Austin Prep (MA)

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR New England Senior Writer

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To view the full list of 2023 Team Previews that we have already completed, please click here.

2023 Spring Team Preview: Bishop Hendricken

READING, Ma. - So what can Austin Prep do for an encore?

All the Cougars did in 2022 was end the season with a perfect 25-0 record, capture the Division 3 state championship, finish ranked number one in the state and 24th in the country, take the Catholic Central League crown for the seventh consecutive year, secure the league tournament for the second time in the two years of existence and come out on top at the Memorial Day Hillie Classic Tournament.

With seven key losses from that unbeaten squad, what can Jonathan Pollard’s Cougars accomplish in 2023 after bringing home the second state title in school history, the other coming in 2018?

“We should be strong in all areas of the game: pitching, offense, baserunning and defense, but we have a lot of new faces,” related Pollard, who has a 44-2 record since becoming head coach at Austin Prep in 2020. “Our greatest challenge will be in the form of how quickly we can establish an identity as a team, and how quickly our pitchers can gain experience and confidence.”

Junior transfers Evan Ventura and Jordan Barthel are being counted on to lead a staff that lost southpaws Evan Blanco and Jack Iannabelli to graduation. Blanco is now at Virginia and Iannabelli at Stonehill College

“The key to our success this year will be our pitching staff gaining experience and using that experience to set the tone for the type of team we aim to be,” noted Pollard, who spent his first five seasons in the Austin Prep program as JV coach.

Barthel is the 33rd-ranked 2024 right-handed pitcher in New England and Ventura, an Army commit, the 36th-rated junior RHP.

Senior Dom Gabardi and junior Jake Zawatsky are also looked at by Pollard as key pitchers in the coming season. Will Cacciatore, a junior right-hander committed to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, adds depth to the pitching staff that is expected to be aided by a solid returning core of starters.

Gabardi in right field and Zawatsky at third are key returnees along with junior center fielder David VanderZouwen and junior shortstop Thomas Fabbo. Gabardi is the 10th-rated 2024 outfielder in New England, Zawatsky a UMass Lowell commit rated 29th among juniors in Massachusetts, VanderZouwen the 13th-ranked 2024 outfielder in New England and Fabbo the ninth-rated junior shortstop in Massachusetts.

In addition to Ventura and Barthel, who will also see time at first base, other transfers expected to start include freshman catcher Bradley McCafferty, junior catcher/DH Byron Woodman and junior second baseman Jake Harring. McCafferty, the number two 2026 in New England and 17th-ranked freshman catcher in the nation, has committed to Duke while Harring is the top-rated 2024 second baseman in New England.

Rounding out the college commits on the Austin Prep roster is senior right-handed pitcher Jansen Landen, who is headed to Brandeis University.

“I like our physicality and athleticism at all positions,” Pollard said. “We should have a very solid defense and an offense capable of scoring a lot of runs.”

Pollard pointed to freshmen Chase Edgar (MIF) and Ryan Moreschi (outfield) along with eighth grader Lucas Sarno (MIF) as newcomers to watch in a program that lost catcher Matt Chatelle (Southern Maine), first baseman Will Burns (PG then Maine), second baseman Ernie Little (Wesleyan, Ct. University), shortstop Josh Keith and center fielder Brendan Walsh (PG then Endicott) to graduation in addition to Blanco and Iannabelli.

Adding to the challenges ahead with the graduation losses is the move to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council. 

“With this being our first year in the NEPSAC, we look forward to getting a greater understanding of the league by playing so many great programs,” Pollard concluded. “We have a demanding schedule and we look forward to the challenge.”

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