Friday, September 12, 2014
Andrew Omer took the role of pitching ace for the Hopkins Academy baseball team quite literally.
The senior righthander earned the win in nine of 14 victories for the Golden Hawks, including seven of nine during the regular season.
“Andrew carried us throughout the season,” coach Jordan Branson said. “The energy he created when he was on the mound helped us this year, and when he pitched all our guys picked it up that much more.”
After helping lead Hopkins to a Western Massachusetts Division 4 title, Omer has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Baseball Player of the Year.
“I had a good season, and I’m proud of what I accomplished with the help of my teammates,” Omer said. “The experience of winning a western Mass. title is something I’ll never forget. A huge part of baseball is team camaraderie and knowing your teammates support you and have each other’s backs. That was a big factor in our season.”
As the clear-cut ace from the start of the season, Omer finished 9-3 with a 2.38 earned run average while throwing more innings (74) than any pitcher in western Mass.
“It’s been an incredible journey for him,” Branson said. “The success he had this season made the story that much more special. He didn’t have a ton of confidence when I started with him, but that confidence grew steadily and you saw it this season. He made the most of every opportunity, believing in himself and his team.”
Omer deflected much of the credit back to Branson, his former middle school coach.
“I could not have had the season I did without Coach’s help, both in the offseason and during the season,” Omer said. “He was always there when I needed him, and it’s great to have a relationship like that with your coach. He’s as much a friend as a coach.”
Omer displayed a dominance throughout his campaign. He struck out 98 batters to average 9.3 per seven innings. He trailed only Greenfield ace Garrett Hudson (107).
After throwing three 1-hitters as a junior, Omer allowed four or fewer hits in eight of 12 starts.
According to Omer, entering the postseason with just a 9-9 record helped the Golden Hawks.
“I think it helped that we were underestimated before the tournament,” Omer said. “I mean, who’s ever heard of Hopkins Academy? Nobody expected us to be in the state championship. We all got hot at the right time and had a great run.”
That run culminated in a sectional title with a 5-2 victory over Turners Falls on June 7. After escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the first inning, Omer cruised to the win with 11 strikeouts.
In the program’s first state final since 1985, Omer allowed three runs on six hits to undefeated Pope John Paul II of Hyannis. He left nine runners on base to keep Hopkins within striking distance, but the Hawks were shut out 3-0.
“It’s a good feeling to be the guy my team trusts in those biggest games,” Omer said. “Both those games were the biggest of my life. I was pretty disappointed in myself in the state championship game. I have to give it to (Pope John), they’re a great team. But it stinks to lose at that point.”
Hopkins was realigned before the season into the Hampshire West with four Division 3 programs. Six of Omer’s wins came against D-3 opponents, including a season-opening no-hitter against Belchertown on April 3.
“Being able to pitch such a game to start the season gave me a boost going forward,” he said. “It let me know I could shut teams down. Honestly, I didn’t even know (about the no-hitter) so I wasn’t thinking about it. I simply wanted to get a win for my team to start the season.”
That initial outing gave the first glimpse of Omer’s improved mechanics, which included a longer stride and using more of his entire body to throw.
“I think my stride got a little bit longer, which helped me bend my back more,” Omer said. “Before I was usually all arm, so that was a focus going into the season.”
Omer and Branson both feel the biggest improvement came in how he threw his breaking pitch.
“Last year he seemed to aim it and you could see it coming,” Branson said. “This year he threw it hard with a much sharper break.”
Late in the campaign, Omer battled through arm soreness, which required some extra rest. Both he and Branson said the pitcher’s stuff wasn’t diminished.
“Soreness did get in the way in some games, but it was never bad enough that I couldn’t pitch,” Omer said. “By the time the playoffs came around, nothing was going to keep me from pitching.”
His contribution wasn’t solely on the mound. Omer had 17 hits, including four doubles, with nine RBIs and nine runs scored.
