EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 13, 2010

Windham's Wood sets sights on the majors

Our College Stars
Michael Muldoon

If you think Jim Wood of Windham is going to be intimidated by his more highly touted teammates with the Pulaski (Va.) Mariners of the Class A Appalachian League, then you don't know Jim Wood.

The former Trinity College and Bishop Guertin great, who was chosen in the 47th round (1,422nd pick overall) by the Seattle Mariners in last week's draft, has already proven he can excel against the big boys.

The New England Collegiate Baseball League is quickly gaining respect. Its alums include Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, Twins closer Joe Nathan, Giants All-Star Brian Wilson of Londonderry, Silver Slugger winner Andre Ethier of the Dodgers and 22 other current major leaguers.

Last year's MVP?

Jim Wood, that's who.

"I can't go in thinking I don't belong,'' said Wood, who was expecting to sign his contract today. "You just have to have faith in yourself. ... I have the confidence.''

The NECBL experience bolstered that confidence.

"I'm a Division 3 guy and that doesn't mean I can't play,'' said Wood, one of four draftees from Trinity's 2008 national championship team. "It's the same exact game. It's a huge confidence builder playing vs. the UCLA and Cal State-Fullerton guys. It's fun to play the underdog. People don't expect it (from you).''

His college career was about as good as it gets. This year he was named second-team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association. He batted .441 with 42 runs, 42 RBI and 13 homers in 30 games and was sixth nationally in homers per game and 10th in slugging percentage (.881).

A lefty with a sweet stroke and big-time power, Wood was always a big fan of the greatest Mariner of them all.

"I always thought Ken Griffey Jr. was awesome,'' said the 6-2, 200-pound right fielder, a former three-sport whiz who also had numerous college opportunities in football (receiver) and hockey (forward). "As a lefthanded hitter, I emulated his stance.''

When the word spread that he was drafted, he was bombarded with text messages.

"There were people from my kindergarten class!'' he said with a laugh. "They came out of the woodwork. There were numbers, I had no idea who they were. It makes you feel good that so many people support you.''

Three who've been there from the beginning are his parents, Gary and Lynn, and his brother, Taylor, who was third in innings pitched this spring as a junior at Cornell.

"It's been pretty crazy,'' said Gary Wood. "It will be an uphill battle but it's a great opportunity. ... He doesn't go in thinking he can't do it. I think he can. He'll work his butt off.''

Behind the Vail

Worcester State senior defender Kim Vail of West Newbury was chosen All-NEWMAC in women's lacrosse. ... A couple of North Andoverites at Pingree School have made college decisions. Erin Coughlan will play lacrosse at Harvey Mudd and Jenn Newman will play soccer at the University of Rochester. ... BU freshman Lauren Berg of Derry placed fourth in the javelin at New Englands with a 129-9 throw. ... Middlebury sophomore two-sport star Matt Rayner of Andover made the All-NESCAC lacrosse team. He led the Panthers with five TD catches in the fall. ... Trinity senior outfielder Matthew Sullivan of North Reading (.396, 28 runs, 22 RBIs) was named third-team All-New England.

Hitting the books

Just to clarify something written previously here, ex-Central Catholic star Tim Wheeler left the URI baseball program voluntarily in the fall. He transferred to UMass Amherst, where he redshirted this spring. Wheeler did himself proud in the classroom with a 3.325 GPA.

Emerson update

Emerson junior midfielder Katie Dodge of West Newbury repeated on the All-GNAC lacrosse team. She scored 23 goals and 12 assists in 14 games.

The 15-20 Emerson baseball team included co-captain Ben McNamara (4-5, team-high 59 innings, 36 Ks), a senior pitcher from Londonderry, junior first baseman Brian Kitson of Londonderry (.259, 22 runs, 16 RBIs), sophomore outfielder Austin Fontanella of Pelham (12 runs, 6 RBIs) and freshman pitcher Brandon Topp of Andover (11 appearances).

Junior midfielder Cameron Trahan of Chester had a goal and an assist in six games for the Lions' lacrosse team.

Sweeney finishes strong

The Arizona State women's golf team placed fourth at the NCAA championship. After early struggles, Andover native Jaclyn Sweeney finished tied for 39th at 7-over 295 (75-74-77-69). Sweeney, a junior, was named a third-team All-American by Golfweek, which has 10 players on each team.

Merrick leads the way

Right fielder Rachel Merrick (.277, 13 runs), a junior co-captain from Methuen, and speedy sophomore center fielder Amanda Poplaski of North Reading (.333, 18-19 steals, team-high 34 runs) starred for Wheaton's 20-18 softball team.

In women's lacrosse, senior defender Brittany King of Georgetown started 15 games, notching 26 ground balls (second most on the Lyons) and one assist.

Indestructible Gillespie

Christine Gillespie started in every game but one at shortstop in her four years at Colby. She batted .242 with 13 runs and 7 RBIs this spring. Combining toughness with durability and good fortune, the tri-captain never incurred a major injury as a four-year, three-sport athlete at North Andover High or in her four years playing softball for the Mules.

Already a world traveler, the former Moynihan Merrimack Valley Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year spent the summer teaching English in Hanoi, attended the University of County Cork, Ireland, and took a German language immersion course at the Goethe Institute in Germany.

Gillespie, a sociology major, graduated cum laude with a 3.73 GPA and made the NESCAC All-Academic team.

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To contribute information on a local athlete, e-mail mmuldoon@eagletribune.com.