The prep baseball season is underway in New England, and The Base Path Podcast has a prep preview theme.
Phillips Andover coach Kevin Graber, whose team holds the No. 1 spot in the New England Baseball Journal Top 10, joined host Dan Guttenplan to discuss the upcoming season. Andover has impressed this preseason with a 6-0 record on its Florida training trip and four competitive scrimmages since returning to New England. The Big Blue open the regular season against Bridgton Academy on April 9 (6 p.m.) at Greater Lawrence Tech.
An educated guess is that Thomas White, who recently committed to Vanderbilt University, will get the start for Phillips Andover in its opener.
“I think when people think of our program now, they identify us with Thomas White,” Graber said. “He’s the No. 1 rated arm in the Class of 2023. He just got that college commitment out of the way, so he’s headed to Vanderbilt if he’s not the No. 1 pick in the draft. I think that’s how the perception of our program has evolved since the graduation of this amazing wave of Division 1 commits that we had last year.
“I wouldn’t say we’re as talented as we were last year, but we’re good in a different way. We’re smaller, scrappier, deeper, and we can push more buttons.”
Despite the loss of five D1 commits — Jonathan Santucci (Duke), Jack Penney (Notre Dame), Matt Sapienza (Georgetown), LJ Keevan (UMass Lowell) and Sebastian Mexico (Fordham) — Andover still has six college commits on its roster. Pitcher Jake Needham and outfielder CJ Egrie plan to play at Holy Cross. Catcher Tommy McAndrews will also play D1 at Fordham. Pitcher Harrison Milbert (US Coast Guard Academy) and infielder Jesse McCullough (Tufts) plan to play D3. White is the lone commit (Vanderbilt) in the Class of ’23.
“Tommy McAndrews is a four-year guy who’s a great catcher,” Graber said. “Jake Needham is every bit the No. 1 pitcher that Thomas is. CJ Egrie is great in centerfield. Jesse is the leader in our middle infield, so we’ve reloaded.”
Andover has won four Central New England Prep championships under Graber, although that number could be even higher if the league awarded championships after either of the last two seasons. The Big Blue will continue to play one of the most difficult schedules in New England. Graber sized up some of the teams and players that his team will face.
“(Avon Old Farms coach) Rob Dowling does such a great job, and they are a power in the Founders League,” Graber said. “The players on their roster that stand out to me are Brian Dowling, a big-left-handed pitcher with awesome command, Gavin Greger, who’s committed to UConn, and James Morr, to St. Lawrence. Dexter’s really good with Dan Donato as their head coach. Ivan Arias, the shortstop committed to Vanderbilt … he’s one of the top shortstops in the country. They have arms. They’ve got Chase Hartsell, Jon Hernandez, Dante Pavone, Damon Alexander. Ryan Grundy is a kid who’s trending. He’s a Class of 2023 corner infielder. Matt Conte is a sophomore catcher who is committed to Wake Forest. They’re loaded and deep.
“Our schedule has Belmont Hill. Mike Grant is a really good friend and one of the best head coaches in the ISL. They’re young, but they’re talented … John Milewski is a big, tall right-hander in their Class of 2023 that I really like … At Worcester Academy, Jim McNamara, one of my best friends in baseball, is sadly in his last season at the helm. They have arms with Carson Walsh, John Tully and Will Ernst, along with athletes galore. They’re going to be really, really good.’
Listen to the entire podcast with Kevin Graber.
The New England Baseball Journal podcast is brought to you by the University of Nebraska High School.
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