Schooners have a real throwback in Laurino

Groton Stephen Laurino had the night off on Wednesday.

Not by choice.

A sore hamstring forced him to sit out Mystic's New England Collegiate Baseball League game against the Valley Blue Sox at Fitch High School.

"I hate it," Laurino said of watching from the bench. "I can't stand it. I tried to get coach (Phil) Orbe to let me play."

Laurino has been a fixture in Mystic's lineup, appearing in all but three games. He's consistently delivered, ranking second in the NECBL in hitting with a .375 batting average. He also leads the team in hits (33), walks (13) and OPS (.914) while chipping in 14 RBI.

He's a first time NECBL all-star, earning a spot in the starting lineup along with teammate Toby Handley. Overall, six Schooners are on the roster for Sunday's game at MacKenzie Field in Holyoke, Mass.

"He's one of my favorites because he's a throwback player," Orbe said. "He just goes out and plays the game hard in all facets - baserunning, defense and offensively. It doesn't hurt that he's batted .400 for a good portion of the year."

Orbe also is impressed with Laurino's work ethic. A few weeks ago, he showed up at Fitch during a rare off-day and spotted Laurino running sprints on the Fitch track.

"That's something I always try to do, work hard," Laurino said, "and give myself the best chance to be the best."

Laurino, who's from the Long Island town of Carle Place, started his high school career as a first baseman, switched to outfield when he arrived at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and eventually moved back to his natural position.

Orbe heard about Laurino from a baseball contact, Marist assistant coach Tyler Kavanaugh, who made a convincing recommendation. As a junior, Laurino had team highs in batting average (.299), hits (50) and RBI (29). He has a reputation for putting the ball in play.

"He was a no-brainer," Orbe said. "He was one of the guys that we were going to build a team around."

Laurino, who played for the Newark (N.Y.) Pilots in the Perfect Game League last summer, welcomed the invitation to join the Schooners. He's satisfied with his decision.

"When I was offered to come here, I couldn't say no," Laurino said. "This place is awesome."

His stay just might extend past the regular season.

Mystic (15-12), which resides in fourth place in the Southern Division, is on track to qualify for the playoffs for the second straight season despite extending its season-high losing streak to five straight with an 8-6 loss to Valley.

Laurino's father, Carl, made the two and a half hour trip for a visit. Carl delivered a care package - chicken parmesan and new bats.

"He really enjoys playing with the Schooners," Carl said. "He likes the kids and coaching staff. He really enjoys the host family, Rachel and Dave Franco."

Laurino will likely be back in the lineup tonight at New Bedford. He hopes to continue his hot hitting and help his team start a winning streak.

The brief all-star break begins Sunday. Laurino is happy to be playing instead of sitting.

"I'm honored," Laurino said. "I'm excited to go out there and play with the best talent in the league."

Orbe believes Laurino has a bright future.

"Is he going to be a major league baseball player? I'm not sure," Orbe said. "But I know he's going to do pretty well in life. He just has the work ethic and that personality."

News and notes

• Mystic has been tough to beat at home, going 10-2 at Fitch. ... Losing pitcher Pat Egan (Southern Connecticut) had his worst start of the season, allowing six runs in 3.1 innings. Zach Weigel (Seton Hall) went 4-for-5 to lead a 16-hit attack. Dan Hoy (Princeton) added three hits and three RBI while Handley (Stony Brook) had three hits to raise his average to .347. ... Only Plymouth, which owns the league's best record, has more all-stars (10) than Mystic. "Our kids are very deserving," Orbe said. ... The Schooners play their next home game on Friday against Ocean State. Game time is 6:05 p.m.

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