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As far as playoff seeding went in the Division I Tournament, no team pulled off a greater upset than the Chariho baseball team last season except maybe the Chargers themselves.
In the opening round of the D-I tourney the No. 14 Chargers upset No. 3 North Kingstown and â€“ following a 10-0 loss to Coventry â€“ eliminated the Skippers in the consolation final of their regional bracket with a second straight victory over NK.
Chariho went on to fall one game short of the Final Four with a second loss to the Oakers but were undoubtedly one of the better surprises of last seasonâ€™s tournament.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, they will have significant holes to
fill from last yearâ€™s team and none greater than that of ace pitcher Jake Marchesseault.
Marchesseault didnâ€™t have the best record on the mound but was the undoubted ace of the staff and pitched in both of Charihoâ€™s upset wins over NK.
â€śJake meant a lot to us,â€ť Chariho coach Dave Cunningham says. â€śHe was only 6-5 so it wasnâ€™t like we were different team when he was pitching but we were a different team in the fact that we had a different sense when he was on the mound, judging by the results when we beat North Kingstown.
â€śI donâ€™t know if we would have done that without him. He gave us a great sense of confidence that weâ€™d be in every game.â€ť
So, how do you replace a pitcher like Marchesseault?
â€śWe replace Jake with a bunch of guys who throw strikes, work quickly and change speeds,â€ť Cunningham says. â€śWho they are? We donâ€™t know yet.â€ť
Rebuilding the pitching staff goes beyond Marchesseault though, as No. 2 starter Kyle Audette and No. 3 Quinten Scott are also gone.
So far, senior Jimmy Paquette â€“ who did see a good amount of time on the mound last season â€“ has emerged as the No. 1 and senior Keegan Messineo has the inside track for the No. 2 spot.
After that, Cunningham says it will be a collection of Liam Ellison, Joe Edgar, Andy Mongillo and, â€śwhoever can consistently throw strikes.â€ť
In the field the Chargers will rely on a core group of six players â€“ Dave Champlin (first base and left field), Ed Woodruff (shortstop), Mike Pagliarini (center field), Dan Rathbone (catcher), Kyle Kirby (right field) and Paquette (left field) â€“ to lead them.
â€śThose six guys made up a big part of our lineup towards our final stretch to get into the playoffs and then in our playoff run,â€ť Cunningham says, â€śso a lot is expected of those guys.â€ť
After that seniors Mason Thompson, Edgar and Mongillo are also pushing for playing time but Cunnigham also says that he has a number of players that could work their way into the lineup this season.
â€śOur depth is pretty good,â€ť Cunnigham says. â€śI think we have 23, 24 kids that can compete at the varsity level so there are a lot of competitions going on.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve seen a lot of talent,â€ť Paquette added. â€śComing out from D-I I think we have a great chance to go to states.â€ť
The Chargers will also have to adjust to a new slate off opponents this season as Chariho has moved down from Division I to Division II.
â€śI donâ€™t think weâ€™ll be overmatched like sometimes I felt we were, especially in the first year against some of the deeper Division I teams but at the same time there are some quality teams in Division II,â€ť Cunnigham says.
â€śYou just look at our division alone and in the close geographical area you have Exeter West-Greenwich, Westerly, Narragansett and Prout. Those are all good schools and good quality programs and it will be fun playing those guys.â€ť
So far, everything has gone well for the Chargers (3-1, 2-0 D-II South) as they opened with a 7-6 win at Narragansett on April 9 and Tuesday scored a 3-1 victory over Westerly.
Chariho will be back in action today at 4 p.m. when it travels to take on West Warwick.