Jennifer Hoffer – Sports Writer –
After being eliminated from the Northeast-10 Tournament last season, the Owls baseball team looks to go far into the season this year with senior captains Michael Cleary and Ryan Yerina at the helm.
“We had to work through a bunch of injuries last year,” head coach Tim Shea said. “To finish 31 and 17 as the guys battled and hung together the way they did, although we didn’t advance to the regional, I thought it was a successful season in terms of what we had to go through and how well the guys stuck together.”
Cleary, centerfielder for the Owls has built up quite a resume while here at Southern, earning himself Rookie of the Year of the conference his freshman year and becoming an all-region player.
Cleary comes from West Boylston, a town in Worcester County, Mass. Cleary attended West Boylston High School where he played baseball all four years.
During his time at West Boylston, Cleary won a district championship and lead his team to the state finals. For Cleary, playing baseball was something he said he grew up enjoying. Especially seeing his older brother play.
“I always watched him play and admired that,” Cleary said. “I fell in love with the sport.”
Playing under a coach like Shea has been very beneficial to his improvement over the years.
Cleary said playing for a coach like him is exciting because of the success he has had at Southern during his career here. Shea has brought the team to the Division II World Series and regional games. Cleary said it has been a pleasure being a part of that success.
Shea is not the only leader the players on the team look up too. Even captain, Ryan Yerina said Cleary is a force on the field and a very hard worker.
“He gives us everything we need as a teammate,” Yerina said. “The guys really respect him a lot.”
Cleary and the Owls await the start of the 2013 season with high hopes ahead.
“A. J. Rouleau, Ryan Yerina, and our catcher T.J. Shea are all back and healthy again,” Shea said. “We just need to do the same things we’ve done in the past which is pitch the ball well and make plays defensively and offensively.”
Yerina said that they let a few close games slip away from them last season because they took teams too lightly.
“This league’s very good now,” Yerina said. “We took teams for granted last year, they came out and beat us and that ended up hurting us in the long run to get into regional.”
Cleary said he is confident in this team that they will reach their goals; they just have to work hard and work together as a team, he said.
“I’m ready,” Cleary said. “I’m ready to head down south and get the season started.”
First stop during spring training is a two-game series against Molloy College in Morehead City, N.C. in the middle of February.
The Owls will wrap up their spring ball in Worcester Mass. where they will play a four game series against Assumption College before heading back home for the home opener against the University of Bridgeport.