When Jon Gendron was coaching the AMSA junior varsity baseball team back in 2015, he had a bit of a hunch.
“I could tell then they were special ballplayers,” Gendron said of the sixth and seventh graders on that squad. “I was already looking forward to when those kids would be juniors and seniors.”
Fast forward five years and the hunch was proven right.
Those sixth and seventh graders were juniors and seniors, respectively, on the 2020 Eagles varsity team. It was a team that Gendron, who became the varsity coach, had been waiting and preparing for in his time at AMSA.
But that team never got a chance to take the field, with the spring season canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“If there were Vegas lines, I believe last year’s team would’ve been the front-runner to win a state championship,” Gendron said. “It’s a shame they never got a chance to take the field together.”
“Last year was a pretty anticipated year,” AMSA senior captain Andrew Cash said. “We were super excited to play before it got canceled. We would’ve had a really good team.”
While Cash and the rest of the 2021 class never got a junior season, they knew they still had one more year left of high school baseball.
As it turned out, this year’s team was really good, too. AMSA went 11-1 in the regular season before winning a Division 3 Central title, which included winning its first ever postseason tilt.
The Eagles wanted the chance to play for a state title but came up a game short as they fell to defending state champion Taconic, 4-2, on Friday in soggy conditions.
AMSA finished the season 15-2.
“It was a special season,” Gendron said. “I knew this team was going to be extremely strong. I’m going to miss coaching these guys as a group. This team really gelled together and was as close to having a family as you can for a sports team. I’ll miss that the most. This was obviously a talented bunch, but beyond that, they were a selfless group that loved each other.”
Cash, a three-sport standout in soccer, basketball and baseball, who will play soccer and possibly baseball at WPI next year, reflected on his final high school sports season as an Eagle.
“I don’t think anyone outside of our program expected us to make it that far,” he said. “But it was super exciting to win our first playoff game and make a deep run. Being a senior, I’m glad I was able to enjoy this season. It was definitely the most exciting sports season I’ve had. It was just tons of fun to be around this team.”
Cash was able to get an early sense for how this year’s team was going to be with AMSA players participating in fall ball.
That ended up carrying right into the spring, with the Eagles losing just one regular season game. That one loss was to Division 1 Central power Doherty (7-4) on May 26th.
But according to Cash, that was the game when he knew this year’s team was capable of doing damage in the postseason.
“We had a chance to maybe win and we held our own against a Division 1 team, a big school from Worcester,” he said. “That really showed we could do big things this year.”
Senior captains Cam Hunt and Trey Fucillo were among the talented players on this year’s roster.
But the heart and soul of the team was Cash, the 6-foot-3 215-pounder who contributed with both his bat and his arm.
At the dish, Cash batted .467 with a 1.200 slugging percentage, nine home runs, 29 RBI and 26 runs scored. On the mound, he went 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 25 strikeouts.
Yet, beyond stats, Cash also had a very even-keeled approach to the game and how he conducted himself. Not many know that better than Gendron, who has been coaching Cash since the JV days.
“His athletic ability and pure talent as a baseball player is truly special,” Gendron said. “But he never got too high or too low. He was always very professional with his approach. I always tried to keep him fully engaged and more excited than he normally gets. When he had that extra swagger and intensity, he raised his game. “I’ve been coaching him for a long time. I’m going to miss him. He’s an awesome kid and he certainly led the way for us this year.”