For the Austin Prep baseball team, one word is beginning to define everything that the program encompasses: culture.
A year after the 24-2 Cougars won the MIAA Division 3 title, there is a sense that this is only the beginning of success that may come. Despite the departure of talent such as Logan Bravo (Harvard) and Peter Burns (Boston College), Austin Prep has welcomed a talented freshman class to go along with some of the returning veterans.
“[The freshmen] are all real strong and they are raw. But they are very coachable,” said Austin Prep coach Steve Busby who is in his ninth season at the helm. “And we have had good leadership showing them what we do as a culture.”
That leadership starts at the top with the three senior captains: Cam Seguin, Jon Gilbride, and Colin Jaena — each of whom played a pivotal role in last season’s state title run. Seguin, a UMass-Lowell-commit won three games during the tournament, capping it off with a complete-game two-hitter with 10 strikeouts in the 9-1 victory over Taconic at Holy Cross last June.
Off to a 4-0 start and ranked fourth in the Globe Top 20 early in the 2019 season, the lefthander, Seguin, has won two of those games — pitching six shutout innings to open up the season against Hamilton-Wenham and a complete-game three-hitter against Woburn on Wednesday.
The young talent is shining through early as well. Freshman Evan Blanco closed out the opening day win against the Generals and went even further than that on Tuesday in a 14-0 win over Reading. The lefthander from Woburn tossed five innings, striking out four and only allowing three hits in his first varsity win.
Blanco also hit his first varsity home run in a suspended game against St. Mary’s.
“It is just younger guys and we are teaching them how to win. We are taking what we learned from the older guys last year and implementing it in practice [and] games,” said Jaena.
“With Jon and Cam, we have all been here for a while. It kind of feels like when we came in as sophomores we knew how talented we were, and then the freshman [this year] it’s awesome. The future is going to be really bright. This year I feel like we can make a run.
The aspirations for Austin Prep are much more than a repeat Division 3 title. The Cougars felt left out of last year’s most prolific baseball tournament, the MIAA Super 8. After the win against Taconic, Austin Prep touted black T-shirts with the words “THAT WAS A SUPER SEASON” on the back. With another successful campaign it may be hard for the committee to leave the Cougars out of this year’s Super 8.
“It is not necessarily us as individuals but more us as a program and a culture. It has always been that way around here, we always want more,” said Seguin.
“We are just focused on the future and we are always focused getting better as a team. I mean, yeah, we always want to compete at the highest level and win at the highest level.”
Added Busby, “we have had really good teams and I am happy we won a state title. No one can take that away from us. All we can do is put a good product out there and have a great game and a great season.”
Before every game and every practice the word “culture” is brought up and shouted by the Austin Prep baseball team. Following the program’s first state championship in 2018, the sky is the limit for the Cougars who have the potential to become the first Division 3 school selected to take part in the Super 8 since its origination in 2014.
And with a plethora of talent beginning to funnel through the school in Reading, this may be only the beginning.
“The whole dynamic of the team has changed,” said Gilbride. “I feel like our freshman class is going to continue that and we hope to continue our success and change the culture even more.”
■ Northeastern commit Sebastian Keane is the definitive ace of the North Andover pitching staff. But in the opening weeks of the season, Todd Dullin’s squad has received positive contributions from other members of the rotation. In a 6-0 nonleague win over Arlington last Friday, sophomore lefthander Brendan Holland tossed six shutout innings to earn his first varsity win. On Wednesday, making his first varsity start, senior Brett Dunham threw a complete game in a 3-2 victory over Tewksbury.
“When they haven’t done it before you’re not sure what you’re going to get,” Dullin said. “But it’s good to see them perform.” The Knights (4-0) are a potential Super 8 team and if they can get quality starts and wins from Holland, Dunham, and senior captain Jake McElroy alongside the dominant Keane, it’ll be hard for the committee to leave them out of the field.
■ Xaverian baseball coach Gerry Lambert was placed on leave following an altercation with a player during a 7-0 loss to St. John’s Prep last Wednesday. The Hawks (2-4) were ranked fifth to start the year in the Globe’s Top 20.
■ Seventh-ranked Walpole (4-1) has a challenging schedule ahead. The Rebels play at No. 1 Franklin on Friday and at No. 2 St. John’s Prep on Saturday. After an off day Sunday, they’ll host No. 9 Wellesley on Monday and No. 5 Braintree on Wednesday, rounding out a remarkably difficult six-day stretch.
■ UMass knocked off Harvard, 10-9, in the Beanpot final at Fenway Park Wednesday night and a trio of former Globe All-Scholastics played important roles. Anthony Videtto, the Globe’s 2016 D1 Player of the Year playing at Silver Lake Regional, triggered a two-run rally in the bottom of ninth with a double down the line in left. Freshman Kevin Dow (Mansfield) pitched three innings of relief for the Minutemen and first-year Logan Bravo (Austin Prep) homered over the Green Monster in the second inning for the Crimson. Freshmen Tyler Dalton (Mansfield) and Steve Luttazzi (Franklin) are also on the UMass team.
Games to Watch
Friday, Billerica at North Andover, 11 a.m. — A potential pitching matchup between Billerica’s Kyle Murphy (Maryland) and North Andover’s Sebastian Keane (Northeastern) is a must watch.
Saturday, Walpole at St. John’s Prep, 10 a.m. — A day after taking on No. 1 Franklin, the Rebels hit the road again for a date with the No. 2 Eagles — the team they eliminated from the Super 8 last spring.
Monday, Bishop Fenwick at St. Mary’s, 4 p.m. — Two quality teams that will challenge Austin Prep in the Catholic Central meet in Lynn.
Tuesday, Franklin at Taunton, 3:45 p.m. — The top-ranked Panthers (5-0) will be challenged against a solid Tigers (5-1) team led by ace Jack Moynihan.
Tuesday, Masconomet at Lynnfield, 3:45 p.m. — The two best teams in the Cape Ann League square off in the first of two matchups this spring.Karl Capen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Matt Doherty also contributed.