The Clinton 76ers rule the roost.
CLINTON - The Clinton 76ers are off to a fast start this season.
The Sixers, who play in the Central New England Baseball Association (CNEBA), defeated Shrewsbury 8-1 last Tuesday night at historic Fuller Field.
With the victory, the Sixers, who own the best record in the 10-team league, have a 14-2-1 overall mark.
After taking a 1-0 lead against Shrewsbury in the first inning, Clinton exploded for seven runs in the third frame. Sixers right-handed pitcher John Michael Ryan hurled a two-hitter.
Clinton was led by Steve Scannell and Jeff Kodys, who both had two-RBI singles, while Shawn Frigon banged out an RBI double.
The CNEBA is a wooden bat league made up primarily of 18 to 24-year-old New England college players. The Sixers have drawn heavily this season from Assumption College, with seven Greyhounds on their 27-man roster. Assumption, which qualified for the NCAA Division 2 tournament this season, led the Northeast 10 in batting.
Clinton finished last year with a 19-12 overall record, and lost in the first round of the playoffs. It has 14 games left in the 2009 season.
"I am very pleased with how we've done so far," said Nashoba Regional High School graduate and Sixers manager Adam Trussell, who is in his third year at the helm. "We have a lot of talent. I think we have the top talent in the league.
"We haven't played our best baseball yet," he said. "I'm excited to see what we can do. We have a young team, and the league is young. The level of play in this (CNEBA) league is high."
One of the strengths of the Clinton squad is its pitching staff, which uses a five-man rotation.
Former Clinton High School standout Chris Nanof is having a fine season with a 3-0 record and a 1.10 Earned Run Average (ERA).
"He (Nanof) has been amazing," Trussell said. "He has plenty of experience, and he pitched a no-hitter against South Central.
"Our pitching has been our strong point," he said. "It has anchored us."
The ace of the Sixers' staff is Neil Hesek, who has a 4-0 record and a 1.10 ERA. Another top pitcher is Wachusett Regional graduate Evan Ray.
"Neil (Hesek) is our top returning guy," Trussell said. "He is a team leader.
"Evan (Ray) has been with us for three years," he said. "He has a 2-1 record, and he is another leader on the team.
Rounding out the rotation are Kevin Cobb, who has a 2-1 record and struck out 19 batters in the first game of the season, and John Michael Ryan, who sports a 1-1 record and has faced two of the toughest teams in the league, according to Trussell.
The first player out of the bullpen is Nashoba graduate Matt Lane, who went six innings against Ronnies and struck out 15 batters. Also used in a relief role are Joe Latino and Tim Scafidi, who is the lefty specialist.
Catching is a demanding position, and Trussell has four players, including himself, who will see some action behind the plate.
The returning backstop is Jeff Kodys, while Will Comerford and Nashoba graduate Dan Mandell will also do some of the catching chores.
"Jeff (Kodys) is an all-around talent," Trussell said. "He knows the staff and he calls a good game.
"Will (Comerford) is a huge addition to the team," he said. "He has good knowledge of the game."
At first base are Jamie Skagerlind, and Scafidi when he isn't pitching.
The second baseman is Mike Baillargeon, who had an outstanding season with Assumption, being named the Northeast 10 Player of the Year. Also seeing time at second will be Joe Eramo.
He (Baillargeon) broke many Assumption records," Trussell said. "He is a great all-around player with great power."
"Joe (Eramo) has a great attitude," he added.
Frigon, the shortstop, is batting .342, while Nashoba graduate Joel Mandell is at third base.
"He (Frigon) is the best fielding shortstop in the league," Trussell said. "He has the quickest hands I've ever seen. He leads us in stolen bases.
"Two years ago, Joel (Mandell) was our MVP (Most Valuable Player)," he said.
Two key utility players are Andrew Miskinis and Wachusett graduate Frank Bova.
"He (Miskinis) is the ultimate utility player," Trussell said. "Last year he played all nine positions. He's always there to play.
"Frank (Bova) is a skilled infielder and a team player," he said.
The left fielders are Matt Orrico, who is batting .333, and Comerford when he isn't catching.
"He (Orrico) has a great bat," Trussell said. "He has been with us for three years, and he is a solid hitter. He has a way of keeping the team loose."
The center fielder is Steve Scannell, while Jeff Bercume holds down the right field spot.
"Steve (Scannell) is our only real constant," Trussell said. "He has been with us for three years, and he's played in every game. He is consistently on base, and he is a scoring machine. He led the Northeast 10 in hitting.
"He (Bercume) is a contact machine," he said. "He is our leading hitter (at .343) and bats in the three spot."
Other players on the roster are Tyler Sykes, Jon Benoit, and Jeff Scafidi.
Nashoba graduate Daryl Murtha, an assistant manager, is the longest standing 76er. He has been with the team for nine seasons. Murtha, who holds the home run record at Salve Regina University, will be the designated hitter. He will also be used in the outfield.
The other assistant manager is Richard Trussell, Adam Trussell's dad.
"We use wooden bats, and this is a real crack-of-the-bat league," Adam Trussell said. "We have gotten in a groove as a team. We are coming together and we're on the same page.
"We have excellent chemistry this year, and a great atmosphere." he said.