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MHS Baseball Looks to Reload

When first year head coach Paul Pellegrini took over the Milford baseball program, he inherited a team with a number of seniors, but not an abundance of varsity playing experience. Only one starter returns from a 2012 squad that went 17-4. Still, the rookie coach has not lowered his expectations.
"I think we can be successful if we follow the game plan," said Pellegrini. "We have a lot of seniors on this team and many of them have played other varsity sports and excelled. My philosophy is to make it simple, don't run a ton of plays, let's run a few, but do them right."
Milford jumped out to a 2-1 start this season after beating Mansfield on Monday, 5-4. Pellegrini says his team needs to continue to improve at the plate, but is pleased with the early returns from his starting pitching. He plans to lean on Eric Fernandes and Michael Tracy as starters. Fernandes, a left hander, was on the mound for the Scarlet Hawks' season opening 10-2 loss to Taunton, as well as the win over Mansfield earlier this week.
"We had a rough opening game," said Pellegrini. "We made a lot of mistakes behind [Fernandes], but it seems like we have corrected them already. Errors and mental mistakes are going to happen. When they do, we just need to correct them and move on."
Pellegrini said he was happy with Fernandes' demeanor on the mound. "He is a crafty lefty who spots the ball well and he is very calm, he won't show a ton of emotion and is the type of kid who will bounce back," he said. "He has a good curve ball and when he stays ahead in the count, he's very effective."
Fernandes lived up to his coach's billing, bouncing back for an 11-strikout performance in Milford's win over Mansfield.
Senior right-hander Mike Tracy will also see a lot of time on the mound for the Hawks this season. He earned the win in MHS's second game of the year, a 4-2 victory over King Phillip, and also took the victory against Mansfield after entering in the 7th inning and pitching Milford out of a jam in a tie game. Against KP, he tossed a complete game gem with 14 strikeouts and only one walk. "Mike pounded the strike zone in that game," said Pellegrini. "He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 batters, that's amazing for any level."
Milford used a balanced offensive attack against King Phillip, with each player in the lineup getting at least one hit. Catcher Rob Benjamin, the lone returning starter on the team, plated two runs with a triple. Benjamin also drove in the game winning run against Mansfield. Pellegrini will look to Jon O'Neil as a spark at the top of the Hawks' lineup. He reached base in six of his first eight plate appearances this year, including three hits against Taunton.
"Jon saw some quality time last year and we will be counting on him offensively this season," said Pellegrini. "He is an aggressive, heads up baseball player."
Chris Trafecante starts the year in the cleanup spot in the order for Milford, and will be another key cog in the lineup. Pellegrini says his team has the talent and experience to compete this season, and he's adjusting to his first year at the helm after nine years as an assistant coach. "You realize you have to make the decisions instead of helping out with the decisions," he said. "It's more responsibility, but it's something I am excited to take on."




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