MIBL notebook: Ashland off to hot start

After falling in last year’s legion state final, Ashland Post 77 wanted nothing more than to finally capture a title this summer.

Ashland won’t get that opportunity due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the legion baseball season, but now, Ashland has set its sights on obtaining different hardware in the Massachusetts Independent Baseball League.

Bolstered by the play of Jackson Hornung and Dom Cavanagh, Ashland in the first two weeks of the season has the only undefeated mark in the 16-team league.

“When the season got put back on, they were excited, but then it was right to business for them,” said Ashland manager Jake Obid. “They’ve been looking for another crack at it and I know it’s not states and it’s a whole different format, but this is a really competitive league with a lot of good teams and coaches.

“We think we have a good shot at winning it. We want to do that. Everyone’s buying into their role. There is something special with this group.”

Leading Ashland to its 6-0 start is the lethal combination of Hornung and Cavanagh in the middle of the batting order. Hornung, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound slugger who plays at Skidmore College, paced Ashland’s offense by batting .444 with a homer and four RBI in the first week to earn MIBL Player of the Week honors. In a 14-7 win over Canton on Thursday, Hornung went 3-for-4 with six RBI.

Cavanagh, who bats behind Hornung in the cleanup spot and is a University of New Hampshire football recruit, not only collected 10 RBI through the first four games, but also hurled a 12-strikeout gem in a season-opening win against Needham.

“They make my job a lot easier,” Obid said. “This is their third straight year being our three and four hitters. They haven’t moved once from those spots. Their value is unbelievable.”

Hornung and Cavanagh are flanked by a plethora of talent. Owen Radcliffe, Tyler Dossas and Dylan Fonseca have turned in strong pitching, while Louie Denison has been effective out of the bullpen, especially in a 7-5 win against Braintree Monday where his 2 2/3 innings of relief helped Ashland offset four errors.

Ashland also showcases a stellar outfield of Sam Farrell, Nick Calabrese and Kevin Balewicz, who can all flash the leather and provide offense as well. Calabrese sparked the lineup Wednesday in an 11-1 thumping of Natick by going 3-for-3 as eight different players recorded at least one RBI.

“They are just a ton of gamers, a ton of good athletes,” Obid said.

Bounce-back Medfield

The week got off to a rough start for Medfield when Braintree ran away with an 11-1 win to hand Medfield its first loss.

The stinging defeat prompted Medfield manager Rob Mintz to demand more from his team.

“After being complacent and falling flat against Braintree, basically offered them a challenge of ‘how do you want this summer to go? Do you want to just saunter through it or do you want to step up?’” Mintz said. “And they came back, but not with a lot of style points.”

Medfield kick-started a three-game winning streak following the Braintree loss in an unconventional way. Medfield erased a 6-3 deficit to Westwood and went ahead in the top of the seventh when two runs scored on a dropped third strike as the catcher’s throw to first went awry. Max Goodman closed the door in the bottom half of the inning to preserve a 7-6 win.

Medfield strung together two more wins as a five-run, fourth inning sparked an 8-2 road win over Walpole and the bats stayed hot with an 11-9 win over Weymouth to improve to 5-1.

“The guys are really pumped,” Mintz said. “They (are) realizing some of their potential. They really see what it means to get back into playing shape and start functioning as a team.”

Goodman, Ben Leonard, Nick Sheehan, Sam Kornet and Drew Cookson have all contributed to have Medfield tied for second place in the MIBL.

Sight to see

The enthusiasm for the return to baseball has been shared by players in the MIBL and their spectators.

Braintree manager and MIBL co-founder Cam Fox said games have been well-attended, which provides an atmosphere that even the professionals won’t get when their seasons resume.

“The crowds have been great, but they’ve also respected the social-distance factor, which is the big part,” Fox said. “Just seeing people there watching a good, competitive baseball game has been fun. … We’re basically the only show in town in Norfolk County when it comes to high school and some college kids playing baseball.”

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