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Wombats headed to playoffs; Pitching, hitting solid for Legion team.

Byline: Jay Gearan

HOLDEN -- After packing 24 baseball games into 34 days, the Wachusett American Legion baseball team steps into the District 4 playoffs this weekend.

Wachusett, coached by Chuck Tidman, entered this week of competition sporting an impressive 13-8 record. This week the Wombats closed out their regular season with games against Northbridge, Cherry Valley and Leominster.

"We've beaten some very good teams, the best teams in the league,'' said Tidman, who is in his 11th season at the helm. Tidman's teams have made the Mass. American Legion postseason tournament in eight of his 11 seasons.

The season began June 6 with the Wombats defeating Framingham at home, 3-1. They followed that victory with successive shutout wins over Milford and Northboro, plus a 10-7 win over Sturbridge for an out-of-the-gate 4-0 start.

Other solid wins in June and July were earned against competitive teams such as Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Main South and North County.

"We're a fairly young team,'' said Tidman, who lost several key players from last year's team, which advanced to the state sectionals.

When asked about team leaders, Tidman spoke first of recent Wachusett Regional High School graduate Cam Ruziak, the catcher. "Cam hits well and leads by example,'' Tidman said. "And he plays a very tough position, always ready to go in each game.''

Four-year player Owen Gibbons also gets special praise from Tidman. "Owen is primarily a pitcher, but he can play anywhere for us. He does a lot of things for us, and is a quiet leader.''

Blessed with a deep pitching staff, the Wombats have been successful because of Gibbons on the mound, in addition to Connor Gill, Tanyon Ventres, Kevin Witmer and Ryan Jones.

"We have five starters we can count on,'' said Tidman, whose wish would be a No. 1 closer. Gibbons, with effective off-speed stuff, and the hard-throwing Gill have done the bulk of the work on the hill.

Offensively, the Wombats are led by Jordan Teevens, clearly the best hitter on the team. Other strong players at the plate include Gill and third baseman Dan Jancura, who has come up with several clutch hits.

"We hit a lot of singles and line drives, and we run the bases well,'' said Tidman. "We've only had one home run so far, and that was hit by our first-year player, Ryan Brodin. And that was quite a long shot deep over the right field fence.''

Other key players for the Wombats include Travis Benoit, Chris Chianese, Brendan Gallagher, Anthony Papandrea, Tim Post, Eric Sachse, Eric Seaver, Sam Stratton and Jordan Teevens.

Last weekend at Tivnan Field in Worcester, the Wombats notched their 13th victory, defeating Grafton Hill, 10-5, led by Ventres, who went three for four. Sachse scored two runs, and Teevens knocked in a couple of runs.

Tidman has been assisted for 11 seasons by Mark Orrico. Former Wachusett and Legion star Connor McDavitt, now playing for Tufts University, is also an assistant coach.

"Mark and I preach fun,'' said Tidman. "We're all business between the lines, but we realize that it's all about having fun during a very hectic and intense short stretch of baseball. This team in particular really enjoys the company of each other.''

Tidman added, "These kids really have to love baseball. It takes quite a commitment with everything else they have going on in their lives.''

The Wombats, with 13 other teams, compete in American Legion Baseball's Mass. District 4. American Legion baseball has been in existence since 1925 and includes several major league players among its alumni.

The Wombats, who wear teal-colored uniforms, play their home games at the Wachusett Regional High School field. Teal is the color of ovarian cancer awareness, and the uniforms are a special tribute to Tidman's wife, Cheryl, who passed away four years ago from ovarian cancer.

"We wear the color with pride,'' Tidman said.
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Title Annotation:Weeklies
Author:Gearan, Jay
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 11, 2014
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