When building a batting order, the best hitter is usually third, making certain to get him to the plate in the first inning.

The fourth batter, or cleanup hitter, is just that – the batter that can deliver baserunners, thus cleaning off the bases with a power bat.

Not all teams are constructed that way, due to the lack of one or both of those key hitters.

The heart of the Bay Sox batting order starts with the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, and this year that means catcher Nick Matera from Rutgers and first baseman Karsten Sherman from Keiser University.

Matera is 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and was the third team All-Big Ten catcher this season. Through the first six games this season, he is batting .276 with a double and two home runs for the Bay Sox.

Sherman is a massive 6-foot-7, 260-pound switch-hitting slugger. In his first six games, he is batting .381 with a double and two home runs.

Playing half of their games at Paul Walsh Field won't do wonders for either slugger's home run figures, with the prevailing wind blowing in and the field's dimensions. Other fields in the New England Collegiate Baseball League are smaller and more homer friendly.

Yet, of his two homers, Matera rocketed one out of Walsh Field down the left-field line in the home opener. Despite his obvious power pulling the ball, Matera claims he's not a pull hitter.

“I want to be a gap hitter,” he said. “I try to hit the ball through the fence and, if it goes out, it's a mistake. This (Walsh Field) is small compared to our field at Rutgers. Hopefully, I can hit it so hard and beat the wind.”

At Rutgers this season, Matera led the team with a .504 slugging percentage, boosted by 11 doubles and five home runs. He knocked in 23 runs and compiled a .293 batting average to rank second among Big Ten catchers. He got ahold of one ball against No. 13 Virginia this year that sailed over the left-field bleachers.

“There's a lot of adrenaline out there and (Bay Sox manager) Kyle (Fernandes) does a good job giving the catchers some breaks like DH-ing,” Matera said. “I like to DH, as long as I'm in the lineup. Summer ball is a grind, but it's supposed to be. It's what you want to do at the next level and my aspiration is to play at the next level.”

Matera will be eligible for the draft next June after his junior season at Rutgers.

“I've been a catcher since Little League,” he said. “Everyone was afraid to catch, but I was good at catcher.”

Matera was second in the Big Ten with nine runners caught stealing in conference play.

Having an older brother growing up helped him overcome any fear he had catching the ball. His brother, Mike, played for and is now the coach at Morris County Community College.

Matera chose Rutgers because it was close to home and his parents could see him play. They are visiting New Bedford later this summer and one trip they hope to make is to Fenway Park.

“We definitely want to see a game there,” he said.

When he is batting third, Matera has protection with Sherman looming in the on-deck circle.

“Nick can swing it pretty good,” Sherman said. “I've always been a power hitter, but my dad and my hitting coach told me I want to be a hitter with power. Both of my home runs were to straightaway center field. Here (at Walsh Field), if I miss center field, I hope it goes to left.”

Karsten gets his height from both parents, as dad Jerry is 6-5 and mom JC is 6-2.

“My mom did track in England growing up,” Sherman said. “She threw the shot and played a game called Rounders, like baseball but with no bases. I get my athleticism from my mom. You don't want to mess with her.”

His toughness must come from his dad.

“We're huge Cardinals fans,” Sherman explained. “When my dad was young, he got sick with polio. His mom used baseball statistics to teach him math and team locations to teach him geography. Since then, we're Cardinals fans.”

His dad recovered from the disease enough to play college basketball and be drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Looking at Sherman, you could envision a powerful pitcher, but those days are gone. As an 11-year-old he played on seven different teams. By high school, the wear and tear on his arm caused tendinitis in his shoulder and he became a first baseman.

You would think that with all that size and power, Sherman would have eye-popping numbers in high school, but that didn't happen.

“I've been a switch hitter sine an early age,” he explained. “I played hockey and the dominant hand is on top to control the stick. In baseball, I hit left-handed because the dominant hand is on the bottom. To protect my left arm, my dad thought I should hit right-handed so I worked at it.

“My high school coach told me I had to hit only right-handed or I wasn't going to play. I was a switch hitter and stuck to that. I played with the younger kids on the junior varsity until my senior year when the coach left and the new coach would let me switch hit.”

Playing summer ball in the Seattle-Tacoma area of Washington when he was younger, Sherman played in 72 games, so the 44-game Bay Sox schedule doesn't scare him too much.

On his first off day last Sunday, he headed for Boston and Fenway Park, scratching one item off his bucket list.

“Being from Seattle, the baseball environment at Fenway is awesome. It's not quite like that at home,” he said.

Fernandes hasn't had this powerful a middle-of-the-order in his three years managing the team.

“It's a threat,” Fernandes said. “Both of them have power and Sherman has power from both sides of the plate. You don't come across those guys too often. Karsten and Nick have been matching home runs. Karsten hit one and Nick had one the next day. Then Karsten hit one and Nick followed with his home run.”

Another plus for the lineup has been the play of Luke Bakula from the University of Kansas, who hits on either side of Matera and Sherman.

Bakula is batting .400 with 10 hits in 25 at bats, six walks and six RBIs.

See you in July

The weather has conspired against the Bay Sox when it comes to playing the Danbury Westerners. That will all change when the calendar flips to July and the teams see each other frequently.

The season opener at New Bedford was rained out and rescheduled for July 13. Friday night's game at Danbury was postponed by rain and will be made up as part of a doubleheader in Connecticut on July 19.

The teams are already scheduled to play in Danbury on July 1 and in New Bedford on July 20.

Going into Saturday's games, Danbury is 5-2 and New Bedford is 4-2.

Wild week for former Bay Sox

It's been a wild week for former New Bedford Bay Sox infielder Taylor Featherston.

On June 9, the Philadelphia Phillies traded Featherston to the Tampa Bay Rays, who were looking for infield depth after infielder/outfielder Rickie Weeks went on the 10-day disabled list and infielder Matt Duffy was moved to the 60-day DL, making room for Featherston on the 40-man roster.

Featherston, 27, had been playing for the Phillies Triple-A team, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, where he was batting .270.

On Tuesday night, playing second base for Tampa Bay, Featherston led off the top of the third inning in a scoreless game with the Toronto Blue Jays and hit a 3-2 pitch out of Rogers Field to center field, putting the Rays ahead 1-0 en route to an 8-1 win. It was his third game with the Rays and his third major league home run.

Featherston played second base for the Bay Sox in their inaugural season in New Bedford (2009). The following spring, he was the shortstop for TCU when the Horned Frogs played in the NCAA World Series.

He was drafted by the Rockies, claimed by the Angels as a Rule 5 player, meaning he had to remain on the Angels 25-man roster or be offered back to Colorado at half the waiver price. After his season in Los Angeles, he was traded to the Phillies.

New playoff format

In 2017, there will be six teams qualify for the playoffs, the top three teams in the North and South divisions. The winners of each division will get a bye and the second and third place teams will play a wild card game on Thursday, Aug. 3 with the winners facing the No. 1 teams in a best-of-three Divisional finals. The division winners will meet in another best-of-three series to decide who wins the Fay Vincent Cup.

In the past, the top four teams in each division qualified for the playoffs and there were three best-of-three series. This will shorten the playoffs so players can get home a few days earlier before having to head off for school.