The state championship was hanging in the balance. St. Mary’s was hoping to return to the glory the school enjoyed in baseball 27 years ago, a back-to-back success story that coach Derek Dana and assistants Tim Fila and Tom Donahue were a part of as players.
Mount Greylock was seeking its first-ever state title under coach Steve Messina, who has been at the helm of the Williamstown school for 24 seasons.
Matching pitch for pitch from St. Mary’s senior Brendan O’Neill and Mount Greylock senior Ian Brink, the game was scoreless for three innings, with O’Neil calmly stranding two runners in the second on clutch, back-to-back strikeouts.
O’Neill delivered the first run of the game in the fourth on an RBI single to center to bring home Antonio Felix (single). O’Neill was brilliant the rest of the way, finishing with nine strikeouts and a three-hitter as St. Mary’s bested Mount Greylock, 3-0, to capture the Division 3 state championship at Fitton Field in Worcester.
St. Mary’s defense had a major say in the proceedings. The infield contingent of first baseman Clay Yianacopolus, second baseman Ryan Borders, shortstop Antonio Felix, and third baseman Matt Costanza – whose relief pitching gem and clutch hitting led the Spartans to a thrilling 7-4 win over Austin Prep in the Norh final – played flawlessly in the field. Each of the St. Mary’s outfielders, John Gaeta, Donald Weisse, and Connor Sakowich had at least one putout while catcher Brent Lozzi was in command behind the plate.
“The guys played great behind Brendan,” said coach Derek Dana.
St. Mary’s added to its 1-0 lead with two runs in the sixth inning. Brady McLaughlin reached base and Brendan O’Neil lashed a double to left field to make it 2-0. O’Neill then showcased some heads-up base running when he tagged up from second on a shallow fly ball and scored when Mount Greylock tried to appeal the play at second base. Donahue, the third base coach, and O’Neill timed the third-to-home scamper perfectly.
O’Neill wrapped up his A-plus performance in the seventh and the state championship celebration commenced in the middle of the diamond.
Derek Dana told a group of reporters that his players rallied around each other all season.
“They went out and they did it and did an outstanding job from start to finish,” said Dana. “We came a long way. At one point in the season, we were 5-4. They redirected themselves, started paying attention to the little things and just got rolling and came together as a team. We had a lot of tough games. Today we had a clean performance that started on the mound with Brendan – he’s pitched big games for us all year long and today was his best of the best.”
Mount Greylock coach Steve Messina said O’Neill and the St. Mary’s defense were a potent combination.
“He [O’Neill] threw well and he moved it around well,” said Messina.“We just couldn’t put something together and St. Mary’s made the plays. We had a great run and won Western Mass. You can’t make mistakes against a team like St. Mary’s. They’re very, very good and I congratulate them [on their state championship].”