Baseball From the Nashua Telegraph: "Local players boosting Daniel Webster baseball team"
This article is reprinted with permission of the Nashua Telegraph. It ran on April 12, 2012. See the original article on line by clicking here.
By TOM KING Staff Writer
Nashua - Preparing for a game earlier this spring, Daniel Webster College's Kyle Brigham paused to look around Holman Stadium, savoring the moment.
"I never thought of Daniel Webster," the freshman infielder, who played his high school ball at Alvirne, said. "I never thought I'd end up here. I can't put it into words."
Same for Merrimack's Ryan Dupont, another Eagles freshman who roams the outfield.
"I didn't expect to do this at all," Dupont said. "I had no idea (of the legitimacy of the baseball program). It's a good school. There's kids I know that are trying to play Division I baseball and they're unhappy."
Eagles junior catcher Tyler Bonin, a product of the Campbell High School baseball program, already knew what the other two didn't – that you can thrive under Eagles head coach J.P. Pyne.
"I'm really lucky to be here," Bonin said. "My parents keep saying how proud of me they are, that they can go see their son play college baseball."
And play it well. Brigham, Bonin and Dupont are the top three hitters on a an Eagles team that is hoping to make the NCAA tournament this year and win 20 games for the third straight season. Brigham, at last look, was hitting .402 and leading the team in RBIs, while Bonin, a first baseman-catcher, was hitting in the low .380s and Dupont was approaching .370.
Apparently this has justified the time and energy Pyne has put into recruiting local players. At least 13 Eagles played their high school ball in New Hampshire; about half of those from the Nashua area.
"They're certainly making a big impact," Pyne said. "I've always known there's great baseball in this area, and I've said to my staff we want to build a wall around Nashua, Hudson, Merrimack."
Dupont and Brigham were intent on beginning their collegiate careers elsewhere, however. Dupont played this past fall at Becker University, but said he didn't enjoy the school or its Worcester, Mass., surroundings.
Beckham, meanwhile, had a recurrence of shoulder woes while at Southern New Hampshire University and, feeling down about it, gave up school as well as baseball.
"I told myself I was done," the former Bronco said. "I could hit the ball, but I couldn't throw it as hard as I wanted. Even turning to the left was hard. But I had some buddies on this team (Bonin and former Alvirne standout Korey LeLievre) and they told me to go try and talk to coach Pyne. I told him I missed the game."
And that, Pyne said, has helped Brigham become the hitter he is now.
"He's one of those guys that benefited from a little bit of time away from the game," the coach said. "He realized how much he loved the game, missed the game, and he's rededicated himself to it. He might be the most advanced hitter we've had in the program as a freshman."
Brigham, Pyne said, understands the science of hitting better than most young college players.
"He has an advanced understanding," he said. "You talk with him, and he knows is mechanics, and has a better feel for his swing and what he's doing."
Dupont, Pyne said, "is every coach's dream" and he admits "he's a guy who was not on my radar screen."
But, after learning the outfielder had left Becker, longtime DWC assistant coach Mike Henzley, who coaches Junior Legion in Merrimack, knew Dupont was a player who could help the Eagles and gave him a call. Pyne then met with the player and his family and a recruit was brought to the fold.
But Pyne didn't exactly know what he had until he was playing some reserves in a game in Florida last month, and Dupont hit the ball hard in a couple of at-bats. The next day, given a start, he hit it even harder.
"Here's a kid who had a small opportunity, made the most of it, and has worked his way into a prominent role in the lineup," Pyne said.
Bonin, meanwhile, was a work in progress who has made a huge leap from his sophomore to his junior season. He was a catcher at Campbell and does that occasionally for the Eagles, who now mainly have him playing at first base.
"He's benefitted from the way he's used his time here," Pyne said. "His first couple of years he was a guy off the bench we would get a little bit of a look at. The biggest transition in college is from sophomore year to junior year."
And it's a transition he's made successfully, in part because he got in great baseball shape by playing hockey over the winter for the Eagles non-varsity team.
"I did a lot of work in the off-season to prepare myself," Bonin said. "Hockey helped me stay in shape and develop my time management. … And now I'm seeing the ball real well, and I'm going up to the plate confident."
"He worked hard, committed himself to the weight room and got the most out of his body," Pyne said. "And one of the big things he's done with his game this year is shown an advanced ability to hit the ball the other way."