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Ashland - Local Town Pages

Ashland Nine Looking to Make It 11 Years In A Row

By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Prior to the season beginning two-plus months ago, Ashland Baseball Coach Matt Messer was looking for his team to once again play out the year in high fashion, and once again advance into the tournament for the eleventh straight season. 
The Clockers went 14-6 (11-6 in the Tri-Valley League) during the regular season and punched their ticket to play in the Division 3 State Tournament. Last spring, playing in the Division 3 South Sectionals the Clockers shut out Norwell 10-0 before losing to Fairhaven in the next round. Messer and his team is hoping to avoid another second-round loss.
“Ashland had been to the tournament 10 years in a row; that’s something that we pride ourselves on,” the Clocker Skipper said. “This year is going to be a little different with the power rankings and getting into the tournament based on strength of schedule.”
Although Ashland pushed through the schedule and secured 14 wins, it wasn’t what Messer thought the team would do despite bringing back the majority of the team from last year.
“I figured that we’d go 11-9 or 12-8 as it was going to be grind this year with the tougher schedule we put together, but I didn’t think that we’d get 14 wins,” he said. “You’ve got to give it to these kids, they’ve got a lot of heart.”
The Clockers brought back their one through six batters from the previous season, and along with this year’s seventh hitter, second baseman Ethan Antoniuk Ashland was able to do something special at the plate. Each of the first seven batters had at least 15 hits during the season.
“I’ve never seen anything like this happen, it’s not even close. Usually you might get three, maybe four batters with 15 or more hits, but never seven on one team,” Messer said. “These kids can not only swing the bat, but they can score runs. We scored 148 runs this season and that’s in part to Football Coach Andrew McKay (who is also an assistant baseball coach) for getting them into the weight room and making them stronger.”
Leading off for Ashland is junior shortstop Connor Cowern, who was also named the TVL defensive player of the year. The Clocker shortstop was also named to the All-Star team while hitting .439 with 26 runs scored.
Following Cowern in the lineup, Ashland had junior first baseman Jack Reardon (21 runs scored), senior centerfielder Connor Kramer (.806 slugging percentage, batted .484 with 3 home runs, 30 hits, 24 RBI and scored 23 runs) and senior right-fielder Luke Herter (also caught a few games, batted .373 and led the team with 25 RBI). Seniors third-baseman Jake Troutman (14 RBI) and leftfielder Keegan Weiss batted fifth and sixth in the lineup.
Troutman, Weiss, Herter, and Kramer were all captains as well this past season. Kramer, who had offers from Division 3 colleges will be heading to Division 1 Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., next fall and will be looking to walk onto the baseball team.
While the one through seven hitters were hammering the ball against opposition pitching the Clocker hurlers were keeping batters in check at the plate. Leading Ashland on the mound was sophomore Ty Letichevsky, who went 5-3 with 66 strikeouts and a 2.13 ERA. According to Messer, Letichevsky is a power pitcher who throws about 86-87 miles per hour and should definitely get some Division 1 colleges looking at him by the time he reaches his senior campaign.
In addition to Letichevsky throwing heat, Ashland also had junior Chris Bialzik and senior Max Douglas also take turns on the mound this spring. Bialzik is a side-arm pitcher who posted a 3.73 ERA and came up big for the Clockers throughout the year. 
“Chris was really clutch this year, tough to hit and we relied on him all season long,” the Coach said. “Max is a kid who just wanted to help the team in any way that he could. We originally had him doing mop-up duty, but he eventually made his way into our starting lineup as our third starter.”
Early in the season Ashland actually found themselves with a 3-4 record wondering how their season was going to play out. Luckily, the Clockers got back into the win column where at one point they were able to rattle off seven straight wins to eventually get to 14-6. Ashland, the number nine seed in the Division 3 State Tournament, is scheduled to play Southeaster, the 41 seed, in the first round.
“I’ve told the kids that in order to get on a roll you’ve got to win the first one,” Messer said. “With that said, we don’t want to be looking to far ahead as its going to be tough. If we defeat Southeaster then we’ll get the winner of Fairhaven/Gloucester (Ashland lost to Fairhaven last year in the Division 3 South Sectionals) and if we are able to get past that game, we’d most likely get Austin Prep, the number one seed in Division 3 and the only undefeated team in the state.”