On paper, it’s a classic, inter-sectional matchup.
St. Mary’s, the No. 2 seed in the North, has allowed one run in three games. Hopkinton, the No. 1 seed in the South, has scored 31 runs in three games.
Can the pitching and defense of St. Mary’s contain the hitting of the highest-scoring team in this year’s MIAA Tournament?
That’s one of the big questions as St. Mary’s plays Hopkinton with the Division 2 state championship on the line Thursday (7 p.m.) at Alumni Field in Lowell.
St. Mary’s Coach Derek Dana said a state title, now within his team’s grasp, has been a realistic goal since the first day of practice.
“I felt good about this team,” said Dana. “We had a good group of seniors coming back and we had Johnny [Mulready] and Lee [Pacheco], two juniors who had been around for awhile and had played in state tournament games.”
Dana said the returning players didn’t like the conclusion to last year’s tournament when the Spartans were edged by Beverly, 3-2, in the Division 2 North quarterfinals.
“Right from the first day of tryouts, we’ve been talking about making a significant run in the State Tournament,” related Dana. “The players bought in and they’ve been a great crew to coach. They come down ready to work every day. They’re coachable, reliable, and they’ve been sticking together.”
The pitching has been excellent, especially so in the three tournament victories.
Senior right-hander Bobby Alcock (7-2, 1.00 ERA) has been the ace with 15 scoreless innings in the State Tournament. Displaying his outstanding poise and composure, freshman Aivan Cabral was the winning pitcher in a 2-1 win over Greater Lowell. Senior Jared Coppola closed the door with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Coppola has four saves this season and is the team’s leading hitter with a .442 average.
Lee Pacheco has been a valuable starter on the mound and a defensive stalwart at first base where he has been a difference maker. Pacheco is the team leader in runs batted in. Terence Moynihan, who had a huge catch in the outfield in Saturday’s North final, has also filled in admirably on the mound.
Mulready, a junior catcher who started every game for the past two seasons, is a CCL All-Star and is being recruited by college baseball programs.
Senior Colin Reddy has done a great job setting the table for the potent Spartans’ lineup. Reddy has also been a defensive standout in the infield. Seniors Kyle Ouellette and DJ DiCenso have also been valuable contributors all season.
Dana, who led the program to a state title in 2015, knows that Hopkinton will be a difficult challenge for his 18-5 contingent.
“Hopkinton is an excellent team, the No. 1 seed in the South,” said Dana. “But at this time of year, both teams are playing their best and we’ll what happens (Thursday night).”