KP Nine Eyes Another Deep Run in the Playoffs Warriors’ Roster an Experienced Group
The KP baseball team advanced to the Final Four last year, then bowed in the State championship final to Milton.
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
The current edition of the King Philip baseball team would like to take care of some unfinished business — like winning the Division 2 state championship.
Last year’s squad came close. Very close.
The 2022 Warriors were 12-8 after the regular season, then won four straight games in the playoffs before Milton eliminated them, 4-2, for the state crown. KP finished with a 16-9 overall record.
Jeff Plympton Jr. is in his fourth season as KP’s baseball coach.
“Last year’s team relied on desire and dedication,’’ said Jeff Plympton Jr. who’s in his fourth season as KP’s coach. “They were a pleasure to be around. They battled through the season after we lost pitcher Tom Martorano (elbow injury) in our opener, and we lost four one-run decisions. But, they showed resiliency. Martorano returned for the tourney and pitched a 1-0 shutout over Mansfield to get us into the state final.’’
The current contingent has 9 returnees from last year, and Plympton’s goals for 2023 speak volumes about KP’s ability and character.
“We’ll strive to win the Kelley-Rex Division of the Hockomock League and to qualify for the tourney where we’ll aim to go as deep as possible,’’ he said. “Our objectives will also include daily improvement in practice and games and a desire to continue to build a winning culture.’’
The 29-year-old Plympton, whose Warriors will open the season on April 3 at Stoughton, is optimistic his forces can check all the boxes.
“We’ve got hard-working players who’ve got the potential to do well and we’ve got a dedicated staff of coaches,’’ he emphasized. “Our team strengths are a major plus. Our kids are athletic, versatile, competitive and coachable, and they’ve got a high baseball IQ. We’re talented on offense, our pitching is strong and our returning players have varying degrees of experience.’’
KP’s senior captains — Rudy Gately (pitcher-infielder) and Matt Kelley (outfielder) — personify talent and leadership. Gately was dynamic last year, posting a 5-1 record and an earned-run average of 2.73. He batted .329, had 25 hits, knocked in 21 runs and scored 21 runs. Kelley hit .325, had 26 hits, drove in 18 runs and scored 25 times.
“Rudy is the ultimate competitor,’’ Plympton noted. “He’s super focused on the task at hand and although he’s a quiet captain, he leads by example on and off the field. A right-hander, Rudy’s assortment of pitches includes a fastball (mid-80s mph), change-up, curve and a slider. His change-up is his best pitch.
“Matt is versatile, a good contact hitter who has a high baseball IQ. He’ll jump on the first pitch and he’s a quality fielder who reads the ball well and gets a good jump. He also leads quietly and by example.’’
Pitcher Rudy Gately was dynamic last year, posting a 5-1 record and an earned-run average of 2.73.
Martorano is a senior who’ll pitch and likely play first base, too. Because of his injury, the left-hander hurled only 12 innings last year, went 2-0 and didn’t allow a run. “Tom throws a fastball, change-up and a curve,’’ Plympton said, “and his fastball is electric. His fastball is in the high 80 mph range and its movement makes hitters struggle. He’s a terrific competitor.’’
Junior Anthony Fraone could join Gately and Martorano in the starting rotation. “Anthony is a right-hander who played on the jayvees last year,’’ Plympton said. “He throws a fastball, curve and change-up and his control is top-notch. He’s willing to take advice and strives to improve daily.’’
Junior Tommy McLeish, who was KP’s quarterback in the Super Bowl last fall, is another potential starter.
“Tommy, who can also play as a middle infielder, was 3-0 last year as a middle-inning reliever and a closer,’’ Plympton offered. “He handles tough situations well and has a good assortment (fastball, curve, slider and change-up). He’s got good control of his fastball and his curve has a 12 to 6 drop. He definitely will be counted on in relief.’’
Left-hander Max Robison is a junior who showed lots of versatility last year. He was used as a relief pitcher and a first baseman and could possibly see duty in the outfield this season. His pitching assortment includes a fastball, curve and a change-up.
“Max isn’t flashy but he’s reliable,’’ said Plympton, who teaches physical education and health at KP. “He’s got great control. A hard-worker, he hits for power and had a .345 batting average last year.’’
Senior Brendan Sencaj is KP’s only returning all-star. Batting cleanup last year, he had 30 hits and compiled a .390 batting average. He also had 25 RBIs and scored 26 runs. “Brendan played third base last year and later in the season was used in the outfield,’’ Plympton said. “A patient hitter, he’s powerful and he’s also a great fielder. He’ll be playing for Bentley University next year.’’
Sophomore Aidan Astorino, who’ll play either first base or be the D-H, was called up from the jayvees halfway through the season last year. “Aidan was impressive with the junior varsity,’’ Plympton said. “His strength is hitting and I expect him to be a capable contributor.’’
Plympton, who’ll round out his roster with additions from the sub-varsity teams, has a very capable staff. Jim Danielson will serve as a varsity assistant, Jason Connelly is the jayvee coach and Nolan Bradley will direct the freshmen. “They communicate well with the players and do a good job preparing the kids to play at a higher level,’’ Plympton said.
A native of Wrentham who played two varsity seasons of baseball at KP, Plympton relies on a competitive philosophy that stresses reaching one’s potential and having fun.
“When those things occur, winning will be the by-product,’’ he emphasized. “And valuable life lessons can be learned in athletics, like being prepared, working hard and overcoming adversity. Leadership and setting goals can be learned and I want our players to respect others, respect the game and be role models.’’
Whether the 2023 edition of the Warriors wins a state title or comes close like last year’s contingent will be revealed in three months. Don’t count out this group because it has the same resilient nature as last year’s contingent.
They also are intense and focused on strengthening KP’s baseball tradition, which took a major step forward last June on a big stage.