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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The 2018 baseball season has been the year of Cam Schlittler and Matt Danato, Walpole’s one-two punch of hard-throwing right-handed aces who have thrown a combined 124 innings and tallied nearly 150 strikeouts.
Last season, the Rebels met a tough playoff fate in the quarterfinals of the Division I South Sectionals against Bridgewater-Raynham, falling 4-1. This season, Walpole is creeping towards a Super Eight berth, entering the week at 12-4 and 8-1 in Bay State Conference play with key wins over Xaverian, Needham, Braintree, Natick (twice) and rival Norwood (twice).
This week, Walpole will play three games that will, in all likelihood, decide whether or not the Rebels will be partaking in the Super Eight or Division I tournament. A 3-0 record in these next three games at Silver Lake, at Braintree, and at home against Newton North (make-up) will almost certainly get the Rebels into the Super Eight against the class of Massachusetts High School baseball. A 2-1 record could get the Rebels in, but 1-2 or 0-3 would likely solidify a trip to the Division I tournament.
Junior pitcher and Northeastern commit Cam Schlittler says that no matter where the Rebels end up, whether in the D1 Tournament or Super Eight, he and his teammates are going to leave it all out there.
“After a tough loss last year to a very talented Bridgewater-Raynham program, the team and I hope to rebound by just focusing and being more aware of the fact that we have to play as well as we can to get deeper into the playoffs,” said Schlittler. “With that being said, we are a very young but experienced team and we won’t let one slip out of our hands like last year.”
Obviously, with arms like Schlitter’s and Danato’s, expectations are high for the Rebels entering tournament time. Schlittler acknowledges just how important a good pitching staff is this time of year, along with a healthy mix of production at the plate and intelligent base running.
“The key aspect for sure is our pitching staff,” said Schlittler when asked about the most important components of his team heading into June. “We have done very well this year against some tough teams and we have shown that we have the capability to last as long as we want to with all the depth we have. Along with that, our hitting has improved tremendously and has had a huge impact in scoring runs early and giving our pitchers the momentum they need, along with knowing that our guys will get us the runs. Once we start to face very good and competitive teams with a strong ace, base running becomes more critical as we might not be able to get as many runners on base so smart base running becomes a huge factor in those close dog fight games.”
As far as where and which tournament that he and his teammates expect to be placed into, a humbled Schlittler says that he and the Rebels are just focused on the week, all while doing everything in their power to win on a game-by-game basis.
“I think with the wins we have on our record, it gives us the confidence that we are a very strong team and that we have the capability to do what is needed to win,” said Schlittler. “Getting wins over these powerhouse teams [Braintree, Newton North, Brookline] impacts how we start to process for the final stretch and the postseason, which is the mindset that we can beat anyone when we play our best.”
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.