Uxbridge Baseball Exceeds Coach Rice’s Expectations
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Uxbridge Coach Peter Rice was entering his 13th season at the helm of the Spartans baseball team and outside of the Covid season, which was cancelled, the squad had managed to qualify for the tournament in all but one of his seasons. However, after the first five games of the season Uxbridge found themselves in a different scenario with a 2-3 record, but the Spartan skipper was not all that worried. And before too long his squad had rallied to win 11 straight victories and was back in familiar territory.
“During those first five games we played ok, it was just a matter of playing our game. In our loses we had been in some really close games, including an extra inning affair,” Rice said. “We didn’t take anyone out, but we shuffled the lineup around and in the sixth game our bats finally got going against Blackstone Valley and we had 18 runs on 14 hits. We felt the momentum switching our way.”
When the Spartans finally got things going their way on the diamond, all 11 wins were not all one-sided as Uxbridge scrapped together a 2-0 and 2-1 win while also securing a walk-off win during the streak allowing them to finish 14-4 on the regular season. With their 14 wins Uxbridge was awarded the number two seed in the Central Mass Tournament and after picking up two wins they unfortunately fell 2-1 to #15 Tyngsboro.
Next, it’s onto the Division 4 State Tournament where Uxbridge will be the number two seed and will open up on June 6th against the winner of Wahconah (#31) and Assabet (#34).
“I’m hoping that we can continue to play good baseball and make a run through the State Tournament. Once you get here anything can happen; we just got to keep working hard in practice and be ready when we begin,” the Uxbridge Coach said. “I knew that this was a talented team, but we have certainly past my expectations having won 16 games so far.”
As the Spartans get ready to battle it out in the State Tournament the team has done been able to do so with a majority of underclassmen. Rice has three freshman and four sophomores on his roster this season with the addition of three juniors and three seniors.
“I typically don’t have more than one freshman starting on the team, but I knew that these kids had the talent to play,” he said. “I had high expectations but with freshman you never know as it can go either way.”
The reason Rice went with the abundance of underclassmen was that he only had four returning varsity players coming back and only two of them were starters. Being on the younger side things could go either way once they took to the field.
With only three seniors gracing the roster Rice was looking for leadership from his three-character guys. Two of the three seniors also took to the mound for the Spartans. Seniors Zach Feeney and Sam Walton accounted for 9 wins and 2 loses throughout the season. Feeney, the team’s starting third baseman when he’s not on the hill, was the team’s workhorse while Walton, who saw the occasional stint in the outfield, pounded the strike zone. Walton threw a three-hit win against Advanced math and Science when they were undefeated at the time.
The team’s third starter and the team’s starting shortstop was freshman Charlie Criscola, who managed to go 4-1 for the Spartans. During in early scrimmage Rice noticed that the freshman had what it took to pitch on the varsity level.
Jack Sander was the team’s third and final senior. Originally a left fielder he was moved to centerfield last season due to his ability to get a good read on the ball. Rice also noted that the now centerfielder also has a cannon for an arm.
Offensively Uxbridge was led by Criscola who has batted .429 with 14 RBI and 19 runs scored as the team’s leadoff hitter, through the regular season and into the first three tournament games. Behind Criscola, sophomore Aidan Blood, who batted third for the team, has hit .371 with 17 RBI and 24 runs scored. Freshman catcher Talen Rosborough batted second in the Uxbridge lineup this year.
While Rice and the Spartans still have the Division 4 State Tournament to partake in at the time of this writing the Uxbridge skipper is excited about what next year brings.
“I don’t want to push the seniors out just yet, but we’ve got the majority of the team coming back next year so it’s going to be fun to watch and see what they can do this year in the tournament,” said the Coach. “Getting there at bats this year at such a young age will only be valuable in the future.”
Despite beginning the season on a down note Uxbridge is clicking on all cylinders as they prepare for the State Tournament. As Rice tells his team “It’s not how you start but how you finish” and the Spartans are playing some of their best baseball as of late.