WESTERLY — As this baseball season approached, Westerly High's Tom Algier again looked to be the ace of the pitching staff.
Algier was one of the better pitchers in Division II in his first two seasons, compiling an ERA of 1.70 and averaging almost a strikeout per inning.
But when the season started, Algier was unable to pitch due to shoulder problems. As the season progressed, it became clear he would not be the Bulldogs' ace. He would go on to only pitch 3⅓ innings for the season.
"He was down a little bit early on, and he was still hopeful early on that he could still pitch," Westerly coach Ron Sposato said.
But Sposato put Algier at second base and he excelled, winning the Division II-South Gold Glove award as the top defensive player in the league.
"Moving him to second really solidified our infield," Sposato said. "The infield the last couple of years had been subpar. He ended up being more valuable as a second baseman than he would have been as a pitcher."
Algier did not make an error during the regular season.
"In the Scituate series, he had two or three amazing plays," Sposato said. "He has good baseball instincts to begin with, quick feet, a lot of range and a quick release. He embraced the second base role."
Algier was also a Division II-South first-team selection. He hit .306 and was second on the team with 15 RBIs. He doubled five times.
Westerly finished 13-8 and qualified for the D-II playoffs for the first time since 2014, losing to Barrington in the preliminary round.
Senior pitcher Matt Brissette and freshman shortstop Zach Beckler were also named to the Division II-South first team.
Brissette finished 4-4 with a 1.60 ERA.
"He really stepped up this year and filled that role where Tommy would have been," Sposato said. "He was not an overpowering pitcher, but he kept the ball low in the strike zone and he was extremely accurate.
"When we had a good defensive game behind him we were at our best."
Beckler emerged as the starter at shortstop in his first varsity season.
"We knew he could play coming up from the middle school, but we didn't know if it would be at the varsity level right away," Sposato said. "Every time we put him in early in the season he delivered."
Beckler finished the season with a .508 average and led the team in hits (31) and RBIs (27).
"He makes a lot of contact and doesn't strike out a lot," Sposato said. "Once he showed he could compete and excel, we played him every game he was available."
Beckler was injured for a few games.
Junior catcher Mike Fiore, junior left fielder Luke Gentile and junior third baseman Jackson Shaffer received Division-II second-team honors.
Fiore caught every inning and hit .306 with five doubles and a triple. He was second on the team with 18 RBIs. Sposato said Fiore called 95 percent of the pitches and threw out a number of runners at second base.
Gentile hit .373 for the season with 22 hits and led the team with six doubles. Sposato said he had a couple of series where he didn't make an out.
Shaffer played third base and was another component of Westerly's improved defensive play. He hit .348 with five doubles and 12 RBIs.