English High senior baseball captains Lucas Harris, Anthony Dela Cruz and Kyle O’Connor are all hunkering down for what they hope will be a long and successful season, but when it ends, the trio will still have plenty of baseball to play.
Harris and O’Connor are heading to the University of Southern Maine and Dela Cruz is off to Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. All three are looking to continue their baseball careers. O’Connor has been patrolling the Bulldog outfield and leading off since he was a freshman. Harris and Dela Cruz have also been with the program four years. Dela Cruz plays second base and Harris pitches. When Harris isn’t pitching, he plays wherever he’s needed.
“These guys have been a huge part of this program,” English coach Joe Caponigro said. “Guys like these I know I’m going to miss tremendously (when they graduate), but on the other hand I know we’ll stay in touch. As far as having them in in a leadership role in the baseball program, I haven’t had any better. They have great character and they’re solid kids. They come from great families.”
Caponigro said Harris had four wins last year already has two this year. In a win over Danvers, he allowed only one hit and struck out 12.
“He can play anywhere on the field,” Caponigro said. “I can put him at first base, centerfield, left field. He can even catch. He’s so versatile. He’s an excellent athlete.”
Caponigro described Dela Cruz is a prototypical second baseman.
“He has a nice glove. He’s good at turning double plays and he has good speed. All three of them have tremendous speed. Anthony also has some good pop (in his bat),” Caponigro said. “He’s probably our leading hitter right now.”
O’Connor has been in the leadoff spot for English all four years, although Caponigro had him in the three spot recently while he recovers completely from an injury. In the Bulldogs’ win over Swampscott last Friday, O’Connor made a great catch against Ryan January (he has an offer to play at Louisiana State University) with two runners on.
“Probably two runs score (if he doesn’t catch that ball),” Caponigro said. “He’s an excellent outfielder.”
Dela Cruz and O’Connor have been huge at the plate for the Bulldogs. Last year the team had 135 hits and the Dela Cruz and O’Connor accounted for 61 of them, Caponigro said. O’Connor hit .500.
Harris started his baseball career as a member of the Wyoma Yankees. His team won the City Series when he was an 11 and a 12. He went on to play three years of Babe Ruth baseball, making the all-star team all three years.
Harris also played football at English. He started as a wide receiver as a sophomore and soon found himself playing quarterback. He’s not looking to play football at the college level.
“I’m just sticking with baseball for college,” he said.
Dela Cruz and O’Connor were both East Lynn Little League All-Stars. They moved up to Babe Ruth together (Harris was a year ahead in Babe Ruth). As 14s, Dela Cruz and O’Connor were on a team that made it to the state final before losing. Dela Cruz was a shortstop as a youngster, but made the move to second when he was 14. As far as his decision to attend Wentworth, Dela Cruz said the school is a good fit academically and athletically.
“I knew they (Wentworth) had a great engineering program and I want to major in mechanical engineering,” Dela Cruz said. “I started looking at them and found out they also had a pretty good baseball team.”
O’Connor said his connection to the University of Southern Maine occurred when coach Ed Flaherty saw him play in the Bay State Games. Flaherty, who has coached at USM for 30 years, recently recorded his 900th career coaching win. His career record at that point was 900-403-4. The team had a 22-9 record as of last weekend.