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 – following a 10-0 loss to Coventry – 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 season’s tournament.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, they will have significant holes to
fill from last year’s team and none greater than that of ace pitcher Jake Marchesseault.
Marchesseault didn’t have the best record on the mound but was the undoubted ace of the staff and pitched in both of Chariho’s upset wins over NK.
“Jake meant a lot to us,” Chariho coach Dave Cunningham says. “He was only 6-5 so it wasn’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.
“I don’t know if we would have done that without him. He gave us a great sense of confidence that we’d be in every game.”
So, how do you replace a pitcher like Marchesseault?
“We replace Jake with a bunch of guys who throw strikes, work quickly and change speeds,” Cunningham says. “Who they are? We don’t know yet.”
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 – who did see a good amount of time on the mound last season – 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, “whoever can consistently throw strikes.”
In the field the Chargers will rely on a core group of six players – 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) – to lead them.
“Those 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,” Cunningham says, “so a lot is expected of those guys.”
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.
“Our depth is pretty good,” Cunnigham says. “I think we have 23, 24 kids that can compete at the varsity level so there are a lot of competitions going on.”
“I’ve seen a lot of talent,” Paquette added. “Coming out from D-I I think we have a great chance to go to states.”
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.
“I don’t think we’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,” Cunnigham says.
“You 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.”
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.