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2023 Season Preview: Arms to carry Woodstock Academy this season

It’s a great luxury to have.

The Woodstock Academy baseball team may have lost eight players to graduation, but it luckily did not affect its pitching staff.

“We look to have depth (on the mound), we pray everyone stays healthy, but if we’re going to make a run at our division and in the Eastern Connecticut Conference and state tournaments, this would be a good year to do it. We need stay healthy, stay together and if those guys perform like we expect them to, we should be right there,” Woodstock Academy coach Brian Murphy said.

The Centaurs were right there last season.

They finished in second in Division II of the Eastern Connecticut Conference, lost in the championship game of the ECC tournament and made it to the second round of the Class L state tournament, losing to Wethersfield to finish 16-10 on the season.

Senior Kaden Murphy led the team in innings on the mound last season with just over 48 innings in which he struck out 38 and finished with a 5-3 record and a 2.76 earned run average.

“We can all throw, all pitch in big games and we’re just looking to improve upon last year,” Kaden Murphy said.

Sophomore Brady Ericson had some “freshman” outings for the Centaurs last season, according to Brian Murphy, but still finished with a 2-2 record, a 2.46 earned run average and 44 strikeouts in 31 innings plus.

Add to that, junior Eric Mathewson (4-1, 2.76), sophomore Riley O’Brien (4-1, 3.89), and seniors Marcus McGregor and Carter Morissette, who is now fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, and it’s a pretty formidable pitching staff.

One thing the staff will have to work with is a new battery mate.

Both Jon Smith and Hamilton Barnes have graduated.

“It’s a challenge but it really isn’t. We have a lot of young catchers but they’re good, they know the game, and they know us. We’ve played with them before,” Kaden Murphy said.

Sophomore Tanner Graham and freshmen Caleb Simoneau and Brady Lecuyer are expected to compete for the playing time on the varsity level.

“If you look at my tenure here, I’ve been blessed at catcher. We had Eric Preston as a starter for four years and then, Jonathan Smith and Hamilton Barnes, who you could not go wrong with. This year, we will be young but they’re working hard and work on their game both in season and offseason. We will look at those three and there may be some platooning,” Brian Murphy said.

The offense did take a hit.

It lost its top three hitters in Smith (.432, 17 runs batted in); Ethan Davis (.392, 14 RBI) and Zach Roethlein (.337, 21).

“We know we have to make contact this year but we do have more power than last year. We had more speed last year, but we have a lot of power in the middle of the order this year,” Morissette said.

Woodstock Academy had only two home runs last year.

It also plays on a cavernous field at the Bentley Athletic Complex.

Ericson had only 12 at-bats but had hits in five of them including one of the Centaur dingers; McGregor came in at .298 while Mathewson and Morissette, who had the other homer, also finished above .290.

“I think we will be solid. We’ve been working hard on the offense with a new pitching machine that we got this year and we’re cranking it with curves and fastballs. I think we should be a good contact team with occasional power. We need to put the ball in play and I think we will be fine,” Brian Murphy said.

Mathewson, Murphy, Morissette, McGregor, O’Brien, Maxx Corradi, Keon LaMarche, Eli Smith and Ericson all will see time in the infield with Ericson, Murphy, and Morissette also rotating into the outfield with Graham and senior Josh Hernandez.

The turnout was a bit lighter than Brian Murphy had hoped but success can sometimes help with numbers.

“If we make a deep run, kids will see it and I think they will want to come out next year,” Morissette said.

Even though, Morissette won’t be around to see it.

“It’s sad, but if we can go out on top that’s what we’re hoping and looking forward to do,” the senior added.

The Centaurs open on the road against a traditional ECC baseball power, Waterford, on Monday at 4:15 p.m.