Millbury baseball captains look to pass on their knowledge
Millbury High baseball captains Nick Kolifrath and (below) Matt Kelly.
By CHRISTOPHER TREMBLAY, Staff Sports Writer
As the 2023 Millbury baseball campaign began coach Ron Silvestri found that he had only two seniors who would be taking to the diamond this spring. Having only two upperclassmen to grace the roster the Woolies coach knew that next season would be one made up with a majority of younger athletes. With that said, he knew that in order to be successful his senior captains Matt Kelly and Nick Kolifrath would have to pass along what they knew to the younger players.
“They both not only excel on the field, but in the classroom as well,” Silvestri said. “They’ll be leading a very young team this year and will need to get them prepared in terms of knowledge of the game.”
Both athletes have been playing baseball their entire life. Kolifrath originally wanted to play the sport in college, because it was a game that he enjoyed, and he wanted to follow in the footsteps of an older brother who plays for St Michaels College in Colchester, Vermont. While Kolifrath will be attending Western New England College in Springfield it will be football and not baseball.
Kelly, who is also a two-sport athlete (he also plays basketball), will be attending the University of Connecticut in Storrs where he too is not scheduled to play baseball for the Huskies. While the duo has not been given scholarships to play baseball they both are thinking about trying out for their respective colleges when the seasons get underway next spring.
Kolifrath can play third, first or catcher, but this season with the Woolies in need of a first baseman he will spend the majority of his time on the field on the right side of the field, but he would much rather be playing the hot corner.
“With the need, I’m transitioning back to play first base, but I’d much rather be playing third. I like making diving plays and show off my arm across the diamond,” he said. “In regard to playing first, it is something the team needs and I’m up for the challenge to be ready and help out the team.”
As for Kelly, he is a centerfielder by trade, but being a lefty, he is somewhat of a valuable commodity on the mound. Thus far the senior is hitting around .380 at the plate but is also 2-0 on the hill with an .90 ERA.
The duo captain tandem is hoping to get the squad ready to not only learn this year but take the Millbury baseball program to the next level once they have vacated the school.
“As a captain I want to have them focus during practice and pay full attention to what they are being taught so that come game time they are ready to go,” Kelly said. “Things are working out good so far, but they still need to keep up with it. Hard work pays off and elevate your game top the next level.”
Kolifrath also believes that working hard will eventually get the younger kids to that next plateau, but he wants them to pay attention while being humble.
“Baseball is a failure sport; the good players will only hit the ball three or four times out of ten at bats. You’ve got to learn from the ups and downs and stay positive,” he said. “One mistake doesn’t determine the whole game. You need to focus, fight through it, and move on while staying upbeat.”
According to the two captains the younger players are definitely improving as the year goes along and are learning from their mistakes. With so many talented freshman and sophomores Kolifrath believes that if they continue to improve this group of athletes should be able to make a run in the State Tournament in two years.
On the diamond both athletes are hoping that the team can go at least .500, make the playoffs, the Central Mass Tournament, and the State Tournament. Over the past two seasons the Woolies have made the post-season but unfortunately have not been able to get out of the first round. In 2021, playing in the Central Mass Division 3 Tournament, Millbury was knocked out by Uxbridge in the opening round and last year the same thing happened in the Division 4 State Tournament as BVT sent the Woolies packing.
While those goals are fine and dandy, the captain’s top goal is to get Coach Silvestri his 600th win. In order to reach that milestone, the Woolies will need to secure fourteen wins. At the time of this writing Millbury was 7-3 and halfway to getting their coach’s next milestone. The Woolies’ three losses have all come by one run and were all winnable, so the duo is quite confident that they will eclipse the 14 wins.
“The coach has put a lot of time into this program and is probably the best coach Millbury has ever had,” Kelly said. “To get him those 14 wins would be really cool and mean even more to us if we were the team that helped him do it.”
Kelly’s counterpart echoed his sentiments.
“I really hope that we can help the coach get his 600th win,” Kolifrath said. “He has put so much into this program and helping him get to that milestone would really mean a lot to us.”
Being only seven wins away from topping the 600-win mark, it looks very positive that the Woolies can get Silvestri that milestone this year, especially the way the team has been playing in the first half of the season. If for some reason they are unable to secure that magical win this year, Kelly and Kolifrath can take solace in the fact that they help build the team along with mentoring the younger players who will take the coach to the top of the mountain.