The power of positive thinking will be key for the Weymouth High baseball team this season.
The Wildcats are moving into Libby Field, a new turf field, across the street from Weymouth Town Hall. They have good core of their team returning which defeated former Super 8 champions Braintree and Newton North in back-to-back games last season. They also defeated Hingham, which reached the tournament as well.
“Making the postseason is obviously something that is important to us,” Weymouth coach Joe Paolucci said. “But it is just one of many goals that the players have set for themselves.
“These boys have a lot of pride and they want to show people what they are made out of this season. We have some really talented players at every position. I feel really good about our pitching, defense and our offense. I've been really impressed with the decision making that they are showing on the field as well.”
There are some changes this year in the Bay State Conference. The league, after 20 years, will go back to metal bats after using wood bats in their games and the league will play one game against each team. If BSC teams schedule a second game against league opponents, it will be considered a non-league game.
“This year's success is going to be directly tied into how well we handle adversity and our ability to make a play defensively or get a big hit when we absolutely need it,” said Paolucci.
Paolucci likes the way that his team has worked in the off-season and prepared themselves for their 2018 season.
“I don't know if the new format makes anything easier,” Paolucci said. “We still have a really tough non-league schedule. We picked up Brockton twice, Archbishop Williams who is the defending Division 4 Eastern Mass champion, and we still have non-league games with Braintree, Needham and Milton. So, nothing is ever easy.
“This group has absolutely come in ready to go. More than any group we've had in the past four years. We have four-five guys that played in 80-something games last year between the spring and summer. We have great senior leadership with Kevin McGrath, Matt O'Neil, John Cipullo, Evan Couper, Kevin Curtin and Xenon Simene. All six of these kids are outstanding student-athletes and they are all going to be a big part of what we do this season.”
The Wildcats feel that they have good leadership this year.
“Right now our strength is our attitude, I cannot say enough about how focused and positive these boys have been so far,” Paolucci said. “Our three captains - Kevin McGrath, Matt O'Neill, and Cam Munchbach - are doing a great job keeping everyone on the same page.”
That attitude shined through in Weymouth’s opening 3-2 win over Dedham in nine innings. The game christened the new Libby Field in dramatic fashion.
Weymouth left eight runners in scoring position in the game, including six in the first five innings. The Wildcats broke through with a Kyle Hoeft two-out, pinch-hit single in the sixth inning that scored Xenon Simene to tie the game, 2-2.
In the ninth inning, Weymouth got a one-out, walk-off single by T.J. Keefe that scored pinch-runner Jared Krukonis.
“I told the players for us that was a perfect game in the sense that everyone did their job,” Paolucci said. “We got great pitching even though Matt O’Neill struggled with his control early, but then Kevin McGrath came in and shut them down. Kevin was incredible, he was actually getting stronger as the game went on.
“For me, it was the timely hitting, T.J. Keefe’s walk-off hit was great, but Kyle Hoeft’s pinch-hit, RBI-single tied the game for us in the sixth inning.”
Weymouth had 11 hits in the game, two apiece from Sean Goudey, Keefe, John Cipullo and Simene.
However, they had trouble coming up with the big hit until the late innings.
“I was getting a little bit concerned until Kyle (Hoeft) got that base hit,” Paolucci said. “Those things did not happen last year, so it was a great start.”
“I thought that it was great that everyone did their job in this game,” Keefe said. “I just got the opportunity and was fortunate to get the job done.”
McGrath pitched six innings in relief He allowed one hit, no walks and had eight strikeouts for the win.
A great running catch by Simene with a runner on third and two outs in the eighth inning stopped a Dedham scoring threat.
“I felt that I threw the best that I have in my career,” McGrath said. “The whole team came through and that was a great catch by Xenen. It was great to win the first game even if it was at George Player Field (at the high school), but this was a special moment winning it here.”
“I was really worried because we had talked about before the game about the players playing shallow because of the wind,” Paolucci said. “When the ball went off the bat I was concerned that it was going to fall in. Zenon also made a great slide on a stolen base in the sixth inning when he scored a run.”
Goudey scored in the first inning from second base on a slow infield groundout as he never stopped running from second on the play.
Weymouth’s games with both Norwell and Brockton at home were postponed due to inclement weather and will be made up later in the season.
Mayor Robert Hedlund and Chief of Fields Steve Reilly both threw out the first pitch in the Dedham game.