Mount St. Charles Nine Has Six Links to Bellingham
Apr 27, 2018 06:00AM ● Published by Kenneth Hamwey
Shown above (L-R) are Alex Gonfrade, Jake Meisner, coach Paul Jacques, JB Tselikis, Jack Bennett and Cee-Jay Laquerre.
The Mount St. Charles varsity baseball team has a dominant Bellingham connection. Five of its players hail from Bellingham, and the head coach, also a Bellingham resident, is well-known for his work in Babe Ruth baseball.
The first baseman/designated hitter is Jake Meisner; the leading pitcher is Alex Gonfrade, who can also play the outfield; JB Tselikis pitches and plays third base; Cee-Jay Laquerre starts at second; and Jack Bennett is a reserve in the outfield or at first base. Meisner and Gonfrade are junior captains, Tselikis is a junior and Laquerre and Bennett are freshmen.
Paul Jacques, the Mounties’ coach, guided Bellingham’s Senior Babe Ruth squad for 12 years and was ultra-successful in that venue. A 1998 Bellingham High graduate, he’s in his second year as MSC’s head coach but certainly is no stranger to the program, having spent nine years as the school’s jayvee coach and assistant head coach. Jacques also coaches boys soccer and boys and girls track at Mount. In 2016, he led the soccer squad to the Rhode Island state title and was selected Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association.
Last year, MSC posted a 10-8 record, qualified for the playoffs and won three of five games in the tourney before Chariho Regional eliminated the Woonsocket school. This season, the Mounties are aiming for another playoff run. At Bulletin deadline, MSC had a 2-2 record.
“We are a young team,” said Jacques. “Three of our four captains are juniors and we’ve got only one senior. Many of our players are returnees with some experience. We’re definitely counting on the two Bellingham captains for their leadership and ability.’’
Here’s a look at Mount’s five players linked to Bellingham:
Jake MeisnerA 5-foot-10, 235-pounder, Meisner hit .356 last year and drove in 17 runs. A contact hitter who can go deep, he relies on quick hands, capable hand-eye coordination and a high baseball IQ. He bats third or cleanup.
“I can improve my fielding,”said Meisner, who also plays right wing in hockey. “I’m working on getting to the ball quicker. As for being named a captain, I was surprised but greatly honored. I like the responsibility, I try to lead by example but I’m vocal too.’’
Younger players should take note of Meisner’s lead-by-example mode. His two best games last year displayed consistency and a catalytic nature. He had two singles, a double and a triple against St. Raphael’s that produced four RBIs in a victory. Against Mount Hope in the playoffs, he delivered a key RBI. “There was a runner on second and my single drove him home,”Meisner recalled. “That got our offense going and we pulled out a win.’’
Meisner played summer baseball last year, mostly as a reserve, for the Franklin American League team. He plans on pursuing another season with Franklin and hopes to play baseball in college.
“Jake is a selective hitter,”Jacques said. “A left-handed batter, he can drive the ball to the opposite field. We need Jake to be an RBI guy, but we need to get help behind him in the lineup. As a captain, he’s a rah-rah guy who inspires others.’’
Meisner’s goals are to qualify for the tourney again and advance as far as possible. “Individually, I want to improve my stats and help the team,”he emphasized. As for his coach, Meisner labels Jacques “a motivator who’s intense and focuses on basics.’’
Alex GonfradeA 5-foot-9, 145-pound lefty, Gonfrade posted a 6-3 record and had a 4.25 earned-run average last year. An aggressive pitcher who likes to work quickly, Gonfrade relies on off-speed pitches. “I like mixing up a curve, a change-up and a knuckler,”he said. “My fastball is decent but the key is hitting the corners, maintaining good control and keeping hitters off balance.’’
Formerly a relief pitcher, Gonfrade became a starter last year. Now he’s the ace of the staff, earning that honor after his effort last year against Chariho. “We were down, 3-0, in the playoffs and I came in during the third inning,”he recalled. “I went six scoreless innings but we lost, 4-3, in extra innings. I felt relaxed in that setting.’’
