Baseball/Softball: Mascenic takes two from Hinsdale with Zina no-no; Orioles take lumps in opener

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic softball team hosted Hinsdale on Monday, April 12, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/14/2021 11:34:16 AM

The Mascenic baseball team has some work to do before they can claim to be one of Division III’s top teams, but with senior Shea Zina on the mound, the workload is a lot lighter. The Franklin Pierce-bound pitcher opened the season Monday with a complete game no-hit shutout of Hinsdale, striking out 19 Pacer batters to tie his own single-game school record.

“Obviously, it’s a spectacular performance,” said Viking coach Jared Stauffeneker from the chilly hilltop ballpark Monday afternoon. “He just found the strike zone and then throws a lot harder than a lot of guys think, so... tough to hit.”

Zina’s dominant performance didn’t come as a surprise; the burly right-hander may have missed out on a big recruiting season in 2020, but he didn’t miss a beat on his pitching training, working with the New Hampshire Swamp Bats to keep his arm improving year-round, and he heads into the 2021 season a step ahead of the non-club players in the state.

“It was a huge advantage,” Zina said of his offseason training. “I think we have five of us that play on it, and it definitely helps a lot.”

Aside from Zina, the Vikings are young. But, they’ve got some strong returners, with Jackson Cocozella at third, Sean Agonis at shortstop and Joe Cocozella in centerfield.

“We’ve got a really good group of returning players,” Stauffeneker said. “Some freshmen that are now juniors because they lost last year, and obviously Shea’s a senior, but a lot of new faces and a lot of guys who play year round, so it’s good. They’ve got the baseball IQ. It’s just a matter of putting it all together right now.”

Cold early April afternoons don’t often lend themselves to the best execution on the baseball diamond, and adding a year’s hiatus to the mix doesn’t help players start any faster, so it was little wonder that neither team’s bats saw much work on Monday.

The Vikings could only muster two hits on the afternoon, both from catcher Hayes Pearson, who was the team’s first volunteer when coaches Stauffeneker and Jalen Rines discovered they didn’t have a true catcher on the roster.

“It’s a tall task, for sure, to ask of him,” Stauffeneker said, “but he’s been all for it. He’s been asking questions, trying to learn, and he’s done well so far to be able to handle 87 miles an hour or whatever Shea’s throwing now.”

Zina said he’s meshed well with Pearson from the start.

“I love that,” Zina said, “because he has the grit to actually get behind the plate, catch balls, block balls.”

Without much hitting to speak of, the Vikings turned to speedy smallball to scrape across a couple runs. Jack Cocozella opened the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second, then stole third and scored on a throwing error.

Pearson knocked a big double to start the bottom of the second inning, took third, and then scored on an error, as the Vikings did the little things to stay alive.

“We were just aggressive on the basepaths, which we’re going to have to do this year,” Stauffeneker said. “We’ve got a lot of speed, so we’re going to have to take advantage of it.”

All that added up to a Mascenic win in their first game in two years – well, all that and Zina’s dominant pitching performance, his best since striking out 19 Campbell batters back in 2019.

“It feels so amazing that I was able to do that again,” Zina said. “Thanks to my team, they made some plays that were hit to them – just an all-around good team win.”

The season-opening win is the first step toward what Zina and the Vikings hope will be a strong postseason effort this spring.

Zina’s goal for the season? “Just make a run at playoffs and hopefully get to the championship,” he said. “I think that’s everybody’s goal on our team and I think it’s definitely reachable.”

Mascenic (1-0) is at Hinsdale Thursday at 4 p.m.

SOFTBALL

New-look Vikings make noise in debut

After four years as one of Division III’s toughest teams, the Viking softballers were experienced, battle-tested, and deep enough that each ensuing season had the continuity needed to keep their status as championship contenders active. Then, COVID hit and canceled the 2020 spring season. On Monday afternoon, Mascenic trotted out a team virtually unrecognizable compared to the one that walked off the field following their playoff loss to Hopkinton in 2019.

“I had three kids that actually had played in a high school softball game until tonight’s game,” said head coach Dutch Stauffeneker. “And only one of them was starting – the other two were coming off the bench.”

Experience aside, Stauffeneker’s got a decent ballclub in his dugout, and they looked stellar on Monday, as Hinsdale couldn’t find a way to make an out against the Vikings and Mascenic rolled to a 24-1 victory to open the season.

Lyla Buxton started on the mound and went three scoreless innings for the Vikings before giving way to Lexis Vautour, who went two more innings allowing one run; Mascenic won by the mercy rule after five innings.

Every Mascenic starter reached base and scored in the game as Hinsdale starter Angelina Nardolillo gave up 10 walks and 14 hits.

“Hinsdale made some mistakes,” Stauffeneker said, “but we battled and we put a lot of balls in play hit pretty hard. And then the score just kinda got out of hand.”

The Vikings will play a decent schedule this season, with games against Monadnock, Conant, WLC, Keene to supplement their four matchups with Hinsdale. Stauffeneker said his girls have a good jump on their softball IQ and now just need to refine their skills and instincts for specific game situations.

They’re a talented bunch, too. Vautour (1-1, 4 BB, 4 R) and Kenzie Cormier (1-2, 2BB RBI) set the table for the tough 3-4-5 hitters; Catalina Davis (3-4, 3B) is an excellent hitter who plays multiple positions and pitches; Leah St. John (1-3, 2 RBI), transplanted from a good Milford youth program, is steady behind the plate; and third-baseman Ella Pearson (3-5, RBI) rounds out the power hitting slots.

And, the girls have taken to the team bonding and dedication aspect in the early going. Mascenic’s captains, senior Xaria Talbot and St. John, organized a Friday night pizza get-together for the team which was followed by a 6 a.m. Saturday morning practice – the best practice of the year so far, Stauffeneker said.

“I’m like, listen, we’re going to figure out a time to practice,” Stauffeneker said. “And they chose 6 a.m….We’re practically up here watching the sunrise. And once they did it, they were like, ‘Wow, this is great.’”

The Vikings are young, talented, dedicated and have the right mindset. All that’s left now is to gain experience over the course of the season and start clicking by tournament time.

“I think we have a really high ceiling,” Stauffeneker said. “It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.”

Mascenic (1-0) is at Hinsdale Thursday at 4 p.m.

BASEBALL

Winnisquam 6, Conant 0

The Orioles ran into a tough pitcher to start their year Tuesday, as Winnisquam’s Phil Nichols put together a 13-strikeout one-hitter to beat Conant 6-0.

“He was slightly overpowering, he had a good fastball and he was ahead on the count on most hitters,” said Conant head coach Aric LeClair after the game.

Conant is mainly comprised of in-season players, rather than year-rounders, so it may take their bats a while to get going in the early weeks of the season.

“Some of them haven’t seen a pitch in two years,” LeClair said. “We battled, we went down looking a lot but we did get one hit.”

Senior Colson Seppala broke up Nichols’ no-hit bid in the sixth.

Griffin Labonte started on the mound for Conant and gave up four earned runs in 1.2 innings; Kace Aho came in to relieve and gave up one run over 1.2 innings. Freshman Jordan Ketola came in to a big spot with the bases loaded and one out and got out of the jam after walking one run in.

“Any time you have bases loaded with less than two out and you get out with only one run, you did your job,” LeClair said.

Luke Lambert closed out the game pitching.

The Orioles (0-1) are back in action at home against Winnisquam Thursday at 4 p.m.

“I know these kids can accomplish a lot,” LeClair said, “but we’ve just got to put it all together, take our lumps over the next couple weeks, and hopefully get the ball rolling when it’s time to win.”


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