Text and photos by Steev Riccardo
OXFORD – The Oxford Pirates and head coach Justin Richards had quite a run a year ago before losing 3-0 to Mt. Everett in the state semi-finals held in Western Mass.
Despite losing several key players, the Pirates should be in the mix again this year.
No matter who you talk to, everyone seems to agree that the town of Oxford knows baseball and year after year at every level they are competing for some sort of a title, and this year will be no different.
There is no question that the Pirates lost some great baseball players, led by one of the best pitchers in Central Mass in lefty Nick Lemay, who is now playing for Becker College.
Lemay finished with a 10-0 record and an incredible 0.23 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 60 innings. He also batted .444 with three homeruns and 22 runs batted in. Those are numbers that will be hard to replace.
The team also lost shortstop Nick Bruzios, third baseman Cody Stone, and first baseman Tyler Bostek, all exceptional players, and above all, great leaders and winners. Yet despite the players who left, they have some real talent returning.
Richards named Nick Cardoni and Tyler Barrie his co-captains for this year’s team and it’s hard not to like this pair of excellent, highly competitive baseball players.
Cardoni had a great year as the team’s number two starter behind Lemay last year, compiling a 2-2 record with a 2.33 ERA and also delivering at the plate with a superb .393 batting average.
“Both Nick (Cardoni) and Tyler (Barrie) played major roles for us last year and we'll be looking for them to lead by example in showing the newer guys what it takes to be successful both on and off the field,” said Richards. “Having a team that isn’t returning tons of experience, their leadership will be critical.”
Former teammate Bruzios had a lot of good things to say about the pair and thinks they will step in their new roles nicely.
“These two were huge contributors to our district championship team last season and will play even bigger roles this season.”
“Nick Cardoni is a kid that I've been playing alongside in the middle infield since I was 11 years old and he was 10,” said Bruzios. “The one thing that sticks out in mind about him is how competitive he is and his ability to come through in big games and big situations. The kid is always calm, never nervous, and will never back down from anything.”
“He's as smooth as they come defensively and on offense he hits the ball very hard for a kid his size. When he is on the mound, he puts so much art and form behind every pitch and is one of the best at locating his pitches out of anyone that I have ever played with, and that is huge at the varsity level.”
Bruzios also played three sports with Barrie for three years and has a tremendous amount of respect for his former teammate.
“Tyler isn't afraid of the spotlight or the big moment,” said Bruzios. “I feel as though he actually lives for those moments and thrives during them. He is always very loose on and off the field, which keeps everyone else on the team loose as well. He has cannon for an arm, a good bat, and is a very good outfielder, as far as reading balls off the bat, tracking balls, and cutting off balls in the gap. On the mound, he has the ability to overpower hitters and is very effective as long as he throws strikes.”
Oxford Pirates varsity baseball schedule
03/29/13 at Southbridge
04/03/13 at David Prouty
04/08/13 at Bartlett
04/10/13 at Auburn
04/19/13 at Hopedale
04/24/13 at Tantasqua
04/25/13 at Uxbridge
04/29/13 at Quaboag
05/03/13 Shepherd Hill
05/09/13 at Millbury