NORTH ATTLEBORO — If there is one team in the MIAA Baseball State Tournament that has an ace pitcher on its staff, it is the Rocketeers of North Attleboro High, who boast senior righthander Dennis Colleran.
During the 2018 MIAA Division 2 state tournament, the Rocketeers rode the right arm of NCAA All-America Nick Sinacola, currently at the University of Maine. all the way to the state title. North Attleboro is again hoping to ride the performance of a potential future All-America at Northeastern University in Colleran.
With a sparkling 6-0 record and an ERA of 0.34 this season, Colleran and the Rocketeers head into the Division 2 South Sectional as the No. 8 seed, with a 9-5 record and will host Hockomock League brethren Oliver Ames Monday afternoon at Community Field.
It will mark sort of a winner-take-all Davenport Division title game as both the Rocketeers and Tigers finished 8-2 in Hockomock League competition, tied for first place.
“You need that guy,’ North Attleboro coach Mike Hart said of Colleran's ability to dominate opponents, pitch well into the seven-inning games and provide a launchpad for postseason success.
“We relied on Dennis to do his job on the mound and he got us some wins,” Hart added. “And he’s won some close ones too, he’s been able to pitch through those games against good teams.”
Colleran has pitched four complete games for the Big Red and there is no concern about his arm strength or durability. “He’s been very efficient with his pitching,” Hart added of his low pitch counts. “He has not gotten into high pitch counts.
“He attacks the strike zone, he trusts his ability.”
The Rocketeers are in the Division 2 South field with No. 4 seed Dighton-Rehoboth (9-2) and No. 7 seed Bishop Feehan (11-5).
Two other area Hockomock League member schools will take to the Division 1 South Sectional diamond Friday with No. 12 seed Mansfield (7-7) hosting No. 21 seed Weymouth (5-12). and No. 22 seed Attleboro (4-10) traveling to No. 11 seed Hingham (9-6). No. 14 seed King Philip (7-7) hosts No. 19 seed Quincy (5-10) Saturday.
In Division 3 South Sectional openers Friday, No. 18 seed Foxboro (5-9) visits No. 15 seed Sandwich (5-7) and No. 11 seed Norton (9-7) hosts No. 22 seed Cardinal Spellman (2-11). Seekonk (4-5) is the No. 12 seed in the Division 4 South field and will host No. 21 seed Norfolk Aggie (2-5) Friday.
The Rocketeers are on a bit of a roll too, having swept two-game series with Foxboro and Sharon to end the season. “OA is a very good team, they’re similar to us right now – playing well right now, similar to us,” Hart said.
North has depth in its pitching staff in senior Joe Hartnett along with juniors Danny Curran and Anthony Westcott, “all of those guys have thrown important innings for us,” Hart emphasized.
Hart is very confident too in the Roketeers’ infield defense behind Colleran with Aidan Weir at third base, Gavin Wells at first base, Justin Vecchiarelli at second base and junior Tyler Bannon emerging in his first varsity season as the everyday shortstop.
“When guys have been asked to make plays defensively behind Dennis, they’ve been able to make them,” Hart said. “We’re a much improved team, defensively and hitting since the beginning of the year.”
And Hart is confident that the Rocketeers are finding good pitches to hit and swinging their bats successfully down the stretch with sophomore Derek Maceda (.447) and senior Jared Penta (.400) among the top 10 hitters in the Hocckomock League.
“It’s been difficult without live pitching,” Hart said of the 10-day gap between North Attleboro’s last season and meeting Oliver Ames on Monday.
North is on the same side of the bracket in Division 2 South as No. 1 seeded Nauset (12-0), which could become a potential quarterfinal round foe.
“Every team (18, 13 with records above .500) in the tournament is a very good team, so you have to have good pitching and be able to get the outs.,” Hart added.
“Having a pitcher like Colleran definitely helps. To build a little run you have to have good pitching.”