PLAYERS TO WATCH
►Justin Bellinger , St. Sebastian’s: With big-league size and a powerful lefthanded swing, the Needham school’s senior first baseman is one of the top high school prospects in the country. The 6-foot-6 slugger hit .415 with eight homers and 36 RBI last season using a wooden bat. He has committed to play at Duke.
►Nick Burns , Hopkinton: Going into his third season as the Hillers’ ace, the southpaw will be looking to build off of last spring when he finished with a 2.19 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 44 innings. He will throw for Johns Hopkins next year.
►Scott Manea , St. John’s High: The three-year starting catcher will be vitally important to the success of the Pioneers with his work both behind the plate and in the batter’s box. Last season, the North Carolina State University commit hit .320 and had 20 RBIs.
►Alex McLaughlin , Littleton: After leading the Tigers to the Division 6 Super Bowl title as their quarterback last fall, the senior pitcher and shortstop — who has committed to Coastal Carolina to play football — will try to help his school to another title this spring. He hit .462 last year, and went 5-0 with a 0.94 ERA on the mound.
►Noah Zavolas , Acton-Boxborough Regional: The senior righty will anchor the Colonials’ rotation this spring after putting together a 5-1 record last year with a 0.29 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 48 innings. Committed to Harvard, his fast ball sits around 85 miles per hour.
Baseball teams to watch
(With 2013 final record)
1. St. John’s High (18-6): Led by senior catcher Scott Manea (North Carolina State), pitcher P.J. Browne (Merrimack College), pitcher Tom Horstkotte (Assumption) and junior Shane Combs (Notre Dame), the Pioneers will feature a roster stacked with college-recruited talent this spring.
2. Nashoba Regional (21-3): The Chieftains return five starters from last year’s team that made it to the Division 1 state title game, including two seniors who were all-stars in the Midland Wachusett League’s A Division: center fielder John Militano (.342 average, 18 steals last season) and 6-foot-6 righty pitcher Nick Campana (who hit .396 with two homers last season).
3. Newton North (17-4): With senior center fielder Ben Porter (.456 average last year) getting on base and the Joyce brothers — senior Alex, a Bay State Conference all-star catcher last spring, and sophomore slugger Tommy — in the middle of the lineup, the Tigers will have plenty of pop at the plate.
4. Lincoln-Sudbury Regional (14-8): Senior pitchers Sid Warrenbrand, Alex Wieland, and Tom Novick give coach Kirk Fredericks some depth on the mound as the Warriors look to get back atop the Dual County League.
5. Acton-Boxborough Regional (14-10): Harvard-bound senior Noah Zavolas will be one of the best arms in the Dual County League on a roster of varsity returners that includes senior pitcher Davis Fallon and center fielder Bobby Pedersen.
6. Hopkinton (12-8): Seniors Nick Burns and Chris Moberg will split duties on the mound and at first base, and both will be mainstays in the middle of the lineup for coach Jay Golden. The Hillers’ third senior captain, three-year starter Andrew McMillan, will shift to shortstop this spring after the departure of Ryan Sullivan, now a University of Connecticut freshman.
7. Medfield (15-8): Senior righthander Matt Dressens, a returning Tri-Valley League all-star, takes over the role of ace while third baseman Justin Hirschfeld will be relied upon as one of the Warriors’ leaders at the dish.
8. Waltham (14-8): With three DCL all-stars — senior outfielder Dana Parello, junior righty Ricky Manning, and senior lefty Nick Neshe — leading the way, coach Steve LaForest will have a deep roster.
9. Ashland (17-5): The Clockers lost eight starters to graduation last spring, but they’ll look to defend their TVL title with a new influx of senior leaders, including center fielder and three-sport star Joe Byrnes and pitcher Zach Fletcher.
10. Newton South (11-10): An athletic and versatile group will go as far as the team’s three returning righty starters — senior Dylan Russo, senior Reagan Colnon, junior Evan Nahabedian — can take it.
Phil PerryPhil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.