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NECC program students excel

The Northern Essex Community College baseball team.Northern Essex Community College

NECC program students excel

The baseball program at Northern Essex Community College has a reputation for excellence that far exceeds its on-field exploits.

NECC has made three straight appearances at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) World Series, including last weekend’s trip to Texas, in which the Knights posted a 1-2 record in the double-elimination tournament. But the Haverhill-based school is also becoming known for its pipeline of talented ballplayers and dedicated students who move on to four-year institutions.

“Those types of schools are knocking on our door and asking Coach [Jeff Mejia] because they know the quality of student-athlete who are coming out of Northern Essex,” said Sue McAvoy , now in her 15th year as director of athletics and recreation.


She said Northern Essex athletes are “used to extra-hard work, and willing to put forth a little more dedication. Our players have that background.”

Second-year manager Mejia, who previously spent eight seasons as an assistant at Suffolk University, has blended his philosophy with the heightened expectations adopted by his predecessors, including Kerry Quinlan and Chris Shanahan .

“What I’ve been able to do in my stay here is implement the Suffolk format and what they do under coach Cary McConnell ,” Mejia said.

“It’s about players working hard, being accountable, giving it their all when they’re present, and then giving it 100 percent in the classroom and in society. They have to be good citizens first and foremost, and then it will carry onto the baseball field.

Mejia estimates that over the last two years, more than 90 percent of his players have gone on to four-year schools.

Ballplayers choose NECC for the opportunity to strengthen their transcripts, improve their baseball skills, or take advantage of the Mass Transfer program, which, given NECC’s low tuition, helps defray the costs of higher education.

“At Northern Essex I really worked on school and baseball,” said Manny Cabral of his two years (2010-2012) at NECC. “I got good grades and pretty much just started over. It was the biggest thing for me . . . to just start over and get a clean slate. I got my grades up and then transferred to a four-year school after my sophomore year.”


At NECC, the 2010 Tewksbury High grad excelled on the diamond, especially defensively, capturing the NJCAA Rawlings Division 3 Gold Glove and NJCAA Eastern Division 3 defensive player of the year award in 2012.

But the 5-foot-11, 215-pound catcher also elevated his grade point average to roughly 3.6.

As a result, he was accepted at Texas Southern University, where he spent 2012-2013 playing for the Division 1 Tigers before transferring to Daniel Webster College, a Division 3 program in Nashua, for this season.

In his last year of college eligibility, the 22-year-old batted .237 for the Eagles with a .409 on-base percentage and 17 RBI.

At the school’s commencement ceremony May 17, he received NECC’s Outstanding Alumni Award for the selflessness he showed in donating bone marrow in 2012 to a woman who is now recovering from life-threatening aplastic anemia. Cabral will take the next six weeks to recover from a torn elbow ligament he suffered during a recent Independent League tryout, before resuming his pursuit of a professional baseball career.

For most NECC players, however, baseball is the vehicle for earning a degree.

“Coming out of high school, I figured it was just pass my classes so I could play baseball,” admitted Trevor Bouvier , who graduated from Salem (N.H.) High in 2012 and NECC this spring. “Now I’m realizing I need to work hard in classes to get a career. It’s not all about baseball; it’s more about the career.”


So far the 6-foot-2, 175-pound shortstop, who batted .333 with 20 RBI and a .417 OBP this past season, has received interest from the University of Massachusetts Boston, UMass Lowell, and Suffolk University baseball programs. He hopes to make a decision soon, based on academics, on where he will pursue his business degree.

Pingree grad ends career at Trinity on a high note

Though her Trinity College lacrosse career did not finish the way senior tricaptain Lyndsey Shepard envisioned, she could not complain about the cumulative results.

The Pingree School grad from Hamilton played an integral role for a Bantam squad that captured four straight NESCAC titles and advanced to the NCAA Division 3 final four three times, winning the national title in 2012.

Shepard acknowledges that there were too many positives to overshadow Trinity’s season-ending title-game loss to Salisbury University on Tuesday.

“It’s definitely sad that we didn’t win,” said the 22-year-old defender, who was named to the IWLCA Division 3 All-American first team.

“There was definitely a lot of emotion following the game on Sunday. But I truly could not be happier with the way my senior season played out. . . . Our record, as I know it, for our senior class was 79-6, which is unbelievable and something we pride ourselves on.”


After enjoying the next few weeks at home, Shepard will push her lacrosse stick aside to begin a career in commercial real estate.

Here and there

If things had gone differently, Plymouth State goalie Chris St. George might have earned a spot on this spring’s All-Little East men’s lacrosse team.

In five games, the Cushing Academy grad from Marblehead delivered a sampling that was worthy of consideration, including a season-high 23 saves at Salem State on April 12.

But the junior transfer from the University of Hartford, who broke his hand early in the season after three appearances before returning and tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament in the first quarter of his third game back, was relegated to spectator status too often.

“I was thinking about what might have happened if I didn’t get injured earlier,” admitted the 21-year-old rising senior.

“But when everything happened I was like, ‘OK. I’ve got to deal with this now.’ ”

St. George, who averaged 7.98 goals against and a .701 save percentage, is slated to undergo surgery this month, and hopes to receive medical clearance to resume play in mid-December. . . .

Sophomore shortstop Christina Raso of Burlington collected three runs batted in to help the Tufts University softball team capture its second straight NCAA Division 3 championship Tuesday with a 6-0 victory over Salisbury University. Raso finished the season with a .350 batting average, 25 RBIs, 22 walks, and only nine strikeouts for a Jumbos squad that went 47-4.


Paul Lazdowski can be reached at pmlazdowski@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @plazdow.