RICHIE MANZI enjoyed a successful season for the Saint Anselm College baseball team. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
July 23, 2012MANCHESTER — It was an historic season for the Saint Anselm College baseball team and former Plymouth Bobcat Richie Manzi was right in the middle of it all.
Manzi, a junior on the Hawks squad, earned numerous honors for his play at second base during the season and helped lead the team to only its second NCAA Regional bid in school history and also helped the team secure its first NCAA championship win in program history.
"We had a really successful season," Manzi said in an interview after the season finished up. "We got the program back on the right track."
Manzi, who will be entering his senior year at the Manchester college, played shortstop on the team his freshman year and after having to sit out with an injury during his sophomore season, moved to second base for his junior season.
"We had a senior graduate who played second base and I was able to move over," Manzi said, while admitting that he also has the ability to fill in at shortstop on a regular basis.
The Hawks finished the season at 29-25-2 overall and 18-10-1 in the conference, while Manzi finished with a .299 batting average, knocking out a school record 53 singles. He also made just six errors on the season and finished with a .971 fielding percentage.
The successful season was the second in a row for the Hawks and Manzi noted that this year was a bit more special for him, as he was able to play a part in the season after sitting out the previous season with an injury.
"I got to watch the team have a successful season last year, but it was frustrating to just watch," Manzi said. "I knew we'd have some success this year and I was excited to be a part of it."
The former Bobcat noted that the team had pretty high expectations going into the season, but he noted that the Hawks' success was surely a surprise to some people, given the fact that the team hadn't been at the top of the league in the past.
The team won the regular season Northeast-10 Conference title and finished second in the conference tournament before advancing into the NCAA Regionals.
Manzi noted that the St. Anselm pitching staff was key in the run to the NCAA tournament, as it was led by a number of experienced seniors.
"We had a senior-dominated pitching staff, but we have a lot of talent coming back and expect to get back to the tournament and hopefully keep the program moving in the right direction," Manzi said.
Manzi admitted that growing up in New Hampshire, there's not always tons of chances to get to move on to play college baseball, but he was excited he got the chance to prove himself at the next level.
"It's kind of nice to see what's out there," he said of looking at all the talent he sees on a regular basis. "Playing in New Hampshire (in high school), we can be limited at times, but we get to play with kids from all over the country in this league."
Manzi's teammate with Saint Anselm is former Kingswood and Holderness School star Nate Gonya and he notes that the fact that both of them came up playing (at the time) Class I baseball in New Hampshire and were part of an historic college season, goes to show that the talent exists even in the smallest corner of the world.
"It shows us what we can do," he said. "It's good we can come out and compete like Nate and I did this year.
"And I'd played against Nate pretty much my whole life, so it was nice to play with him," Manzi added. "And we became good friends right from the beginning."
Of course, the college game is certainly a step up from the high school game Manzi saw while at Plymouth, but that was certainly to be expected.
"College baseball is a lot of fun," he said. "It's definitely a big help having your teammate pushing you all the time."
He notes that there are Major League Baseball scouts at many of the team's games, as the talent in the Northeast-10 Conference has been increasing over the years.
"That shows the level of play in this league," Manzi said. "That's pretty exciting playing at such a high level of baseball."
When the season ended, the honors continued to roll in for Manzi. He was named to the N CAA East Regional All-Tournament Team for his play in the tourney in late May. He led the team with a .455 batting average during the tournament, drove in three runs and scored twice. His slugging percentage was .455 and he reached base at a .538 clip to combine for a .993 OPS.
In late June, Manzi was selected to receive the $5,000 Dominic DiMaggio Scholarship from the BoSox Club, the official booster club of the Boston Red Sox. An education studies major, Manzi hopes to teach middle school math after college. DiMaggio, a former Red Sox player and longtime supporter of Saint Anselm College, was one of the founders of the BoSox Club in 1967 and the club has given a scholarship to a Saint Anselm student since 2008. The award is given to a student based on numerous criteria, including financial need, scholastic merit and participation in either baseball or softball.
With the college season over, Manzi was able to secure a spot in the New York Collegiate Baseball League, playing for the Geneva Red Wings, something he noted that his Saint Anselm coaches were instrumental in helping to set up.
"It's exciting," he said. "All the coaches at St. Anselm really helped a lot and we have a lot of kids going to play at higher levels around the country this year."
This marks Manzi's first time in one of the summer collegiate leagues (the Cape Cod League is probably the foremost collegiate summer league in the country), but speaking as he was just making his debut in Geneva, he was excited to be taking his game to the next level.
"I'm excited for t his, it should be a good experience," he said.
However his summer goes, it's a good bet that Manzi will be back in the thick of things when Saint Anselm fires up its baseball team again for a new season.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126