hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

June 20, 2013

'Amazing!'

Despite playoff loss, Whittier coach says team was a success

Hector Longo
Staff Writer

---- — One shaky day wasn’t about to wipe away a season of masterpieces for Joe Boland’s “amazing” Whittier Regional High Wildcats.

“Amazing,” beamed Boland, even after his Division 3 North champion Cats tumbled 10-1 to South champ Middleboro in the state semifinals. “It’s really the only way to describe this group and what they did this season. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids.”

The Wildcats, as they did back in 2010, bowed out of the postseason two victories shy of a state title, this time around with a record of 20-6.

“We won the Commonwealth, won the state voke title and won the North,” said Whittier senior Andrew Wells, trying valiantly to hold back tears. “At the beginning of the year, we never could have even dreamed of that. That’s why this hurts so much.”

Wells walks off the diamond already entrenched as one of the all-time Whittier greats, finishing 11-1 this year and with an uncanny 27 career victories.

In the finale, he was forced to play shortstop and rest that lightning bolt of a right arm.

“I was just hoping for one more chance to help this team win,” said Wells, who would have been the starting pitcher in Saturday’s state final. “This has been such a great experience, playing here with these guys. I just didn’t want it to end.”

Wells and his two-sport (basketball, baseball) running mate Nathan Frongillo both started as freshman on that 2010 sectional title team. This time, though, it was time for both to say goodbye.

Frongillo clearly leaves his imprint on the program, setting a new school and potentially area best with 119 hits over his four seasons.

The Colby-Sawyer-bound centerfielder broke Taylor Frazier’s no-hit bid with two outs in the Whittier third with his final career hit, a bullet to right.

Unfortunately, the Wildcats would muster only four hits for the day, including sophomore Ralph Francesconi’s single in the fourth, plating Jaylin Deveau with Whittier’s lone run.

It was hardly enough against a band of Sachems that pounced on every mistake the Wildcats made.

“(Whittier starter Devan Doucette) didn’t pitch badly, but we just made too many mistakes behind him,” said Boland. “You can’t give four and five-out innings to good teams like this. It just wasn’t our day. We didn’t play well at all.”

Only two of the nine runs allowed by Doucette were earned. He is a senior who stepped into the spotlight this spring, helping the Wildcats to a perfect run through the conference at 13-0.

He fanned one and allowed four hits, to go with six walks.

Whittier baseball 2013: A season full of heroes Totally selfless -- For three seasons, Nathan Frongillo worked the pivot at second base as one of the best in Eastern Mass. But this Whittier team needed a leader and stabilizing force in the outfield. Frongillo stepped up and sacrificed, playing a brilliant center field defensively while remaining a one-man offensive juggernaut. Frongillo hit .356, scoring 25 runs and driving in 17. The horse -- Greats like Tim Stronach and Dillon Ryan set the bar high for the Whittier's No. 1 spot in the pitching rotation. Andrew Wells took it to another level. Wells went an amazing 88 innings, going 11-1 with one save on the year. He struck 112 and walked just 12, posting a 1.27 ERA. Out of nowhere -- Teams don't succeed in the postseason without a superb No. 2 pitcher, and Whittier coach Joe Boland thought that might be a liability back in the preseason. Enter senior right-hander Devan Doucette, who went from bullpen afterthought to prime-time all-conference standout in just one year. Doucette finished the year at 7-3 with 41 strikeouts and a 2.41 ERA in 58 innings pitched. The backbone -- Anthony Licciardello proved plenty behind the plate and at the plate in an all-conference 2012 junior season. But this spring, the senior was off the charts. Licciardello dominated with a .442 batting average, 25 RBIs and 20 runs scored. Nine of the RBIs came in the five state tourney games. He made it back-to-back on the all-conference team. Fitting in the final pieces -- Boland needed a No. 2 hitter, and the Wildcats found one in Anthony Loguidice, speedy, intelligent, team first guy. … Jaylin Deveau, a superb junior contributor in both football and hoops, made it three for three. He hit .307 with 18 runs and 13 RBIs. … And sophomores Ralph Francesconi and Jorge Martinez both proved they could be lethal run producers in the present and the future. Martinez hit .288 with 18 RBIs, while Francesconi drove in 21 with a .259 average.