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Roger Brown's State of Sports: Manchester guy Cenatiempo takes over at St. Anselm

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 18. 2018 10:31PM
Coach Nick Cenatiempo instructs St. Anselm players during a practice last week. (COURTESY)

When Nick Cenatiempo was hired last June to coach the St. Anselm College baseball team, it didn’t take him long to become familiar with his surroundings. He certainly didn’t need any help finding the school’s baseball field, since he grew up about a half mile from the field’s pitcher’s mound.

Cenatiempo, 30, played high school baseball at Manchester West, and then pitched at the collegiate level for St. John’s. He went 8-5 during his career with the Red Storm, posting 124 strikeouts in 159 innings. The team went 156-77 in those four years, winning three Big East Championships and qualifying for the NCAA tournament three times.

Centatiempo was also an assistant coach at St. Anselm under Barry Rosen from 2011-2015. Now he’s back in the old neighborhood.

“I’ve been on this campus since I was very young,” Cenatiempo explained. “In high school I used to throw here in the Carr Center, and I used to work the baseball camps here. Living down the street when this field was built in the early 2000s, my father used to take me here all the time to hit. Bob Kerrigan, who was also a head coach here, was my former gym teacher, so I always kinda had St. A’s in my family.

“Once I knew the job was going to be opened up I was excited to have the opportunity to interview for it and I was fortunate enough that they wanted me back here.”

New Hampshire is home to some of the top Division II baseball in the country. Cenatiempo’s goal, at least one of them, is to build a program that’s mentioned in the same breath as Franklin Pierce and Southern New Hampshire in terms of on-field success. The Ravens and Penmen are no strangers to the NCAA tournament, an event the Hawks haven’t participated in since 2012.

SNHU and Franklin Pierce were picked to finish first and second, respectively, in the Northeast Division when the Northeast-10 preseason coaches’ poll was released. St. Anselm was picked seventh in the eight-team division.

Cenatiempo spent the last two seasons as the top assistant at SUNY Cortland, a top Division III program that made the NCAA regionals in each of his two seasons there and advanced to the Division III World Series in 2016.

His tenure as St. Anselm’s head coach couldn’t have started any better, as the Hawks opened the season by sweeping a doubleheader from East Stroudsburg on Saturday in North Carolina. The Hawks followed that up with a 7-0 loss to Le Moyne on Sunday.

According to Cenatiempo, everything is in place at St. Anselm for the program to succeed.

“I’ve always said you can win here,” he said. “We have the facilities, we have a beautiful campus (and) we have a great education. That’s ultimately what gets kids here — the quality of education they’re going to get.

“I think we’re just trying to develop a culture here that we’re going to help our young men be better people once they leave here. We want to give them a great experience on the field, but also develop them as adults. Basically once they leave here to have the mindset to be a successful person.”

Cenatiempo said his two years as a manager in the NECBL did a lot to prepare him for his first season as a college head coach. He served as the Laconia Muskrats manager in 2015 and managed the Upper Valley Nighthawks in 2016.

Being the New Hampshire guy that he is, Cenatiempo said he’s hoping to build his program with in-state kids — at least to the extent that he can.

“I want local kids,” he said. “I do. I think to keep local kids home it’s a huge advantage for them. Now I understand some guys might want to go away. It makes it easy for me to relate to a kid when I know where he comes from. We’re looking forward to kind of rebuilding a partnership with these local coaches, so they’re able to just give us a call and let us know about guys.”

There are five New Hampshire residents on this year’s St. Anselm roster: freshman pitcher Griffin St. Onge (Litchfield), junior pitcher JJ Dunn (Nashua), junior pitcher Preston Yerrington (Manchester), freshman pitcher Will Conaton (Windham) and senior pitcher Andy Williams (Merrimack).

Dunn, who played at Nashua South, tossed a two-hitter in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. He struck out eight in the 4-0 victory. It was the first complete game of his college career and he didn’t allow a batter to advance past first base.

“We have good young coaches in the state and they’re basically a farm program for us,” Cenatiempo said. “They’re a farm team. That’s why keeping local guys home is huge for us. It’s important to us. It’s important to me because it’s a personal thing.

“I think a lot of kids need to have their eyes opened up to what we have here. Because St. A’s is kind of tucked away on the outside of Manchester. We just need to get kids on our campus. It’s a matter of us getting kids here and showing them what we have. And hopefully me, being a local guy, being back here is definitely opening that up.”

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