NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

July 14, 2014

Francesconi making his mark in field and at plate

Francesconi adds fielding proficiency to big bat

By Dave Dyer
ddyer@eagletribune.com

---- — With little size or bulk up front, the Whittier Tech boys basketball team probably could have used 6-foot-1, 250-pound forward Ralph Francesconi last winter.

But, after two seasons in the basketball program, Francesconi made a difficult decision.

“I really like basketball, and it was a tough decision because I’ve been playing it my whole life,” said Francesconi, who led the Wildcats in RBIs with 34 this spring and has been a key for the Newburyport Legion Post 150 team this summer. “I had to work on my fielding and do a lot of hitting.”

Primarily a third baseman, Francesconi wanted to become more effective moving into the hole as well as with his general response time.

“I did a lot of agility drills so I could react better,” he said.

The results were impressive,” said Whittier coach Joe Boland.

“We always knew he was a heck of a hitter but he turned himself into a very good third baseman,” said Boland.

“He became really good going to his left to get the ball in the hole and he also is now very good at coming in for the ball and making the throw, which isn’t easy.

“Ralph is a tremendous young man who will do whatever it takes. He’d run through a wall for you.”

While working on his fielding, Francesconi also fine tuned his hitting, working laboriously at Ripp City in Haverhill on hitting low, outside pitches and curve balls, “which used to get me all the time,” he says.

The results were evident not only for Whittier but have been obvious for Post 150 as well. Through last week, he was leading the team in RBIs with 15 and hitting .385 as the cleanup batter.

“He’s been great for us, better than I thought,” said Post 150 coach Tim Southall, whose club is in first place in District 8 with a 14-1 record. “He’s a lot more agile than he looks.

“Ralph’s done a great job hitting in the 4-hole all year. He has also been huge on the defensive side of the ball playing first base and third base. He’s a great kid who works hard and always has a smile on his face.”

Even Francesconi, who was a Commonwealth Conference all-star as a two-way tackle in football last fall, is a bit surprised at his effectiveness.

After all, he’s making the jump from playing for both a Georgetown Babe Ruth team and for the Junior Legion team last summer and, while he felt confident that he’d make the team, he admits that “there’s no way I thought I’d be starting.”

But, thanks to the offseason refinements, Francesconi is not only starting, but he’s become a standout for the league-leading Post 150 team.