When the seniors on this year’s St. Mary’s High baseball team ride off into the sunset, they’ll take with them the memory of winning a Division 3 North title – something that hasn’t been done by the Spartans since coach Derek Dana was wearing the blue and gold back in 1988.
St. Mary’s pulled out a dramatic 7-4 win in 10 innings over Catholic Central League rival Austin Prep in the North final last weekend. The accomplishment landed the Spartans a date with South champion East Bridgewater in the state semifinal. That game was scheduled to be played yesterday at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton.
The Spartans were 17-6 after the North sectional win and large share of the credit for the team’s success this year goes to its nine seniors – P.J. Hatchouel, John Gaeta, Brent Lozzi, Brendan O’Neill, Clay Yianacopulos, Jack Leonard, Connor Sakowich, Ryan Borders and Andrew Beliveau.
Senior catcher Brent Lozzi, who will play football at Framingham State in the fall, said the coaches have drilled into the team that every game is a big one.
“We’re probably the most laid-back team you’ll see,” Lozzi said. “But we go into every game with the attitude that it’s the most important game we’ll play.”
Lozzi said the team has been in big games all season and one of the keys has been to stay loose. When the North sectional game against Austin Prep was tied 4-4 after seven innings, Lozzi said there was always that belief that the next person would be the one to pick the team up. He said when everyone does his job, it usually worked out well.
“I’ve tried to instill that from game one to game whenever, you put everything you have into that game because that’s the only game you can control,” Dana said.
Senior pitcher Clay Yianacopulos, who will be playing at Assumption College next season, was scheduled to start on Wednesday. He said the team has come a long way since the beginning of the season.
“It has a lot to do with confidence and us as a team and the way be bonded,” he said. “We’re playing our best baseball of the season.”
The Spartans needed to bring their “A” game against Austin Prep. The Cougars threatened in the first inning, but catcher Lozzi picked off a runner at first base. St. Mary’s escaped with a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double plays. The Spartans scored their first run in the second inning when Gaeta hit a ground ball toward shortstop that resulted in an infield hit and an RBI.
St. Mary’s made it 2-0 in the third inning on an RBI single to left field. Austin Prep got both runs back in the fourth inning courtesty of an Andrew Gerety home run over the left field fence. The Spartans made it 3-2 when Matt Costanza walked with the bases loaded. An RBI double by Lozzi in the top of the seventh would give St. Mary’s a 4-2 lead, but that would be erased in the bottom half of the inning when Austin Prep would pick up a pair of runs on RBI singles with two outs to tie the game at 4-4.
Costanza would also single in the winning run in the 10th inning and pick up the win in relief of Brendan O’Neill.
If the Spartans are still alive after the state semifinal, they’ll be making the trip to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester on Saturday for the state final. Senior first baseman Jack Leonard was confident going into the semifinal that this team had the chops to keep going.
“We’re fully capable of taking it home,” he said.
Senior left fielder Gaeta also expressed confidence in his team.
“It’s been quite a ride so far,” he said. “It’s all exciting. We’re playing our best baseball in the playoffs.”
Dana said he and the team received lots of support from the St. Mary’s alumi during the tournament run. He said he’s heard from old teammates as well as guys who played before and after him.