Cote, Winnisquam eyeing baseball repeat



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Senior Kyle Pratt, shown here during basketball season, is headed behind the plate to handle the catching duties for standout pitcher Jordan Cote. File Photo. (click for larger version)
April 11, 2011
TILTON – If you're planning on checking out a Winnisquam Regional baseball game this spring, make sure you arrive early.

After committing to play his collegiate baseball at Division I power Coastal Carolina last year, Winnisquam senior pitcher Jordan Cote will be a hot commodity this spring, and Major League scouts will likely be on hand every time he toes the rubber in Tilton.

"He's getting a lot of looks," said Winnisquam coach Fred Caruso. "We had our first and only preseason scrimmage the other day against Sanborn and there were seven scouts there so he's definitely on the radar."

Cote, who has an excellent chance to be selected in the 2011 MLB Draft in June, capped off a storybook season last year in Tilton when he tossed a no-hitter in the Bears 2-0 Class M State Championship win over Somersworth. The title was the first in Winnisquam history.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Cote has three plus pitches, and his dominant fastball was clocked at 93 miles per hour last summer at the 2010 Area Code Games.

"You don't get too many high school kids in our area that are throwing the ball like that," said Caruso. "A lot of hard work has gone into him getting to where he's at but above all else, he's just a really great kid. You can't say enough about his dedication to the team, and he's a captain for us this year."

The likely attention and presence of the scouts is nothing new to Cote, as he played for the New England Ruffnecks travel team, a squad that produced seven Division I signees.

And while Cote will likely receive top-billing all season long, Caruso knows it takes a host of players to be successful. Despite the fact that Winnisquam graduated six players off that title team, including five starters, there is still a talented core back for more this spring.

"One person can't win a championship," Caruso explained. "One person can help you go a long way, but it takes everyone to get it done. It takes great defense and more than one pitcher to win this thing and we were fortunate that everything fell into place last year from Day 1."

In addition to the return of Cote, the Class M Player of the Year, Winnisquam has key players back in seniors Matt Roy and Kyle Pratt. Roy played third base last year but is likely to shift across the diamond to first base. Pratt, a two-time all-state selection in center field, is poised to make the move behind home plate as the Bears catcher, especially when Cote pitches.

"It's a tough task to ask a younger guy to come in and catch 90-91 miles per hour right off the JV team," Caruso admitted. "Kyle is probably one of the better athletes on our team and he has the experience to play multiple positions. I hate to take him out of center field but he's team first and he was more than willing to do whatever we needed him to do."

All told, Winnisquam has seven players back, five of whom saw significant playing time last year. With that in mind, Caruso revealed that none of those players are likely to be in the same spots they were a year ago. Senior Matt Descoteaux started in left field last year but will take the vacated center field spot created by Pratt's move. Classmate Jordan Riberdy started in the outfield as well last year but will be moved to the infield and play either second or third. Trevor Chapin, who was injured for a good portion of last year, will likely be the team's shortstop, with Cote also playing there when he's not on the mound.

Third base presents several different options for Winnisquam, as Andrew Cullen, Rob Goodell and Chris Van Buskirk are all in the mix. Goodell, Curtis Archibald and senior transfer Jordan Paul will all be in the catching mix behind Pratt if he is needed elsewhere.

"We averaged just over one error per game last year which at the high school level is unbelievable," said Caruso of his defense. "If you make the routine plays, you're going to win a lot of games and we were able to do that last year."

In addition to Descoteaux in center, sophomore Parker Normand and senior Bryan Wadleigh will be mainstays in the outfield.

With Cote the clear cut number one pitcher, Winnisquam will turn to Chapin as the likely second starter. Pratt will also see time on the hill, as will Wadleigh, Cullen and Normand.

"This is the first time the baseball team at Winnisquam has started the season as defending champions so we aren't going to sneak up on anybody, that's for sure," said Caruso.

The offensive side of things should also be strong for Winnisquam, as Cote, Pratt and Roy comprised the heart of last year's lineup. Descoteaux looks like he could be the team's leadoff hitter, and if he can get on he has the speed to score a lot of runs. Chapin is another expected middle of the order hitter for the Bears.

"I think our offense is going to be solid with the kids we have back," Caruso said. "Last year, our top six hitters in the lineup made all-state so that speaks pretty well for what we put out on the field every day."

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