04/18/2012 7:54 AM
Ramapo, N.Y. – The Rockland Boulders announced today that eight players are returning to the team this season from last year’s inaugural squad.
Ryan Mollica, Norm Hutchins, Adrian Martin, Jonathan Velasquez, Cole Kraft, Scott Clement, Will Hassett and Glen Johnson comprise the list of those who are on the team’s spring training roster.
Mollica and Hutchins return as two key cogs from the heart of the batting order. Mollica, the team’s 2011 Most Valuable Player, was a symbol of stability, appearing in 86 games while recording a .301 average with a team-high 10 homers, 52 RBI, and 42 runs scored. As the senior member of the squad, Hutchins also had a strong season, batting .295 with seven round-trippers, 16 doubles and 37 runs in 62 games played.
The outlook is promising on the mound, with the return of perhaps the team’s top starter a year ago in Velasquez, and the Can-Am League’s elite closer in Martin. After a tough go in his first few outings, Velasquez emerged as one of the best pitchers in the entire league over July and August. Over a period of 12 consecutive starts, he posted an impressive 7-2 record with a sparkling 2.13 ERA. Martin, who has pitched as high as the AAA level, was relied on heavily in the closer role, and he did not disappoint. He not only led the Can-Am league in saves by a wide margin with 22, but he also contributed five wins from the bullpen. He was rewarded for his excellence by being the lone Boulder selected as a Can-Am League All-Star.
Kraft solidified the middle-infield a year ago with his sure-handed defense while contributing a consistent .281 average at the plate. Clement was just establishing his presence in the lineup when a hand injury ended his season prematurely, but his strong arm behind the plate and .275 average will be a welcome return, as he is expected to be at 100% entering this season.
Hassett is expected to vie for a starting slot in 2012, as he finished with a 4-3 record in 10 starts after joining Rockland in mid-July. While the big news of the 2011 season’s final weekend was the signing of Mets great Howard “HoJo” Johnson, it’s his son, Glen whose return is much anticipated. Though he only appeared in the teams final four games, the younger Johnson made his impact felt with a home run in his first professional at-bat in a 6-5 win at Newark.
The players report for training camp on May 5th.