WESTERLY — The Westerly High baseball team may not have had the season it was anticipating, but, coach Ron Sposato said, it got its mojo back.
And the reason for that was a nucleus of eight seniors and a junior who’s started since his freshman year.
James Pedersen, a three-year starter, was the leader of the group of seniors, and Tom Algier, perhaps the team’s best all-around player, was the junior standout. Both were named to the All-Division II-South first team.
Pedersen was second on the team in hitting with a .379 average (22 for 58) and topped the Bulldogs in slugging percentage (.569). He led the team in doubles with eight and homered once.
Over his varsity career, Pedersen improved his average by nearly 100 points in each successive season. As a sophomore, he hit .195; as a junior, .286.
“He brought that extra-base-hit capability for us,” Sposato said. “It seemed like whenever we needed that big base hit, he was there.”
Pedersen was also valuable defensively and in the dugout with his leadership. He was durable, too, starting 58 of 59 games over the three seasons.
“He was one of the best defensive catchers in the league every one of those years,” Sposato said, “and he started almost 60 games for us, which is a pretty impressive feat for a catcher.”
Because of his experience, Pederson called 90 percent of the pitches in Bulldogs games — a rarity in high school.
And a blessing for Sposato and his staff.
“Not many high school catchers had as much varsity experience as he did,” Sposato said. “He was the leader of the defense. Really, he was the leader of the whole team, of a veteran group.”
Algier is a veteran with another year to go.
This season, his pitching record — 2-5 in eight starts — was misleading in terms of his overall performance on the mound. His ERA was a sparkling 2.13 and he struck out 40 in 42 2/3 innings.
“He throws very well,” Sposato said. “We didn’t have a lot of defense behind him at times. … He keeps hitters off balance. His curveball is his greatest asset. He has a solid fastball — it’s not overpowering, but with his curveball, his offspeed pitch, it makes his fastball that much better. And he can throw the [curveball] for a strike.
“He’s always ahead of batters,” Sposato added. “That’s another reason he’s so successful. They’re on the defensive instead of the offensive.”
Algier played shortstop when he wasn’t pitching. He batted .301 (22 for 73), doubled once and drove in eight runs from the top the Bulldogs’ batting order. He tied for second on the team in runs scored with 13.
He was also strong defensively.
“Hitting-wise, he’s an aggressive hitter,” Sposato said, “He always wants to hit. He doesn’t look for a walk. And when he was playing shortsop, defensively we were at our best.”
Algier is a repeat pick to the All-Division II-South first team.
The Bulldogs finished 8-12 overall, 7-11 in D-II and just missed qualifying for the postseason. Their eight wins were the most in Sposato’s four seasons as coach.
“We had higher hopes of making the playoffs, which we didn’t get to,” he said. “But we played competitively all season long. Record-wise, we were not as successful as we hoped, but our guys played hard. They were a very dedicated group. They brought dedication and respect back to the program.”