FORMER MAVERICKS EXPERIENCE COLLEGE LIFE AND BASEBALL TOGETHER

Exeter's Peel, WHS' MacHardy adjusting together at Nyack College
By Jay Pinsonnault
jpinsonnault@seacoastonline.com 

Posted Mar. 31, 2016 at 6:30 PM 

One grew up in Hampton, the other in Brentwood. One starred at Winnacunnet High School, the other at Exeter. They competed against one other in arguably the state’s biggest high school rivalry. Yet, now, when they wake up every morning before they head out to class just 30 miles outside of New York City, the other one is across the room.

How did Connor MacHardy, a 2014 graduate of Winnacunnet, and James Peel, a 2015 graduate of Exeter become roommates and teammates on the Nyack College baseball team? “We used to play together with the Mavericks and spent a lot of time together at tournaments,” MacHardy said before Wednesday’s Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference doubleheader against rival Dominican. “We were friends before, and even through the (high school) rivalry, he’s a great roommate. I can’t complain.”

Peel, who helped the Blue Hawks win the 2013 Division I state championship, says everything is good at Nyack expect for one thing — the school’s nickname is the Warriors. “I feel like a traitor (wearing a Warriors jersey),” Peel laughed. “I’ll always be a Blue Hawk at heart.”

For both MacHardy and Peel, the reason they chose to play for Nyack over other schools was because of head coach Matt Cornacchione. “During the recruiting process, he was the one who cared about me the most,” MacHardy said. “He really wanted to look out for me as a person and a baseball player, and made sure I was going in the right direction.” Peel added: “The first time I met Coach (Cornacchione), just the way he approached me and the way he did things impressed me a lot.”

Both MacHardy and Peel are adjusting to the college game. MacHardy spent a post-graduate year at Bridgton Academy and is coming out of the bullpen in his freshman year at Nyack.

MacHardy is sporting a 7.50 ERA in five games, covering six innings, while Peel is batting .111 in 13 games. MacHardy didn't see any action in Wednesday's sweep over Dominican, 7-5, 4-1, and Peel, feeling under the weather, didn't make the 45-minute trip. “Right now I am a late-inning guy,” MacHardy said. “This is my first time being a reliever, so it’s something I have to get used to. I grew up as a starter and eventually hope to be a starter here, maybe by the end of the year.”

Peel, a three-sport star at Exeter, was hitless in his first 12 at-bats, but picked up his first hit, a second-inning single — in a 5-2 win over Philadelphia University on March 19. He has two more hits since and had started four of the last five games in left field — the same position he roamed for the Blue Hawks — before Wednesday's twin bill. “There definitely has been some adjustments,” Peel said. “I feel like I’ve matured a lot. I’ve adjusted to going up against pitchers who have two plus-pitches. I know I am going to be seeing pitchers who all have a plus-fastball and a pretty strong curveball every single game. I wasn’t ready for that when I got here.”

MacHardy pitched last Thursday, allowing two hits and one run in two innings — the only appearance he has pitched more than one inning this season. “Knowing I am only pitching one or two innings at most, I go in and throw everything right away,” said the left-handed throwing MacHardy. “As a starter, I usually didn’t show my best pitch until the second time through the order. Now, I go in, throw my best right away, get three outs and hand the ball of the next guy.”

MacHardy, in his year at Bridgton, suffered some inflammation and tendonitis in his left elbow. He spent countless hours doing physical therapy both at Bridgton and this past fall at Nyack, but now, the accounting major says he is 100 percent healthy and is throwing consistently anywhere between 84 and 86 miles per hour, just a little harder than his days at Winnacunnet.

Nyack started the season with its annual trip to North Carolina and then Florida, going 1-10. “We played a lot of good teams, a lot of New York-Penn teams, and some of the better teams in the Northeast,” MacHardy said. “We played against a lot of guys who are going to drafted. The game is a lot faster than it was at Bridgton, but we’ve done alright.”

The highlight of the trip south for Peel was his first college game — against Southern Connecticut State University and his former teammate at Exeter and with the Mavericks Ethan Joyce. “I remember all the names being announced on the PA before the game and hearing Ethan’s name,” Peel said. “That was pretty weird. The last time I heard his name like that was when we won the state championship and we were teammates. Now, we were playing against each other in my first college game. It was pretty exciting.”

Peel and Joyce didn’t have time to talk before or after the game, but texted each other later that night. “He just told me how he struggled at the beginning and something just clicked, he got a hit and figured it out from there,” Peel said. “It was good to hear from another person about them struggling with the transition to the college game, and it wasn’t just me.”

As for who is the better roommate? 

“I make sure everything is pretty clean and all the homework is being done,” said Peel, a business administration major.

“I pretty much have control of the room,” MacHardy countered.