Prep Baseball Report

2024 Spring Team Preview: Austin Prep (MA)

Bruce Hefflinger
New England Senior Writer

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2024 Spring Team Preview: Austin Prep (MA)

READING, Ma. - When you are the preseason top-rated Division 1 team in the state expectations are obviously high and that is the case for Austin Prep.

“Our depth is without a doubt our greatest strength,” explained Austin Prep head coach Jonathan Pollard, who begins his 11th season within the program and fourth year in charge, with a head coaching record of 66-6. “We have very physical and talented players offensively, defensively, on the base paths, and on the mound. If we play to our potential day in and day out, I think it would be unfair and dishonest to say we have any weaknesses.”

There are 13 of 15 seniors on the roster committed to play at the next level with a sophomore bringing the commit total to 14 for a team that lost just one every day starter in Dom Gabardi, a two-way impact player for the Cougars who is now at Fairfield University.

“Our top returnees would probably be highlighted by our four senior captains,” noted Pollard, in reference to Jake Zawatsky, David VanderZouwen, Jake Harring and Evan Ventura.

The ninth-rated senior right-handed pitcher in Massachusetts, Zawatsky is a UMass Lowell commit, while VanderZouwen, the 10th-ranked 2024 outfielder in New England, is a Bentley signee. Harring, the 46th-rated senior in Massachusetts, is a middle infielder headed to Hofstra while Ventura is going to Army as the 32nd-ranked 2024 right-handed pitcher in New England.

Jordan Barthel, a two-way standout who was first team NEPSAC last season, and Matt Doherty, the top arm out of the bullpen for Austin Prep, are other valuable returnees. Barthel, a Utah Valley signee, is the 60th-rated senior in Massachusetts who pitches and plays infield while Doherty is a Trinity commit.

“Our program is probably best known for our depth and well-rounded game play,” Pollard said. “We have 91 players in our program with five total teams. We are traditionally a very physical and strong team, but put a much greater emphasis on playing very fundamentally sound with high baseball IQ.

“The keys to our success this year will be our senior leadership. With 15 seniors, their ability to stay focused throughout the countless off-field senior activities and commitments will absolutely determine the amount of success we have this spring.”  

Success on the field is just part of what Austin Prep is about according to the head coach.

“We have been fortunate to win a lot of baseball games and championships in my time here at Austin, but who they are as young men off the field is honestly what I like the best about our team,” Pollard explained. “We have a program filled with hard working and humble young men of the highest moral character. That character allows us to train, practice and play with quiet confidence.” 

Bradley McCafferty, the top-rated sophomore catcher in New England, gives the Cougars another piece to the puzzle on the field behind the plate. The 29th-rated 2026 catcher in the nation is a Duke commit.

Senior southpaw Lukasz Rondeau, a transfer from Central Catholic, brings promise to Austin Prep on the mound.

“Lukasz will be in our starting rotation,” Pollard said. “Lukasz is a left-hander that really knows how to pitch and has an extremely high compete level.”

Another newcomer that will play a key role is Lucas Sarno. The 17th-rated 2027 in Massachusetts will start at shortstop for the Cougars.

“Lucas is a tremendous athlete with plus defensive skills,” Pollard pointed out. “His hands, release, arm strength and accuracy are in an exceptionally special level of defender.”

Sophomore Chase Edgar is also expected to be a big part of the team in 2024 after seeing infield action last season.

“Chase will be playing a very valuable role on the mound this year,” Pollard said of the 11th-rated sophomore shortstop in New England. “Having spent last year exclusively as a middle infielder, Chase has returned to the team this spring displaying an upper-80s fastball with a plus slider. A very athletic 2026, Chase can be used as both a high-leverage reliever and starter.”

State champions in 2018 and 2022, Austin Prep finished 18-4 last season but was unable to play in the New England Prep School Athletic Council postseason due to not currently being in a league.

“With this being our second year in the NEPSAC, we hope to play our brand of baseball day in and day out against a variety of opponents,” Pollard concluded. “It is our hope that in doing so, leagues throughout the NEPSAC will consider extending an offer for league affiliation.”

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