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Saugus arm’s race: 26 strikeouts signal strong start to season

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By Dom Nicastro


Here’s the short story: The Saugus High School Sachems baseball team has started 2-0 and racked up 26 strikeouts between three pitchers out of a possible 42 outs.

Not bad. Really, not bad at all.

Junior pitcher Cam Soroko claims 15 of those strikeouts – 11 in an opening-day, complete-game, 4-0 shutout over Shawsheen and four more in two innings of closer work in a 6-3 win over Northeast Metro Tech.

Sophomore Jordan Rodriguez started and got six punchouts in three innings of work against Northeast, and junior Cam Bernard added five strikeouts in two innings in that game. That’s a 15-strikeout performance across the three right-handers who left only six outs to be had by their teammates.

Strong start on the hill for the Sachems? You bet. Soroko brings power, accuracy and a slider out-pitch – clocking in the high 80s – while Bernard and Rodriguez have proven to be crafty while pounding the zone and getting ahead of batters.

“We had 15 strikeouts against Northeast, and that means six balls actually were put in play which had to be outs,” said Saugus coach Joe Luis, who is in his seventh year at the helm for the Sachems. “It was Jordan’s first day out and Cam Bernard’s first day pitching, too, because we had to kind of work him in slowly due to a little bit of a shoulder stiffness over the winter. So that was his first time even though he pitched obviously in the scrimmages. Those guys will do the majority of the pitching.”

Saugus is coming off a 4-16 season in which it didn’t make the tourney. It had won tourney games in the past three seasons – 2019 (14 wins in regular season), 2021 and 2022. But 2023 was a rebuilding year, and the team is already at half of its entire win total from a year ago.

And they’ve got some players hungry to get back to the postseason. They’re showing it already.

Shane Bourque, a senior captain who bats cleanup, went 4-for-8 in the first two games with five RBI and picked up an assist from the outfield.

“Shane’s gotten off to a great start,” Luis said. “He’s my senior captain, along with junior captain Soroko. I finally have seniors this year. It’s good to have a couple of seniors this year playing. Shane’s batting .500, but the big thing is he’s got five RBI. So he’s been coming up obviously very clutch early in the season. We’re looking at his leadership. He’s a quiet captain. He just leads by example. He just goes out there and gets the job done himself. He’s also got a nice strong arm from the outfield.”

Senior Jeff Murphy, a third baseman and fifth hitter, has an on-base percentage (OBP) of .500 to start the season. Tyler Riley, a junior who also plays infield, has an OBP of .375. Rodriguez, a sophomore, is getting on base .533 percent of the time, and sophomore catcher Nathan Soroko has been a rock behind home plate and solid leadoff hitter.

Luis is joined by former players Ryan Anderson (2022 graduate) and Zach Falasca (2020 graduate). Saugus is playing in the Northeastern Conference’s lower division along with Winthrop, Peabody, Swampscott and Salem. They’ll have two games against each of those opponents, and one against the NEC’s larger division teams: Marblehead, Masconomet, Beverly, Gloucester and Danvers.

The Sachems picked up Lynn Classical, Lynn English, Shawsheen, Northeast and Stoneham as non-leaguers. The goal is to get the team ready for postseason play.

“Last year was a learning year,” Luis said. “They were 4-16, and they were also young with two freshmen, six sophomores, one junior, and that was it. Now, knowing one year what varsity baseball was about, and how to compete … that’s the thing you have to teach first-year kids is how to compete at this level. It’s not like a JV season. It’s not like town baseball or anything like that. On the varsity level, there’s a high level to compete and execute and prepare for each and every game. They weren’t used to how to be ready for game day.   Hopefully this year, this is what they’ve learned last year, and now they know how to prepare for game day.”

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