Omer chose to attend Division I Bryant University because it’s the best option for his academic program.
“I thought about going to play a Division III school, but decided on the school with the best academic program for me,” Omer said. “I may try to play at some point in college, but I’ll definitely hang around the game.”
Once his school year ends, Omer plans to help Branson as the Golden Hawks attempt to repeat. Again they’ll have a strong rotation, and they had a solid role model to learn from this past season.
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at email@example.com.
Joe Afflitto, junior, Smith Academy
Jamie Carey, junior, Amherst Regional
Joe Ciolek, senior, South Hadley
Evan Delaney, junior, Hopkins Academy
Justin Edinger, senior, Gateway Regional
Nate Flachs, senior, South Hadley
Johnny Haskell, sophomore, Gateway Regional
Tim Horton, sophomore, Northampton
Zach Kelley, junior, Hopkins Academy
Nick Limoges, senior, Holyoke Catholic
Keith Natale, senior, Smith Academy
Ben O’Connor, senior, Northampton
Andrew Omer, senior, Hopkins Academy
Nate Patterson, sophomore, Frontier Regional
Austin Rogers, junior, Smith Academy
Ben Ruddock, senior, Frontier Regional
Pat Sears, senior, South Hadley
Alec Snyder-Fair, senior, Amherst Regional
Geoff Sobotka, senior, Gateway Regional
Brett Sullivan, junior, Granby
Brett Turban, freshman, Gateway Regional
Joe Warner, senior, Northampton
Jake Whitacre, senior, Granby
Ethan Young, junior, Amherst Regional
Niko Ames, senior, Frontier Regional
Kevin Banas, sophomore, Smith Academy
Steve Boudreau, senior, Belchertown
Brandon Bryant, sophomore, Frontier Regional
Selah Dalomba, junior, Amherst Regional
Curtis Dowers, senior, Gateway Regional
Sean Doyle, senior, Frontier Regional
John Grimaldi, senior, Northampton
Dorian Guidi, junior, Holyoke Catholic
Daniel Hodgkins, senior, Amherst Regional
John Jacques, junior, Hopkins Academy
Will Kennedy, sophomore, Holyoke Catholic
Jake Kosakowski, senior, Hopkins Academy
Nick Leduc, senior, Belchertown
David Longstreeth, junior, Smith Academy
Peter Luchini, senior, South Hadley
Brett Morrison, sophomore, Hopkins Academy
Shane O’Connor, senior, Granby
Tim Orzechowski, senior, Holyoke Catholic
Anthony Redfern, freshman, Easthampton
Pedro Santiago, senior, South Hadley
Kevin Wackerbarth, sophomore, Smith Vocational
Shawn Wackerbarth, senior, Smith Vocational
Sam Walker, senior, Northampton
Brandon Weyant, sophomore, Hampshire Regional
Jake Balderston, freshman, Amherst Regional
Nick Bernard, senior, Hopkins Academy
Hunter Brooks, freshman, Smith Vocational
Drew Castronovo, junior, Hopkins Academy
Tommy Daley, junior, Belchertown
Calvin Dowers, senior, Gateway Regional
Chewy Garand, sophomore, Hopkins Academy
Seth Gewanter, freshman, Frontier Regional
Tom Heavren, junior, Holyoke Catholic
Matt Hewes, freshman, Smith Vocational
Max Humphrey, senior, Granby
Ryan Klescynski, junior, South Hadley
Pat Knightly, junior, Hopkins Academy
TJ Masella, junior, Belchertown
Jake Mastorakis, junior, Belchertown
Jonathan Morrison, 8th grade, Hopkins Academy
Adam Osherow, senior, Northampton
Tony Pedruczny, junior, Smith Academy
Hunter Salem, sophomore, Northampton
Khalil Taylor, senior, Frontier Regional
Shy Torres, sophomore, Easthampton
Everett Warner, 8th grade, Gateway Regional
Matt York, 8th grade, Hampshire Regional