FAIRFIELD- When the 2011 Lawrence Bulldogs baseball team takes to the diamond this spring they will have a new look, new coach and a new philosophy. Rusty Mericer , who lead the Winslow Black Raiders to a 12-6 record last season, takes over coaching duties.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to work with this community in creating a program that is competitive year in and year out," said Mercier.
Mercier takes over a program that spent much of last season in turmoil. Wally Covell resigned as coach mid-way through the season. JV coach John Hersome took over the team for the remainder of the season. The Bulldogs finished 5-11.
"We have a lot to do, with the community's support, the players efforts and our staffs expectations I believe we will accomplish our goals," Mercier said.
Lawrence should be be competitive. The team is athletic and features a strong pitching staff lead by senior lefty Shawn Russell. Russell had shoulder surgery last fall but is ready to lead the Bulldogs this season.
"I have really high hopes for the season and I feel as though we're going to compete much better than we have in the past. Everyone is taking it really seriously and we're focused all the time. My shoulder is recovering very good and there isn't any pain anymore," said the southpaw.
Russell says he is throwing hard and once again able to throw a curve ball. He says he hopes to gain even more velocity as the season goes on. Extra care has been taken with Russell. The team's coaching staff has worked with the trainer, Russell's doctor and Thomas baseball coach Gre King to build Russell back up.
Mercier says all pitchers, JV and varsity, are on a progressive pitching plan. Bulldogs have plenty of pitching depth this season. Seniors Blair Blasidell and Mike Caponni and juniors Alex Leathers and Isiah Fleming will get work. Lawrence has it's eye on the playoffs. Many of the team's players have played on Babe Ruth and Legion teams together in the past. They're hoping that chemistry carries over.
"A lot of us upperclassmen have been playing together on different teams for along time, so we all know each other very well and get along great. It's awesome that we can all trust each other at positions and we all talk to each other a lot. The sophomores on the team have all been looking really good too and we all get along really well. We're all having a lot of fun," said Russell.
While pitching is the Bulldogs strength, the team has some big bats in their lineup. Mercier says to keep and eye on senior catcher Matt Woodbury, Blair Blaisdell and junior Alex Leathers. Lawrence opens the season Wednesday at Mansfield Stadium against Bangor.
"We all think we're going to do well this season and can't wait for it to start," Russell said.