By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Alfred Mucciarone wants to take care of some unfinished business.
After Franklin High’s baseball team lost, 2-1, to Taunton last year in the state championship final, the Panthers’ right-handed pitcher refocused immediately and set his sights on winning the crown in his senior season.
Franklin’s Alfred Mucciarone relies on a fastball that’s been clocked at 92 mph.
A native of Franklin, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Mucciarone was a key cog in the Panthers’ advance to the state final. He hurled a gem against Shrewsbury in a semifinal matchup, limiting the Colonials to one hit in six innings and retiring 15 batters in a row for a 4-3 victory.
“Winning a state championship is the thing I want most,’’ said Mucciarone, who finished his junior campaign with a 6-1 record and an earned-run average of 2.05. “I’ve been thinking about it since we lost to Taunton.’’
The 18-year-old Mucciarone, who’ll be competing for UMass-Lowell next year, is acutely aware of what’s needed for a successful tourney run. “It’s about doing all the things necessary to get to the final,’’ he emphasized. “It’ll take focus and determination in practice, in the classroom and in regular-season games. Preparation and execution are vital.’’
Mucciarone’s two key statistics as a sophomore were just as impressive as his numbers as a junior. He had a 6-1 record and an E.R.A. of 2.01 during a season shorted because of covid-19. And, although he struck out 56 hitters and walked only 6 as a junior, he struck out 28 as a sophomore and walked 11.
Honored to be a captain this year, he’s a two-time Hockomock League all-star who’ll likely earn that accolade a third time. But, what makes Mucciarone a breed apart is what occurred after his freshman year. He committed to attend UMass-Lowell on a scholarship.
“We didn’t have any spring sports my freshman year because of covid,’’ Mucciarone recalled. “But, I was playing AAU ball and that summer and I pitched a no-hitter against a team coached by Ken Harring, the UMass-Lowell coach. His son played on the team.’’
“After that 10-0 victory, coach Harring saw me compete a few more times. I eventually toured the campus in Lowell and was offered a scholarship that summer. He was impressed with the no-hitter. It may have been a coincidence but the timing was great. He told me there were no guarantees but he felt I could make an impact.’’
Mucciarone’s two seasons as a starter have played a role in the Panthers’ regular-season and tourney success. Franklin was 16-2 his sophomore year and advanced to the sectional final where it bowed to Xaverian. The Panther were 23-4 overall last year.
“Alfred is a very special kid,’’ said Franklin coach Zach Brown. “He’s a fierce competitor and a tremendous teammate. A captain who leads by example, he’s supportive of his teammates and he’s also very humble. He relies on a fastball that’s been clocked at 92 mph. He’ll mix in a change-up, a cutter and a slider. His control is exceptional, he works hard on his mechanics and he’s able to overwhelm the strike zone.’’
Mucciarone’s style varies depending on the situation. “I’m aggressive when I’m ahead on the count,’’ he said. “When I’m behind on the count, I’ll analyze the hitter more and think about how he reacted on the previous pitch.’’
Three strengths that have led to his success are a high baseball IQ, pin-point control and leadership.
“I strive to be sharp on my mechanics,’’ he said. “My control keeps hitters off balance and, as a captain, I lead by example, always trying to display what Franklin High baseball is all about. I’m also a supportive captain, especially with our younger players.’’
Mucciarone, who started playing baseball at five years old in the Franklin Youth League, has been on the AAU circuit for eight years. Now, in his final campaign at the interscholastic level, his goals are obvious.
“I want to win the Kelley-Rex Division title, get to the tourney and win the state championship,’’ he reiterated. “The key is to keep improving daily and peak at playoff time. My personal goals are to be the best captain I can be, improve on my pitching stats and aim to be a league all-star again.’’
At Town Pages deadline, he had a 2-0 record, 20 strikeouts and an E.R.A. of 0.00. One of his wins came against Foxboro, last year’s Division 3 state semifinalist.
Mucciarone says all his objectives are realistic. “We can win the state title because we’ve got experience and talent,’’ he emphasized. “Our younger players are capable and we’ve got good senior leadership.’’
Three seniors Mucciarone believes will be major contributors this season are captains Eisig Chin (right-fielder) and Jase Lyons (utility player) and centerfielder Ryan Gerety.
“A leader by example, Eisig, who’s heading for Stonehill next year, is a power hitter and a quality fielder,’’ Mucciarone noted. “Jase is versatile, able to play in the outfield, infield or at D-H. He’s a contact hitter who’s a vocal leader. Ryan has great speed, can hit and is our leadoff guy. He’ll be going to Northeastern.’’
Mucciarone is a fan of his coach, calling him “a role model.’’
“Coach Brown comes to work every day with lots of energy,’’ Mucciarone said. “He knows the ins and outs of baseball and his comments are always motivating.’’
Mucciarone, who’s other role models are his parents (Lisa and Matthew), relies on a competitive philosophy of winning, reaching his potential and enjoying his athletic journey. “I’ve learned some valuable life lessons from sports,’’ he offered. “Athletics have taught me how to be a leader, how to be a good teammate and how to overcome adversity. Mental toughness is an attribute I’ve learned from sports.’’
Mucciarone displayed his share of mental toughness last summer when he compiled a 5-1 record for Franklin’s American Legion squad that won the state championship.
“That was a great feeling,’’ he said. “And, it was good for the town, especially after losing to Taunton in the state tourney.’’
Being a contributor on a championship team didn’t surprise Brown.
“When Alfred committed to UMass-Lowell after his freshman year, there was a lot of talk about good he could be,’’ Brown recalled. “There was hype and there was plenty of pressure. Now, as a senior captain, he’s the ace of our staff.’’
That status isn’t surprising but it sure is deserving.