GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 29, 2013

Spring sports look to bring competitive edge back to Cape Ann

By Conor Walsh
Correspondent

---- — You remember that green stuff, right?

That stuff that used to be in your backyards, in local parks.

Most importantly, on the fields. Oh, right. It’s grass. And, wouldn’t you know, it looks like the snow is finally all gone (knock on wood), and all that green is soon going to be utilized again as, after a long hiatus on Cape Ann, high school sports resume with the start of spring sports next week (The Gloucester Times will be running spring sports previews next week).

The best news for local fans? It looks like this spring might sport the best collective unit of teams, and after a long fall and winter for many Cape Ann programs, that will be a welcome relief.

Let’s start with baseball. Now, it’s hard to argue that the return to the diamond is the ultimate sign of spring. Thank goodness for that.

Further, though, it looks like we’ve got a solid trio of squads on our hands across Cape Ann, and as is nearly always the case in high school baseball, it all starts with the pitching.

Thankfully for local baseball fans, each local team’s got a certified ace on the staff. Between Gloucester’s Jason Vizena, Rockport’s Tucker Meredith and Manchester Essex’s Max Nesbit, all three teams will likely be in a spot to win plenty of games.

Couple that with veteran-laden lineups, and it’d be a surprise if all three teams don’t make a return to the state tournament.

To take it one step further the Fishermen will be returning their entire pitching staff as Lenny Taormina and Sean Gillon also return to the fold. Joe Orlando’s squad also has a wealth of senior leadership with captains Vizena and Mike Muniz along with four other players with experience as a captain from the fall or winter seasons.

It doesn’t stop on the baseball diamond. Rockport softball is fresh off a trip to the Division 3 North semifinals, its longest tournament run in program history, and with many key contributors returning, including multiple Cape Ann League All Stars in 2012, the Vikings again look to be a force in Division 3 North.

The same can be said for local tennis. With New Mexico State-bound Brittany Collens, one of the state’s top high-school-aged players, rejoining the Manchester Essex girls squad for her senior season, the Hornets look poised for a serious run for the Division 3 state title. The Hornets won the Division 3 State title in 2011 and with a bevy of key contributors and Collens in the fold this spring they could be poised for another run at the state crown.

Add experienced boys lacrosse squads looking for a bounce-back season from Gloucester and Manchester Essex to the mix, as well as ample potential in many unmentioned teams to make a jump to the tournament, and we may finally have a season of success on our hands.

It’s not to say that there hasn’t been entertainment in the fall and the spring. Stories like Rockport boys soccer’s run to the Division 3 North semifinals and the Gloucester girls basketball team’s late-season winning streak to qualify for the tournament were captivating.

But it looks like the spring will bring situations like that in more volume. And after only a handful of combined tournament wins over the fall and the winter, that comes as a welcome relief.

Way beyond what happens on the field though, the real importance is already starting to show itself in the weather.

The snow is gone. The green’s coming back. Soon enough, it’ll be time to trade in jackets and gloves for shorts and sunglasses.

After that, some old-fashioned high school sports entertainment is just gravy.