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Fresh Faces for Nipmuc Baseball

The Nipmuc baseball team comes into the 2014 season having lost a number of important cogs from a team that won 14 teams and the Dual Valley Conference championship last year. Ace pitcher Joe Cortese has graduated, as has centerfielder Tom Lemons and right fielder Josh Horn. The trio also formed the middle of the Warriors' lineup, so head coach Steve Dellarovere will have to rely on some new blood this spring. "Last season, we had more of a mix of experience and youth," he said. "This season, we will have more youth and those guys are going to have to step into more prominent roles at the varsity level."
Nipmuc does return some players who figure to play a part. Senior outfielder Matt Nichols saw time as both an outfielder and designated hitter last year and should be back in the lineup this season. "It's early, but from a leadership standpoint Nichols is a guy who should be able to really help the younger guys," said Dellarovere. "He is a good player but also very stead and calm. He's a good presence to have in the lineup and in the dugout."
Nipmuc earned a spot in the district tournament in 2013, falling 2-1 to Northbridge in the sectional quarterfinals. Freshman Tom Sperino was on the mound for the Warriors in that game, and he's likely to move to the top of the rotation as a sophomore, continuing a meteoric rise. "Tom developed a lot more quickly than I would have anticipated at the beginning of the year," said Dellarovere. "I kept him on the varsity because I thought he could pitch at that level and I wanted him to get the experience. By midseason, he had forced my hand. He was pitching so well, we had to put him into the rotation."
Dellarovere said it will be a new experience for Sperino, who will not catch anyone in the area by surprise. "It's a different challenge because this year, there are some expectations," said the head coach. "The next step in his development will be to see how he handles that king of thing. He's a known commodity now, and he's going to be taking on some of our better opponents."
Aside from Nichols and Sperino, Nipmuc baseball is essentially a blank slate. The Warriors began practice in the gym this week, and Dellarovere anticipates competition to make the team and a good deal of healthy competition in practice for playing time.
"I really like it when there is competition for spots," he said. "It's something I try to foster within tryouts and after we make the team. A little competition in practice is helpful because it makes it more like the game and reminds guys not to get complacent."
Dellarovere has yet to name captains for the 2014 Warriors, but he's hopeful a dose of competitive spirit and leadership from his returning stars will make for a successful mix. "The group we had last year really bought in and it helped us build some team chemistry," he said. "We've got guys that have been there like Matt [Nichols] and Tom [Sperino] and I think we can use that competition in tryouts and in practice to make us a better team."




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