one year to another, he gets better. He put his mind to getting better at that one thing and he has.”
The 6-2, 210-pound Earle’s production and presence supersede his relative varsity inexperience, hence the Bishops choosing him to be a captain on a team with eight seniors and six juniors.
According to Clifford, Earle conducts himself in a way that commands respect from his peers.
“He’s mature. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a great all-around baseball player,” Clifford said. “The kids see that and respect it. I had a couple kids tell me flat-out, ‘He’s a leader.’ ”
Count fellow captains Sorenti and Pekkinen among them. Sorenti captained the hockey team as a sophomore, and he knows Earle has what it takes to lead a team early in his scholastic career.
“He definitely had my vote,” Sorenti said. “It’s a tough spot. You don’t want to bash an older player, you don’t want to tell him what to do. But he has the composure and is a very bright kid. He’ll talk to anyone. Never puts anyone down.”
Added Pekkinen, “He’s a great leader, and he’s going to continue to be a great leader.”
Of course, the fact that Earle has continued to put up gaudy numbers does not hurt. He is batting .517 with a team-high nine extra-base hits (seven doubles, two triples) and 13 RBIs. His .897 slugging percentage and 1.430 OPS are tops among regulars.
On the mound, he owns a perfect 4-0 record and is posting a 1.40 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. He strikes out nearly a batter per inning, and opposing batters are hitting .187 against him.
And he takes it all in stride. Earle just shows up, day after day, to play the game he loves. It is never a bad day to play ball at French’s Common.
“It’s nice to know that your teammates look up to you like that, and I take it very seriously,” Earle said. “It’s an honor to be a captain on this team.
“[We can keep winning] if we keep having the same approach as a team, yeah. We’re going to lose here and there — every team does — but it’s possible to keep it going.”
Marshfield softballers playing like veterans
Melanie Reichelt is the only senior in the starting lineup for the Marshfield High softball team. But a month into the season, the captain, a three-year starter at shortstop, has the Rams playing like a bunch of veterans.
Under coach Rick Fredericks , Marshfield started 8-4, good for second in the Atlantic Coast League behind Sandwich, a team responsible for two of the Rams’ four losses.
Until Marshfield ran into Sandwich again Wednesday, the Rams had won five of their last six. Junior left fielder Nicole Melchionda (.390 average) and sophomore pitcher Kaylen McClarey (a team-leading 13 RBIs) have been integral to that success.
McClarey and fellow sophomore Annika Phillips are allowing 4.5 runs per game.
“[McClarey] has done well on the mound,” Fredericks said. “And she’s done very well at the plate, too.”
The Rams’ biggest test the rest of the way will not come until May 22, when they get another shot at undefeated Bridgewater-Raynham, a team that beat them, 12-0, on April 25.
“They’ve probably exceeded expectations,” Fredericks said of his squad. “I’m impressed with their hard work, and it’s been a bit beyond what I expected at the beginning of the year.”
Odds and ends
Sharon baseball (8-3), right behind Oliver Ames in the Hockomock League’s Davenport Division, is one of the streakier teams around. Through Tuesday, the Eagles bookended a three-game mid-April losing streak with two four-game win streaks. . . . When Bridgewater-Raynham softball (9-0) beat New Bedford, 7-1, and Barnstable, 9-1, it was the first time all season it allowed runs in back-to-back games. Same goes for Silver Lake (10-1), which topped Scituate (15-1) and North Quincy (17-1) on back-to-back days. . . . Cassidee Fall highlighted Weymouth softball’s week with an abbreviated perfect game, striking out 10 as the Wildcats mercy-ruled Brookline, 20-0.