Milford Pitchers Start Strong
By Chris Villani Sports Reporter/Columnist · April 16, 2012
Milford High expected its pitching to be strong, and through the first two games of the season, the results have not been disappointing.
The season opener was the Jarrod Casey show. The senior, who was an All-State pick by ESPN Boston last season, struck out 15 Westborough batters and hit a two-run homer in the Scarlet Hawks 3-1 victory.
"Not a bad day's work," said Milford head coach Steve Manguso. "He only walked one and his curve was in the mix which was good to see. He kept their hitters off balance."
Casey also provided what would turn out to be the game-winning hit, driving a 3-2 fastball into the vast expanses that is right-center at Fino Field and easily circling the bases behind Dave Rice to give MHS a 2-0 lead that would be more than enough.
In the second game of the season, Casey gave way to JJ Branch, who is coming off a successful 2011 summer with the Milford Legion. Branch struck out nine and allowed only three hits in six shutout innings against Hudson. He also added some offensive pop, with a two-run triple that helped get Milford out to an early lead as it cruised to a 13-3 win.
"JJ was terrific against Hudson," said Manguso. "Last yea he had trouble throwing strikes at times but as the year went on his command got better. He pitched well during Legion and he just has his confidence soaring right now."
Manguso said Branch has switched from using a curveball as his second off-speed pitch and is now going with a slider to compliment his fastball and change. He thinks both of his top two pitchers are ahead of where he thought they would be this early in the season. "Everything is relative, but they both had command of two pitches and if you can do that, you're in business," he said.
Milford will also use Steve Morganelli on the mound this year. He pitched the final inning against Hudson and surrendered all three runs for the Hawks, but Manguso still has a lot of confidence in him. "Steve throws hard and has a great curveball," he said. "He walked the first two guys he faced and got into a bit of trouble, but he'll be solid in a couple of different roles, including as our second or third guy on the mound."
Pitching and defense figure to be vital for Milford this season. Defensively, the Scarlet Hawks have a number of players in different positions than they played last year. Corey Pratt moved from catcher to second base, David Rice from second to shortstop, and Chris Casey from short to centerfield, but the results have been good so far.
"They are all playing well," said Manguso. "Part of that is because the pitching has been good and there haven't been a ton of people on base. I'm sure it'll happen, but so far our games have been very well pitched."