Jacques is highly impressed with his southpaw, calling Gonfrade “a quiet leader with poise.’’
“Alex is our No. 1 pitcher and he’s a terrific leader,”said Jacques, who teaches special education in Milford at the Stacy Middle School. “His work ethic is strong, he hits his spots and his biggest plus is his poise. He’s a crafty pitcher, his fastball is effective and his control is good.’’
Gonfrade says he was surprised but very honored to be a captain as a junior. He, too, expects Mount to return to the playoffs. “We’ve got a solid lineup,”he said. “Hopefully we can go deeper this year.’’
A defenseman in hockey last winter, he was handed the captain’s reins midway through the season. “One reason I chose to attend MSC is because I wanted to play competitive ice hockey,” Gonfrade noted. “I also pitched last summer for the Milford Legion.” He had a 2.67 E.R.A. for the Legion and started in the state title game against Braintree.
Gonfrade is a fan of Jacques, admiring his small-ball style. “Coach Jacques pays attention to small details and his approach is aggressive,” Gonfrade said. “He’s also a good motivator.’’
JB TselikisA reserve at third base last year, Tselikis got most of his playing time pitching for the jayvees, where he compiled a 4-1 record. This season, he’s being counted on in a relief role and also as a back-up at third. “JB is a reserve with an opportunity to get more time,”Jacques said.
The 5-foot-9, 200-pound right-hander throws a fastball and has a slider, a curve and a change-up. His control is decent and his fielding at third is a plus. “I believe I handle pressure well when I’m pitching and I’ve got a strong arm making the throw from third to first,”Tselikis said. “Last year, I pitched only four innings on the varsity and had only four at-bats.’’
One of his four wins with the jayvees was a gem. He had a no-hitter against Burrillville for six innings, but Jacques removed him because of a high pitch count. “That was a good outing,”Tselikis said. “My philosophy is to be ready when you’re called on to play, and I try to be a plus in the locker room.’’
Also a hockey player, Tselikis has been on the Mount varsity for two seasons and plays defense. Praising Jacques for his positive outlook and ability to motivate players, Tselikis is glad two of Mount’s captains are from Bellingham. “I’ve known Jake and Alex for a long time,” he said. “They deserve to be captains, and along with the coach, we’ve got a good leadership team.’’
Cee-Jay LaquerreJacques has installed Laquerre as Mount’s starter at second base because “he earned it.’’
“Cee-Jay has a great glove and he’s very defensive-minded,”Jacques said. “He had some excellent scrimmages, especially at the plate. He’ll be hitting second in the lineup and he could also see some time at third base or in the outfield.’’
Laquerre’s strengths include a high baseball IQ, overall quickness, power and good hand-eye coordination. To be on a varsity squad as a freshman is a major achievement, and Laquerre relishes the opportunity. “It’s exciting and fun,”he said. “It’s great to be at this level and it’s important to be a good role model.’’
Laquerre said he’s willing to play the outfield or third base and is aware that hitting in the No. 2 slot in the order puts some pressure on him. “There are a lot of expectations and there’s lots of pressure to get on base,”he noted.
The 5-foot-8, 140-pound Bellingham native capitalized on his opportunities during scrimmage action and excelled. “I got a chance and focused on that,”Laquerre said. “My goals are to improve daily, keep working hard and have some fun. Hopefully, the future will be positive and everything will fall into place.’’
Jack BennettThe 5-foot-11, 145-pound Bennett has experience as an outfielder, first baseman and pitcher, and Jacques sees him in a back-up role.
“Jack’s role will be as a reserve player this year,”Jacques said. “He’ll get some time in the outfield and at first base. Jack could also be called on to pitch. He has a very bright future in the program.’’
Bennett is a patient hitter who’s capable in the field. On the mound, he relies on a fastball but also has a pitch that blends into a curve and slider. “My goal is to contribute wherever I’m asked to play, and I hope I get opportunities,”he said. “Named to the varsity as a freshman is a good accomplishment and it should be a fun season. It’s great that coach Jacques has confidence in my ability.’’