By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater State University baseball team is getting consistent offensive production from a pair of local players.
Freshman shortstop Ruben Gonzalez of Stoughton entered Thursday with the second-best batting average in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference while junior outfielder-DH Jonathan Livolsi of Bridgewater is among the top run producers.
Gonzalez and Livolsi are two of the reasons why the Bears (10-15, 6-7 in the MASCAC) have improved after going 5-22 and 1-13 last season.
First-year coach Greg Zackrison had a good feeling about both Gonzalez and Livolsi after watching them in team workouts last September.
“When the fall was over, we knew Ruben was going to hit in the one or the two hole and Jonathan was going to be in the three or four spot,” said Zackrison. “We knew they were going to be two of our offensive weapons.”
Prior to playing Framingham State on Thursday afternoon, Gonzalez was batting .411 to rank behind only Traverse Briana of Salem State (.577).
The Stoughton High graduate was fourth in the conference with 37 hits, including nine doubles, and had a .511 slugging percentage and a .443 on-base percentage.
“He’s really special,″ said Zackrison. “I heard about the speed. Ruben’s having a really good year. He’s got more pop than you’d expect. He might be a little guy, but he’s got some pop.
“He’s very, very, very quick. His wrists are quick and he’s got a really quick swing. He’s not a big guy that comes at you with power and a big swing. He’s very short and quick to the ball and hits the ball hard a lot.″
Gonzalez had at least one hit in 18 of his first 22 games. He had four hits in his collegiate debut against Susquehanna, one of two four-hit games, and has had four three-hit games.
“He’s probably had 10 hits that are ground balls in the (shortstop) hole and his speed can beat them out at first,” said Zackrison. “He’s a guy who can hit you in the gap and he’s a guy that can beat out a lot of infield singles, so he’s a tough guy to defend.”
Gonzalez is learning the on the fly as a collegiate shortstop in his first season.
“It’s pretty tough,” said Zackrison. “He’s had a couple of mistakes, but he makes a couple of mistakes and then he makes a couple of web gems. You can’t teach that stuff in practice.
“He makes a diving play and throws a guy out from behind the second base bag. He is very, very good at coming in on the ball, the choppers and the slow rollers.”
Livolsi started his career at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth before transferring to Bridgewater State. This is his first season that Livolsi is playing for the Bears.
The 2015 Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High graduate is third on the team with a .341 average, behind Gonzalez and freshman second baseman Liam Bell (.350).
Livolsi is third in the MASCAC with 10 doubles and tied for fourth with 21 RBI. He has a hit in 21 of 24 games.
“He’s our best hitter,” said Zackrison. “He just squares balls up. He’s got the true left-handed uppercut swing. Any ball that’s down in the zone, he just hits hard.
“The thing we’re trying to work with him on is spraying balls more and more. He’s a true pull hitter and we’re trying to get him more now to use the whole field.”
Livolsi is batting cleanup for the Bears and has had at least two RBI in six games.
“He’s a really good player,” said Zackrison. “He is our best RBI guy. There were three games in a row where he got a two-out RBI in the first inning. He’s come up with some good hits.
“He seems to get the hits when we need him to. That’s the best part, he’s our clutch hitter. He’s a good run producer.”