There was plenty of history at stake in the St. Mary High School-Hopkinton Division 2 state championship baseball game.
For Hopkinton, which is home to the starting line of the world-famous Boston Marathon, there was the unprecedented opportunity of winning a state title on its home field. State championship games are usually played at neutral sites.
For Coach Derek Dana and his 2021 Spartans, it was the chance to win a second state title in three years after last year’s campaign was canceled due to the pandemic. St. Mary’s had gone back-to-back in 1987 and 1988 when Derek Dana and St. Mary’s pitching coach Tim Fila were as good a battery as you’ll ever see in high school baseball.
Hopkinton took the early lead, but following a great defensive play by shortstop Terence Moynihan, it was All-Scholastic pitcher Aivan Cabral who took command and shut down Hopkinton the rest of the way for an exciting 5-2 victory and a state championship for St. Mary’s High School.
Cabral (9 strikeouts, a sizzling line-drive single and two runs scored himself) and St. Mary’s did all the things you’d expect from a Derek Dana-coached team, but in the spotlight of a state final, it gets magnified forever.
Case in point was Dante D’Ambrosio scoring from second base on a passed ball after Tad Giardina had scored the go-ahead run on the same play. D’Ambrosio unhesitatingly kept running at third base and took full advantage of the Hopkinton misplay.
“No hesitation, great baserunning,” said Dana.
Moynihan’s diving catch of a line drive with Hopkinton threatening to add to its first-inning lead was a momentum turner. First baseman Ryan Fraher started a sparkling double play when he fielded a ground ball, quickly stepped on first base and threw a strike to Moynihan for an unusual 3-6 double play. Fraher later had the memory of catching a popup for the final out of the game.
Colby Magliozzi caught a brilliant game behind the plate and drew a first-inning walk with the bases loaded for the game’s first run. Zac Fisher delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly that scored Cabral, who had alertly tagged up from second to third on the previous play.
Moynihan, who became St. Mary’s “Mr. Clutch” during the season, also had an RBI single.
Cabral was pitching on an all-artificial turf mound, unlike Fraser Field’s dirt mound.
“Aiven was even sensational in the first inning, because most people don’t get out of that jam letting up two runs,” said Dana. “The Hopkinton batters were on top of the plate and he made the adjustment and he didn’t let them score any more runs.”
Cabral finished the season with an 8-0 record, two saves, and ERA of 0.54. He is now 14-0 in his two seasons as a pitcher.
Sophomore righthander John Paul Nowicki came on in the seventh inning to record the save.
Dana understood the huge challenge of playing a state championship game in front of the hosts’ large hometown crowd.
“It’s difficult enough to be the away team but then to actually have to play on their home field, it just shows that our players didn’t lose their focus,” said Dana. “There were Hopkinton fans all over the place on both sides and our team just continued to focus on what was happening on the field.”
The St. Mary’s baseball program won its third state championship since 2015. St. Mary’s is the school who made history on a memorable first day of July.
“I think we played our best baseball of the season down the stretch,” said Dana. “After starting 6-5, we went 15-1.”
St. Mary’s defeated defending Super 8 champion North Andover on the road in the North semifinals, perennial Division 2 powerhouse Masco, 2-0 (in an excellently pitched game by freshman Eric Bridges) in the North final, and South champion Hopkinton in a rematch of the 2019 state final.
“That’s [Aiven Cabral] a really elite high school pitcher, so putting up two runs right away, I was optimistic and hoping to win, 2-1,” said Hopkinton Coach Steve Simoes. “But he kept his composure, he was great. St. Mary’s made the key plays and we didn’t. They’re a well-coached team.”