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Baseball Player of the Year: Andrew Omer of Hopkins

  • UMass Lorden Field 6/7/14. Hopkins pitcher No.15 Andrew Omer, steps off the rubber to launch a 2 seam fastball to the plate in the top of the 2nd inning.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    UMass Lorden Field 6/7/14. Hopkins pitcher No.15 Andrew Omer, steps off the rubber to launch a 2 seam fastball to the plate in the top of the 2nd inning.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts Purchase photo reprints »

  • J. ANTHONY ROBERTS<br/>Hopkins Academy catcher Chewy Garand leaps into the arms of pitcher Andrew Omer after he makes the final out to win the Western Massachusetts Division 4 Tournament championship, Saturday at UMass' Earl Lorden Field.

    J. ANTHONY ROBERTS
    Hopkins Academy catcher Chewy Garand leaps into the arms of pitcher Andrew Omer after he makes the final out to win the Western Massachusetts Division 4 Tournament championship, Saturday at UMass' Earl Lorden Field. Purchase photo reprints »

  • UMass Lorden Field 6/7/14. Hopkins pitcher No.15 Andrew Omer, launches a split fingered fastball to the plate in the top of the 1st inning.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    UMass Lorden Field 6/7/14. Hopkins pitcher No.15 Andrew Omer, launches a split fingered fastball to the plate in the top of the 1st inning.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts Purchase photo reprints »

  • J. ANTHONY ROBERTS<br/>Hopkins Academy catcher Chewy Garand leaps into the arms of pitcher Andrew Omer after he makes the final out to win the Western Massachusetts Division 4 Tournament championship, Saturday at UMass' Earl Lorden Field.

    J. ANTHONY ROBERTS
    Hopkins Academy catcher Chewy Garand leaps into the arms of pitcher Andrew Omer after he makes the final out to win the Western Massachusetts Division 4 Tournament championship, Saturday at UMass' Earl Lorden Field. Purchase photo reprints »

  • UMass Lorden Field 6/7/14. Hopkins pitcher No.15 Andrew Omer, steps off the rubber to launch a 2 seam fastball to the plate in the top of the 2nd inning.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts
  • J. ANTHONY ROBERTS<br/>Hopkins Academy catcher Chewy Garand leaps into the arms of pitcher Andrew Omer after he makes the final out to win the Western Massachusetts Division 4 Tournament championship, Saturday at UMass' Earl Lorden Field.
  • UMass Lorden Field 6/7/14. Hopkins pitcher No.15 Andrew Omer, launches a split fingered fastball to the plate in the top of the 1st inning.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts
  • J. ANTHONY ROBERTS<br/>Hopkins Academy catcher Chewy Garand leaps into the arms of pitcher Andrew Omer after he makes the final out to win the Western Massachusetts Division 4 Tournament championship, Saturday at UMass' Earl Lorden Field.

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 mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

First team

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

Second team

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

Honorable mention

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

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