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Josh Ross recently finished his fourth season as the starting varsity catcher for the Valley Regional baseball squad. Josh posted a .420 batting average and had 16 RBI for the Warriors, who claimed their first State Tournament victory since 2006 this spring. (Photo courtesy of Josh Ross )
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Josh Ross led the Valley Regional baseball team to one of its most successful seasons in the past decade this spring. Josh, a senior captain catcher, called a number of important games behind the plate for the Warriors as they turned in a 12-win campaign that included Valley’s first State Tournament victory since 2006. Josh also took home some hardware for his stellar season by earning All-State and All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors, in addition to the Warriors’ Most Valuable Player Award.
It was a special moment for Josh when Valley notched its 4-2 win over Killingly in the first round of the Class M State Tournament. The two-year captain had wanted to get a victory in states ever since he started playing for the Warriors. So, when he closed his mitt around the pop-fly that marked the final out of the game, Josh felt proud of what he and his teammates had accomplished.
“That was great. It was the first Valley baseball states win in 13 years. That’s something that has been a personal goal of mine,” says Josh. “Over the past four years, we had some good teams, but we didn’t get that win. It was great to reach that personal goal.”
Josh had a lot on his shoulders as the lone senior captain for the Warriors, although he took it in stride. While he wanted everyone to play hard to help Valley win games, Josh also wanted his teammates to enjoy playing the sport that they love.
“It was a great experience, being the guy that’s been around the longest. It’s a position that helps the team play better on the field. But off the field, it was good to get a group of guys together having fun,” Josh says. “I tried not to be the guy making jokes, but I wanted everyone to have a good time. If I’m working hard and still having fun, it makes for a great atmosphere.”
Josh’s approach at the plate changed a bit this season, and that played a big part in getting the Warriors to the state tourney. Josh has always been a patient hitter who makes the opposing pitcher work hard in order to get the count in his favor. However, this year, Josh made an effort to leap on pitches that he could handle, even when he wasn’t in a hitter’s count. Josh finished the season with a .420 batting average and 16 RBI.
“I tried to be more aggressive early in the count. I tried to attack pitches early in the count way more than I had in the past,” says Josh, a Chester resident. “I like to be able to make the pitcher work, but sometimes, I’ll get on that first pitch, get on base, and start a rally. I usually hit second, and I wanted to get on base and keep the line moving.”
As a catcher, Josh took on the responsibility of calling every game that Valley played. Josh had a good understanding of what was working for his battery mates on a given day and tried to call pitches accordingly.
“I personally believe in making calls based off the pitcher’s strength, rather than what I know about a hitter,” says Josh, who made the All-Shoreline Conference Second Team in his junior year. “First time through the order, I’ll see what’s working for the pitcher. Then second, third time, I’ll look to see what the hitter is trying to do with the ball. You also have to consider how your pitcher is doing and how long he’s been in the game.”
Josh also did a good job of keeping runners honest on the base paths. A few times this season, Josh caught a runner with a bit too long of a lead and quickly turned that scenario into an out.
“Me and our first baseman, Chris Sparaco, we caught a couple of guys sleeping this year. We have a little signal that we use. It worked a couple of times,” Josh says. “The back picks at first, second, or third can be great if you’re in trouble with runners on. It’s a good way to help out your pitcher. You have to look at the runner each pitch and see if they’re heavy on their front foot.”
Head Coach Brian Drinkard saw Josh’s progression as a player during the past few seasons. Drinkard enjoyed Josh’s production on the field, but just as important, his senior captain made a big impact as a leader both on the diamond and in the dugout.
“Josh has been a varsity catcher for four years, led our team in batting average in 2018, and he was the team’s Most Valuable Player this year,” says Drinkard. “He works harder and longer at improving his baseball skills than any player I have ever coached. He’s been a captain for the past two seasons and he is like having a coach on the field.”
This fall, Josh will be heading to Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he will continue his baseball career playing for the Division III Golden Bears. While he’s excited about his future, Josh will always remember the four years that he spent with the Warriors, and he leaves the program feeling that they’re in great shape.
“I’ll always be thankful to Coach Gary Marineau for giving me a shot my freshman year. I loved playing for him, but when he left, Coach Drinkard took over, and it’s been an awesome experience, too. Our assistant coaches, all those guys have been great for the program and for me. I’m definitely going to miss them a lot,” Josh says. “They’re definitely in a good spot. We had a lot of guys step up this year. I’ve heard good things about the group of players coming up. I would say they’re heading in the right direction.”
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