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KP Nine Has the Talent to Compete in Division 1

King Philip coach Jeff Plympton is flanked by his captains — Max Robison (left) and Tommy McLeish.

Warriors Aiming for Another Playoff Run
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
The King Philip baseball team would like its 2024 season to be one of redemption.
For the last two years, the Warriors have mapped out a smooth journey to the final game of the Division 2 state tournament. Unfortunately, coach Jeff Plympton Jr. and his forces were unable to defeat Milton on both trips.
Plympton no doubt would like to get the new campaign, which begins on April 1 against Stoughton, off and running to another appearance in the state final. If that were to occur, there would be a new twist — the Warriors are now in Division 1 and that increases the degree of difficulty. 
But, KP and Plympton aren’t strangers when it comes to facing off against Division 1 opponents. Last year, the Warriors encountered four Hockomock League foes and three non-league teams from Division 1. They included Franklin, Milford, Taunton and Attleboro in the conference and Walpole, Braintree and Bishop Feehan in non-league play. KP, which finished last year with an overall 17-8 record, was 6-5 against the seven Division 1 squads.
“The upgrade will be a challenge,’’ Plympton said. “We’ll be competing against large public schools and private Catholic schools. Division 1 teams seem to have a larger pool of pitchers to choose from. There’s more pitching depth and that’s what we’ll be dealing with.’’
The Warriors, nevertheless, enter the season with a contingent that has a variety of strengths. Only five seniors graduated and there’ll be 16 returnees with experience.
“We’ve got experience and depth,’’ Plympton said. “We’ve also got a high baseball IQ, speed and athleticism. Our pitching is dependable with two starters back, our hitting is strong and our defense is our best attribute. We emphasize defense in practice and we aim for error-free games.’’
Plympton’s goals this season are to win the league’s Kelley-Rex Division, qualify and go deep in the tourney, and continue to build a positive culture. “Our goals are realistic,’’ he said. “We’ve got quality talent and many of our players have continually been around baseball. What I like about our depth is that the players who don’t start provide competition and that leads to success.’’
Senior captains Max Robison (pitcher/first base) and Tommy McLeish (shortstop/pitcher) personify so many of KP’s assets.
“Both Max and Tommy lead by example and keep things fun,’’ Plympton offered. “They also are multiple-sport athletes who are supportive of their teammates.’’
The coach also likes what the tandem achieves on the field.
“Max hit .300 last year and I’d rate him the best defensive first baseman in the league,’’ Plympton offered. “He also handles all the balls hit low. He’s our leadoff hitter who can hit for power. Probably our third starter, he’s a lefty with a good fastball, curve and change-up and his control is a plus. Tommy has good hands at shortstop and is a solid hitter. He’s a reliable closer because of his velocity.’’
Plympton will use senior pitcher TJ Ahearn as the squad’s No. 1 reliever. “He grew into that role last year,’’ Plympton said. “He didn’t allow an earned run in 12 innings. He isn’t overpowering but he’s accurate, relying on a curve, fastball and slider.’’
Senior Travis Crawford provides versatility, able to play either the outfield or catcher. “As an outfielder, Travis is athletic, has good range and a strong arm,’’ Plympton noted. “Our No. 2 hitter in the lineup, his top strengths are speed and power on his line drives.’’
Junior Drew Herlin is a left-handed D-H who’s got a “smooth swing.’’ He can also fill in at first base. “Drew hit .300 last year and he aims for the gaps,’’ Plympton said. “A hard-worker, he could be a starter at first base next year.’’
Junior Aidan Astorino has speed and that’s why Plympton plans to start him in centerfield. “Aidan has a strong arm and he covers lots of ground,’’ Plympton noted. “His hitting should improve as he adjusts to varsity pitching.’’
Two junior hurlers who excelled as sophomores are right-handers Cam Hasenfus and Nate Pennini. Hasenfus was 3-0 last year and had an earned-run average of 2.15. Pennini was 5-1 and had an E.R.A. of 2.80.
“Cam can also play the infield,’’ Plympton said. “One of our starters last year, he throws a fastball, change-up and a knuckle curve. He gets good movement and velocity on his fastball. His control also is dependable. Nate has very good control and knows how to manage a game. A competitor with a high baseball IQ, he throws a fastball, curve and slider and his change-up keeps hitters off balance. He can also play second base.’’
Junior Tom Gately can play either the outfield or third base. “Tom is a left-handed line-drive hitter,’’ Plympton offered. “He was one of our best hitters on the jayvees and joined the varsity for the playoffs. A quality fielder with good range, I like the talent he displays.’’
Two sophomores—catcher Leo Dowling and outfielder Johnny Prater—will be prime contributors.
“Leo is a tremendous catcher,’’ Plympton said. “I’m excited to have him behind the plate. A starter as a freshman, he gets in front of every ball, checks the runners at first and third, and his arm strength is improving. He knows the game and knows how to calm down a pitcher. Our upper-classmen pitchers are all comfortable working with him.
“Johnny is a hard worker who’s become a reliable outfielder. I expect him to take the next step.’’
Plympton has a formidable staff of assistants who no doubt will be valuable in the transition to Division 1 baseball.
Jim Danielson and Nolan Bradley are varsity assistants; Jason Connelly is the jayvee head coach and his assistants are Dan Close and Peter Ingraham; Mike Roche is the freshman head coach, and Wayne Simarrian is a freshman assistant. “We’re fortunate to have such a quality staff,’’ Plympton said.
A native of Wrentham who played two varsity seasons of baseball at KP, the 30-year-old 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 also be learned and I want our players to respect others, respect the game and be role models.’’
The Warriors have qualified for tourney play in all of Plympton’s first three years at the helm. His fourth season will likely be successful again. 
“We’ll rely on different styles and approaches,’’ he emphasized. “Depending on each game, we can either use power or play small ball. We’ll be versatile and we’ll be quick to adapt.’’
KP’s baseball players are a resilient bunch and their ascent to Division 1 just might be the motivating factor for continued success.