Skip to main content

Pitching Is BHS Nine’s Strength for the Playoffs

Bellingham High pitchers who’ll start in the playoffs include, from left, Alex Hughes, Ryan Maiorano, and C.J. Fama. Jack Hildred, far right, will be the closer. Photo courtesy of Noah Sylvia

Bulletin Sports Writer
A Major League Baseball manager once said that pitching is 90 percent of the game, and Bellingham High coach Andy Nolan totally agrees with that assessment.
“It all starts with your pitcher,’’ Nolan emphasized. “If he’s walking batters or struggling with his control, that affects everyone. It can even affect your team’s fielding. But, when a pitcher is on his game, it raises confidence throughout your team.’’

Bellingham coach Andy Nolan pitched for Holy Cross College and was the Crusaders’ MVP in his senior year.


The 47-year-old Nolan, who’s in his second year as the Blackhawks coach, is acutely aware that pitching will play a key role in whatever success Bellingham has in the state tourney. 
The Blackhawks, who had a 10-5 record at the Bulletin’s deadline, have eight pitchers and their combined earned-run average was 2.65 after 15 games. Nolan’s stable of hurlers includes two seniors and six juniors, and of the eight six are right-handers and two are southpaws.
“Our staff’s strengths are experience, athleticism, versatility and a team-first attitude,’’ said Nolan, who pitched for Holy Cross and was its Most Valuable Player as a senior. “They’re also very coachable and show concern for each another. Last year, we finished 8-9 and the pitchers were all sophomores and juniors. The experience they’ve gained is invaluable, and it’s been the key to our success.’’
Nolan plans on using three starters in the playoffs — senior right-hander Ryan Maiorano and junior right-handers Alex Hughes and C.J. Fama.
“It all begins with your ace, and that’s Ryan,’’ Nolan noted. “In six mound appearances, he was 1-0, had an E.R.A. of 1.05, walked 10 and struck out 32 in 20 innings. He’s a senior captain who’s taken on a leadership role. Our junior pitchers respect him. He’s calm, poised, and throws his fastball at 88 mph. His slider and change-up are also effective. He’ll be competing at Division 1 Fairfield University next year.’’
Hughes has been solid, compiling a 4-3 record with an E.R.A. of 2.90 In 29 innings, he’s walked 15 and struck out 33.
“Alex is dependable,’’ Nolan said. “He relies on a fastball, curve, change-up and a sinker. His best pitches have come with men on base. Like Ryan, he’s got a high baseball IQ.’’
Fama was 1-2 with an E.R.A. of 1.24 through 17 innings. He’s walked 6 and struck out 18.
“C.J. throws a breaking curve ball that’s his bread-and-butter pitch,’’ Nolan said. “I’ve also coached him in AAU ball, at the youth level and in summer league. Used as a reliever last year, he excelled in that role. C.J. relishes being in pressure situations.’’
Junior Jack Hildred will be the Blackhawks’ prime closer.  In 10 1/3 innings, the left-hander was 3-0 with an E.R.A. of 0.68. He’s surrendered 5 walks and struck out 15. “Jack’s best pitch is his fastball,’’ Nolan offered. “It moves all over the place and it gets to the plate fast. And, it’s not on a straight line. He’s done a superb job as the closer.’’
Other hurlers could be called on to close, and the most likely will be Fama. “He definitely can handle the pressure that goes with closing out a game,’’ Nolan said.
The middle-inning relievers include junior left-hander Tyler Ladouceur, senior right-hander Troy Simpson, and junior right-handers Joe Corsi and Sean Brown.
“Tyler was a starter last year,’’ Nolan said. “His best pitch is his change-up, and he also is effective with his fastball and curve. Able to play the outfield or first base, he’s hitting .292. His E.R.A. (3.07) makes him a reliable middle-inning reliever.’’
Nolan would also be comfortable calling on Simpson whose nine-inning stats include a 3.11 E.R.A., 5 walks and 13 strikeouts. “Troy’s curve ball is his best pitch,’’ he said. “It’s his out pitch. A dependable middle-inning guy, he’s a good complement to our other pitchers. His fastball also is a plus.’’
Corsi and Brown have seen limited varsity action, but they’ve been stalwarts for the jayvees. 
“Both Joe and Sean have great team-first approaches to the game,’’ Nolan said. “They both want to compete and were eager to work at the jayvee level to get experience. Joe’s fastball has a downward tilt, like his late father who pitched for the Red Sox. Sean’s best pitch is his curve ball. Last year, he competed on both the jayvees and the varsity.’’ 
Two telling statistics that emphasize the quality of the BHS pitching staff are its walk-to-strikeout ratio (62 walks to 127 strikeouts in 15 games) and a team batting average of .228. “Our team batting average has improved, but what that shows is that our pitching has carried us through so far’’ Nolan said. “But, we’re going to need our hitting to advance in the playoffs.’’
The Blackhawks were ranked No. 2 in Division 4 and were in line for a high playoff seed at the Bulletin’s deadline. Seeding is important for several reasons.
“A high seeding can earn a team more home games,’’ Nolan emphasized. “Playing at Richardson Field is advantageous. It’s our kids’ home field, and there’s always a good fan base on hand.’’
Last year, BHS earned a tourney date, then defeated Clinton in its opener when Maiorano threw a no-hitter. A second-round matchup against Abington ended with the Blackhawks bowing out in a 3-2 loss. “We could face Abington again,’’ Nolan said.
Facing Abington is a hypothetical, but there are two sure things that BHS baseball fans can take to the bank.
Nolan’s pitching depth has put the Blackhawks in a good place and he’ll “go with the formula that  got us to this point.’’ Also serving as the team’s pitching coach, Nolan calls all the pitches. When he earned MVP honors at Holy Cross, one effort that likely clinched that honor was a four-hit shutout over West Point.
“Having pitched in college is a plus, because I can relate to what’s going through a pitcher’s mind in a pressure situation,’’ Nolan offered. “I also pitched during summers for the Medford Mustangs and the Watertown Reds in the Inner City League. Another key for us in the playoffs will be to remain poised, calm and relaxed. That’s when a team gets good results.’’
Andy Nolan never looks too far ahead, always focusing on the task at hand and never losing sight of the big picture.
“For me, it’s not one game at a time,’’ he said. “It’s one-half inning at a time.’’
Seasonal Favorites
Loading Family Features Content Widget
Loading Family Features Article