The sounds emanating from the Dana Center gymnasium on a mid-January afternoon aren’t typical for this time of year. It’s not the sound of a basketball bouncing off the hardwood or swishing through the net. And it’s not the sound of a track athlete’s feet pounding against the track.
No, those sounds coming from the gym are different: the “thwack” of ball meeting bat, the “pop” of a ball being caught in a glove. Junior outfielder James Roche and his Bentley teammates are getting ready for the 2010 season.
Roche, a career .331 hitter with 17 home runs and 68 RBI through two seasons, is working to improve his game. That has to be a scary thought for opposing pitchers.
An Arlington, Mass. native and former three-sport star at Arlington High School, Roche has been a quick study at Bentley. He was named the Northeast-10 Conference Freshman of the Year in 2008 after leading the Falcons in eight offensive categories, including batting average (.342), on-base percentage (.403), hits (65) and home runs (seven).
As an encore last season, Roche hit .320 while leading the team in six offensive categories, among them home runs (10), hits (64) and total bases (110). Those numbers earned him a first team All-Conference selection, as well as second-team All-Region accolades.
Roche has started every game the past two years for Bentley and he credits that regular playing time for his success.
“The most important learning tool is simply playing the game and learning what you can from your experience,” said Roche. “That has allowed me to become a better ballplayer.”
Even more impressive: Roche’s numbers improved last season when he used a wood bat. The NE-10 is one of the few conferences in the NCAA to use a wood bat for league games. But member schools switch to aluminum bats to play non-conference games.
When using a wood bat in 2009, Roche hit for a .335 batting average, posted a slugging percentage of .571, and registered an on-base percentage of .419. In each category, he performed better with wood than alumnium.
“The biggest thing going from wood to metal is feeling like you can hit the ball a million miles with metal. You start to come off the ball a bit and try to yank it over the fence every time,” he explains. “With that in mind, I try to have the same approach for every at bat, regardless of using wood or metal.”
With Roche leading the way offensively and 19 other lettermen returning from last year’s squad – which made the NE-10 playoffs – the Falcons are a good bet to make it back to the postseason. Roche is already thinking good thoughts about the 2010 season.
“I always think positively about the coming season," says Roche. "We’ve got a good group of guys in place who want to succeed and work at getting better every day.”
The Falcons, 28-22 a year ago, launched Bob DeFelice’s 42nd season at the helm with a pair of road trips to Florida. The home and conference schedule opened March 16 against Saint Anselm.