Franklin’s Leenhouts excels as Northeastern starter
The sophomore left-hander from Franklin struck out 88 batters in 71.2 innings and earned Colonial Athletic Association first-team honors.
A three-sport athlete at Franklin High, Leenhouts was 3-4 in 11 starts with three of the losses coming in games decided by two runs or fewer.
His 11.05 strikeouts per nine innings was best among conference starters, and ranked 14th among NCAA Division 1 pitchers. His strikeout total was the fifth best in program history.
“We had three returning rotation guys last year, so it was our plan right from the beginning that Andrew would primarily pitch in relief and become a starter this year,’’ said NU coach Neil McPhee, of Needham.
“We put him in pressure situations as a freshman and he just went out and threw strike after strike,’’ McPhee said.
“His body language and everything about him showed confidence and competitiveness and he just continued to improve this year.
“His first start this year was against a very good Virginia Commonwealth team in which he took a 4-2 lead into the ninth, but he got kneed in the head trying to tag out a runner on a dribbler up the first-base line, and we lost the game on an infield error after taking him out. That was pretty typical of some tough losses that made this a long season, but also typical of how well he pitched.’’
Leenhouts, who had a 2.37 earned-run average last year and 3.14 ERA this season, was sensational over eight innings on April 18 against George Mason, striking out 15 and allowing just two hits.
He also had 12- and 10-strikeout games, respectively, vs. Old Dominion and University of North Carolina Wilmington.
McPhee said the 6-foot-3 Leenhouts reminds him of another standout NU lefty, Westborough’s Greg Montalbano, the former Red Sox draftee and farmhand who died of cancer last year.
“His delivery, command of the strike zone and composure are similar to Greg,’’ said McPhee. “Andrew is a little bigger and stronger, but Greg’s medical condition had something to do with that. We saw Andrew play three or four times at Franklin High and he was our top pitching recruit.
“Pete Pasquarosa, the former athletic director there, told me that Andrew was a fearless defensive player in football, and I believe that kind of competitive edge carries over into all sports, particularly when you’re a pitcher in a close game in the late innings.
“And his command of the strike zone at this stage of his career is extraordinary and he’s only going to get better at it,’’ added McPhee.
At Franklin High, Leenhouts was a baseball captain and MVP, a Hockomock League MVP and All-Star, and a standout pitcher and outfielder on the league championship team his senior year.
He also played two seasons of varsity football and basketball.
Robinson, who helped the 4x100 squad establish a school record (40.77), also finished third in the 100-meter final while breaking his own school record with a time of 10.58.
Robinson is a graduate of Newton North High and Phillips Exeter Academy, while Jeffrey attended the Rivers School in Weston.
The relay teams’ performances marked the first track victories at the NCAAs — indoor or outdoor — for the Norton school, and earned Robinson and Jeffrey All-America honors.
“We went into the NCAA meet with a big target on our backs, being ranked number one in both relays, and those squads, as well as Cailean in the 100 meters, all performed well,’ said Marc Managiacotti, who shares head coaching duties.
“Finishing in the top five in the nation as a team is an accomplishment they will never forget.’’
According to the Intercollegiate association, it is given to individuals, “who have exhibited outstanding sportsmanship and leadership as well as scholastic, extracurricular, and tennis achievements.’’
A team captain, Cava, from Quito, Ecuador, led the Falcons to both the Northeast-10 Conference regular season and tournament championships and to the NCAA tournament, going 22-0 in conference matches and being named the conference’s Player of the Year.
Cava finished the season with an overall record of 44-6 (26-1 singles, 18-5 doubles) and with a 20-match singles winning streak.
He had previously been honored by the ITA as the Division 2 East Region Arthur Ashe Award winner.
Marvin Pave can be reached at 508-820-4223 or marvin.pave@ rcn.com