It might not be wise to look at the Northern Essex Community College baseball team’s final record later this spring.
The perennially strong Knights, who own a 168-95 record in Jeff Mejia’s eight years as head coach while advancing to the Div. 3 College World Series six times, may be one of the school’s strongest-ever teams.
But Northern Essex is playing such a tough schedule, full of four-year schools and including two of the top four junior college teams in the country, that a sparkling record will be hard indeed.
“Part of it is that, because of COVID, a lot of teams we usually play aren’t having seasons,” said Mejia, whose team opened at Eastern Nazarene College Saturday.
“The schedule is brutal. It’ll be tough. But we didn’t have a season last year so we’re just glad we’ll be out there playing.”
The 22-man roster has a wealth of talent.
Headlining the 2021 squad will be a strong and deep pitching staff that features Malden’s Ronald Luke, who had the team’s best ERA two years ago, Amesbury’s Levi Burrill, UMass-Amherst transfer Todd Tringale and Haverhill’s Dallas Vaughn, who hasn’t pitched on a full-time basis in two years because of Tommy John surgery.
“Burrell and Tringale are two of the hardest throwers I’ve ever had and I have a whole group who can really throw,” said Mejia. “Usually, I might have one or two guys who can throw it 88 (mph) or better. This year I have seven or eight.”
Among a slew of solid relievers are veteran Hunter Wilichoski from Hamilton, Alex Sweeney, Tom Cattaneo and Georgetown’s Sean Letarte, a former St. John’s Prep standout who transferred from UMass Lowell.
Catching all of these hard throwers will largely be talented Dylan Duval, a Masconomet grad who played superbly in 2019. But he will also play some in the infield with freshman Lucas Berube getting time behind the plate.
Freshman Chris Presinal will likely start at first with hard-hitting Joe Muzio of Rockport at second, Goffstown’s Clay Campbell at short and Lynn’s Jared Coppola at third. All are freshmen.
The outfield looks particularly strong, led by Amesbury’s Logan Burrill, Levi’s younger brother.
Mejia calls Logan one of the best prospects he’s ever had. “He’s fast, he’s strong and he has a cannon for an arm. He can do it all,” said Mejia.
Likely to join Logan Burrill are Methuen’s Owen Foote, who has shown a powerful bat, and Nick White. Lawrence’s Luis Colon will be among others who should also see outfield time.
New path to Series
Overall, the Knights have a talented mixture of players.
Eight players are COVID freshman who return for a second season at NECC and will be playing their first full season and there are 10 transfers on the 22-man roster. Team captains are the Burrills, Campbell, Luke, Wilichoski and Duval.
The Region 21 tournament for this season was cancelled and the Knights path to the World Series will go through the Mid-Atlantic District Tournament scheduled for May 14-16, likely in Maryland.
With strong pitching, after weathering a rugged schedule, Mejia is confident that the Knights will be competing in the district aiming for their eighth World Series appearance.
“Usually, I might have one or two guys who can throw it 88 (mph) or better. This year I have seven or eight.”
NECC coach Jeff Mejia