Homegrown ‘Hearts

The Worcester Bravehearts announced the signings of seven more New England players — including five pitchers — who will suit up for the team in May on a quest to win the team’s third Futures League Championship. Four of the recent signees are returners from the 2017 team.

Manager J.P. Pyne’s pitching staff receives a boost with the return of two of its most durable arms from 2017. Sebastian Gruszecki (Dudley, MA / Shepherd Hill Regional H.S.) of Florida Gulf Coast University and Cody Laweryson (Bingham, ME / Upper Kennebec Valley H.S.) of the University of Maine are set to rejoin the Bravehearts this summer. Gruszecki is a sophomore who started nine games for the Bravehearts last season, including the Championship Game 2 at Nashua that the Bravehearts would eventually lose to the Silver Knights. He started the final regular season game for the Bravehearts against Pittsfield and helped propel them into the playoffs with a 4-inning stint in which he gave up only two hits. At FGCU, he appeared in ten games out of the bullpen in the 2017 season — the most for a freshman on the team. Laweryson is also a sophomore and led the Bravehearts with 18 appearances, all out of the bullpen. He amassed a 5-3 record with two saves and a stellar 2.27 ERA. With the Maine Black Bears, he appeared in 20 games as a freshman and went 4-2 with 40 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched.

Local arms will make up a significant portion of Worcester’s 2018 pitching staff. The team has already announced that Shrewsbury’s Danny Barlok of Holy Cross and Kendall Pomeroy of UMass-Lowell will return and Douglas-resident Matt Stansky of Bryant University will join the team for the first time. Three more locals will spend the summer back at home in Central Massachusetts as well: Brenden Cournoyer (Dudley, MA / The Berkshire School), Nathan Florence (Wilbraham, MA / Minnechaug H.S.), and Sean Burke (Sutton, MA / St. John’s H.S.) are all expected to play significant roles on the Bravehearts’ pitching staff.

Hard-throwing Brenden Cournoyer is beginning his first season at the University of Albany after a successful career at The Berkshire School in the Western New England Prep Baseball League (WNEPBL). The 6’4” 270lb righty was the 2016 WNEPBL Pitcher of the Year while finishing the season undefeated with a 1.87 ERA. He was also named Berkshire’s 2017 team MVP.

Nathan Florence is a sophomore at the University of Hartford and was impressive in his first season in 2017. As a freshman, Florence made 15 appearances and 9 starts while leading the team in strikeouts (42) and batting average against (.240). At Minnechaug High School, he won 13 games in his varsity career and finished with an astounding 165 strikeouts, .160 batting average against, and a 1.75 ERA. He tossed a no-hitter against Longmeadow on April 19, 2016, striking out 16 along the way. Florence is also an accomplished gymnast and qualified and competed in the National Junior Olympics in 2012.

Sutton’s Sean Burke will finish his senior season at Saint John’s High School this spring and has committed to play for the University of Maryland in the fall. The 6’4” right-hander’s fastball has been clocked as high as 93 mph by Perfect Game USA. Burke was a member of the 2017 Super 8 State Champion team and will rejoin his teammates Jack Gardner and Matt Stansky on the Bravehearts this summer. Burke also plays on the varsity basketball team at Saint John’s.

In addition to these pitchers, the Bravehearts have also announced that two position players who played critical roles on the 2017 team will return for a second season in Worcester. Infielder Kevin Doody (Canton, MA / Berkshire Academy) and catcher Brett Coffel (Clermont, FL / Lake Minneola H.S.) were in the top five in terms of games played, at-bats, and hits last summer and will bring some experience to the Bravehearts dugout this year. Doody is a current sophomore at the University of Maine who hit .351 for the Bravehearts in 2017 with 24 stolen bases. Perhaps the most eye-popping statistic is that fact that 60 of his 61 hits with the team were singles, and he often sparked rallies by beating out deep grounders to third base and then stealing second base. Doody will also reunite with his teammate at Berkshire Academy, Brenden Cournoyer. Coffel is likely slated to be the team’s opening day catcher since he caught 46 of the Bravehearts’ 59 games (including playoffs) in 2017. He hit .259 for the Bravehearts last summer with 11 doubles and launched three of his five home runs during the team’s playoff run that once again took them back to the Championship Series.

The Bravehearts will begin announcing the rest of the roster in March. Season tickets, 5-game plans, and group outings for the 2018 season are now on sale by calling the Bravehearts’ office at 508-438-3773. Opening night is Wednesday, May 30 against the Nashua Silver Knights at Hanover Insurance Park.