Chotkowski, Tewksbury Off To A Fast Start
Tewksbury's Northeast League baseball team is 2-1 thanks to two stellar starts from John Chotkowski
With all three pitchers in the Tewksbury High baseball team's starting rotation having graduated earlier this month, incoming senior John Chotkowski is well aware that the door is wide open for anyone with a live arm next spring.
Chotkowski, the 6-0, 165-pound lefthander who made three relief appearances for the TMHS varsity this spring, has already established himself as the front runner to replace the likes of Matt Luppi, Sean McCarthy and Ryan White when the 2012 Merrimack Valley Conference seasons rolls around next April.
Just three games into the Northeast Baseball League's summer season, Chotkowski has led Tewksbury's summer league team to a 2-1 record by hurling a pair of gems, shutting out Tyngsboro, 7-0 in the team's season opener a week ago, and coming within an out of blanking Pelham, 3-1 Monday night.
In 14 innings of work so far this summer, Chotkowski is 2-0 with a perfect, 0.00 earned run average. He has allowed only four hits in his first two outings, and has flirted with a no-hitter through five innings both times out. He struck out 12 Tyngsboro batters in his first game and fanned nine in Pelham Monday night.
"Johnny's off to a great start," said Tewksbury coach Doug Hood. "He's a solid kid, he's tough and he's very focused. He's got a good fastball and he mixes it up well, and even when he finds himself in some trouble out there, he finds his way out of it."
Just two starts into the summer season, Chotkowski is already looking forward to next spring
"I'm feeling a lot more confident already," he said. "My velocity on my fastball is getting better and that's helping me rely on my curveball and my change-up more. I feel really good right now."
Solid run support from his teammates has helped, too. Tewksbury scored seven runs on opening night, and scored nine more in an 11-9 loss to Greater Lowell last Thursday. Some base-running mistakes kept Tewksbury's run production down against Pelham, but the Redmen collected nine hits in the game and hit a handful of hard shots right at the Pelham fielders, as well.
Lead-off man Frank McLaughlin started most of the season in right field for the TMHS varsity this spring, McLaughlin had two hits against Pelham. Senior-to-be Allyn Hood, who is the Northeast League team's other starter, bats second and plays in the outfield. Derek Sabbag is the team's starting catcher and the heir apparent to graduating-senior Rob Wallace's stranglehold on that position at TMHS.
Chotkowski bats fourth, and helped his own cause on Monday with two hits, a run batted in and a run scored. Thirds baseman Brad Gahagan worked his way into the TMHS starting line-up at the tail end of the spring season, and had a strong night at third base on Monday.
"Our top four or five hitters all have some varsity experience," Hood said. "They're all good athletes and they're producing runs. The good thing is that they're all willing to play anywhere so I can move them around wherever we need them.
Incoming sophomores John Cave (shortstop), John Saunders (right field) and Nick Bain (catcher) round out Tewksbury's line-up along with incoming junior Zak DiRocco (first base) and Mark Daley (second base). DiRocco and Daley both contributed run-scoring singles against Pelham
Tewksbury has entered a team in the Northeast League for most of the past four decades. The league was formed in 1969 and Tewksbury's first entry was in 1972.
Tewksbury won the league championship in 1988 and lost to Chelmsford in the finals in 1989.
League championships, however, are not high on Hood's priority list as he enters his third season as the team's coach.
"It's about getting the kids some at-bats and helping them build their confidence as they head back to high school next year," said Hood, who like may Tewksbury coaches, is faced with the prospect of playing all of his games on the road because of the new high school construction project.
"We don't have a home field, but that hasn't stopped these kids," Hood said. "They've go to get themselves to places like Tyngsboro and Lynnfield a couple nights a week, but they don't care. They're willing to travel. They just want to play baseball."
Tewksbury plays at Wilmington on Thursday. The team's entire schedule as well as league standings and results can be found at http://northeastbaseballleague.com/.