The Division 1 baseball season opens this weekend, and the Merrimack Valley is well-represented.
Two elite pitchers, both from North Andover, Sebastian Keane (Northeastern University) and Steven Hajjar (Michigan), will be starting in huge matchups.
On Saturday, Hajjar, who is entering 2020 as a red-shirt freshman after tearing his ACL 14 months ago, will get the ball for Michigan against No. 9 Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona.
On Sunday, Keane, who turned down an offer from the Red Sox last August, will get the ball against Alabama.
Both are MLB prospects, and it will be exciting to follow their careers at the big-time collegiate level.
Hajjar’s former teammate at Central Catholic, Dominic Keegan, of Methuen, is being hailed as a possible sophomore breakout candidate as catcher/first baseman for powerhouse Vanderbilt. The 6-foot, 210-pounder showed off his raw power with a monstrous three-run homer in a fall game.
Merrimack College, which is new to Div. 1 this spring, not only has a big Merrimack Valley influence, with seven local players expected to see playing time beginning today at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., but three Andover High alums. Timmy Kalanzakos and Daniel Amidon are in the starting weekend rotation, and sophomore Cedric Gillette will be an early pitcher out of the bullpen.
Other Warriors with local ties are pitcher Jake Thibault of Methuen, shortstop Nick Shumski of Salem, N.H., and Central Catholic alums pitcher Sean Thompson of Georgetown and catcher Connor Suech of Atkinson, N.H.
Phillips Andover has four alums playing Div. 1 baseball, including Boston College sophomore pitcher Travis Lane of Georgetown, Navy sophomore Joe Simourian of Andover and a pair of Andoverites at Georgetown University in sophomore Anthony Redfern and senior John Simourian.
Ex-Windham High star Brandon Dufault, a junior at Northeastern, is among the top 100 pitchers to watch in the country in preparation of the 2020 MLB Draft. Dufault, whose fastball has touched 97 miles per hour, will be a closer for the highly-touted Huskies.
Holy Cross baseball, which opens with the University of South Carolina, has two locals, including junior first baseman Andrew Selima of Andover, via St. John’s Prep, and North Andover’s Chris Rassias, a freshman pitcher also from St. John’s Prep.
Bryant University freshman Alex Lane of Andover, a 6-foot-5 catcher out of St. John’s Prep, is expected to get a lot of playing time this year. Bryant opens with Dayton University.
UMass Lowell, which opens with Canisius University in North Carolina, has two with local ties, including red-shirt junior pitcher John Polichetti of Atkinson, N.H., and graduate student Jeffrey Peterson of Windham.