KP Nine‘s Tournament Achievement Was ‘Special’
Jeff Plympton Jr. has guided KP’s baseball team to a pair of tourney appearances in his two years as head coach.
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
Jeff Plympton Jr. obviously would have preferred victory over defeat in the Division 2 state championship baseball game but the sting from the 4-2 loss to Milton quickly was soothed after post-game comments he heard from his players.
“The personal conversations were very moving,’’ Plympton said. “The kids wanted me to know that they appreciated me, but more importantly, I was glad to hear that they appreciated being in the program and were happy to have a positive experience. Tri-captain Shawn Legere thanked me three times and emphasized how thankful he was to be part of the program.’’
Legere’s quote puts high school sports in perspective, and it also measures a coach’s impact. Plympton added that “The kids made me smile every day of the season.’’
A native of Wrentham, Plympton, who was hired before the pandemic, has been KP’s head coach for three years, but he’s coached only two seasons of competitive baseball. His rookie year (2020) was canceled because of the pandemic, but since then, he’s guided the Warriors to a pair of tournament appearances.
The two years have been remarkable, not only for qualifying twice for the playoffs, but also for ending a four-year tourney drought.
“The program wasn’t in great shape when I took over,’’ he said, “A change of culture was needed. Baseball had good tradition and good coaches in past years, but that tradition was on a back burner. In general, we were on a downturn and the outlook needed to change.’’
After an 8-8 season last year that included a playoff win over Quincy and a loss to Xaverian, the eventual state champion, KP baseball was ready for takeoff.
“I knew we had a special group this year,’’ the always-personable Plympton said. “And, I felt we could do something special. We went 12-8 in the regular season but four of the losses were by one run. We had a rough stretch in May but caught fire for the tourney and played with confidence.’’
KP’s tourney run went this way — an 8-1 win over Melrose; a 12-5 triumph over Plymouth North; a 14-3 victory over Plymouth South; a 1-0 shutout of Mansfield; and a 4-2 loss to Milton.
“We knew Milton’s Charlie Walker was an excellent pitcher,’’ Plympton offered. “But, Ryan Gately gave us a chance to win and he kept us where we wanted to be. He went 5 1/3 innings, using a good assortment and getting strikeouts. But, Milton was the better team that day and deserved to win.’’
What helped the Warriors finish their season at 16-9 overall was a superb blend of hitting and pitching. Here’s how the players lined up in the batting order: first baseman Max Robison, left fielder Matt Kelley, Legere at shortstop, right fielder Brendan Sencaj, Gately (pitcher/second base), D-H Travis Crawford, catcher Matt DiFiore, third baseman Sean Sullivan, and centerfielder Eli Reed.
“Our lineup was aggressive,’’ Plympton said. “We hit well and surpassed the amount of runs we scored last year after our sixth game. Three of the players had 30-plus hits and three others were in the 20s. Top to bottom we were solid and we didn’t have a lot of hitters strike out.’’
KP’s pitching was high octane. The rotation included Gately, Tommy Martorano, Nick Viscusi and Quinn Gorstka. Tommy MacLeish handled relief duties. Gately was 5-1, Viscusi and Gorstka each went 3-1, and Martorano, who missed two months because of an injury, was 2-0.
“All of our pitchers were dependable, keeping us in every game,’’ Plympton noted. “Ryan was consistent, Nick had good velocity, Quinn was crafty, MacLeish was calm and cool, and Martorano did a great job against Mansfield when he returned for the tourney semifinal.’’
Two other players Plympton singled out were senior second baseman Brendan Weddleton and senior tri-captain Mark Tagerman (pitcher). “Brendan was solid in the field and kept our energy high,’’ Plympton said. “Mark was a great leader. He did whatever was needed to help us win.’’
The 29-year-old Plympton firmly believes the Warriors’ future will remain bright. Although 11 seniors have graduated, there will be 10 varsity returnees next year. KP, which finished fourth in the Kelly-Rex Division, should be in the mix to battle for that crown.
“We’ve got a lot of quality returnees, so we’ll strive to win the division next year,’’ Plympton said. “And, we should be in the playoffs again since we’ve got two starting pitchers back. But, it’s baseball and anything can happen.’’
Plympton’s father (Jeff Sr.), who pitched for KP, was an all-American at the University of Maine and played Major League baseball for the Red Sox, provided his son with plenty of encouragement after the Milton loss. “My dad saw all 25 of our games,’’ Plympton said. “He was proud of what we achieved and said we were heading in the right direction. He was very positive.’’
The Warriors, who were somewhat overlooked during the spring sports season, relied heavily on desire and dedication. When those attributes surfaced, they provided KP with meaningful success. And, a sure sign that good things will be part of their future was the bus ride home.
They had a police escort.