Which player backs up the pitcher when he is covering home plate with the runner on third base trying to score on a passed ball or a wild pitch? St. Mary’s High School head baseball coach Derek Dana answered immediately, “The first baseman.” As it turns out, that was one of the key plays of St. Mary’s 5-2 victory over Hopkinton in the Division 2 state championship game.
St. Mary’s players Tad Giardina and Dante D’Ambrosio both scored on the play, with D’Ambrosio never hesitating as he raced around third base to score the fourth run of the game. There was also a force-eliminated 3-6 double play (from first baseman Ryan Fraher to shortstop Terence Moynihan), and a key tag-up from second to third by All-Scholastic pitcher Aiven Cabral. As Hopkinton Coach Steve Simoes said after the game, “St. Mary’s made the key plays and we didn’t.” What St. Mary’s fans saw throughout its run to a state championship was fundamentally sound baseball. That’s Derek Dana baseball.
That’s St. Mary’s baseball, Division 1 UMass Amherst baseball, and San Francisco Giants baseball. St. Mary’s has now won three state titles in six seasons, the best run of any school in Massachusetts. And many observers believe St. Mary’s might have been celebrating a three-peat if not for the pandemic that canceled the entire 2020 season. Local TV broadcaster John Hoffman remembers Derek Dana, the high school star, when he and current St. Mary’s pitching coach Tim Fila formed an incomparable battery for St. Mary’s back-to-back state titles in 1987 and 1988.
“Obviously Derek was a superb talent and a great team leader – he was drafted by the Major Leagues and he played Division 1 college baseball,” said Hoffman. “He and Timmy [Fila] worked well together back then as teammates and they’re working well together now.” As for Dana’s sterling record as a Lynn baseball coach, Hoffman said that he merits recognition among the best of all time, a list that includes Frank Carey (North Reading), Jim Tgettis (St. Mary’s and Lynn Classical), and Ron Bennett (Lynn English).
“When you win back-to-back and three titles in six years, it puts you in that elite category,” said Hoffman. “Derek’s teams always play fundamentally sound baseball. They don’t beat themselves. What he did with this group was unbelievable after going 6-5 in the first 11 games. They did a great coaching job not only developing Aiven Cabral as a pitcher, but also the younger pitchers, Eric Bridges, John Nowicki, and Tommy Falasca.” St. Mary’s Director of Athletics Jeff Newhall, who has led the girls basketball program to similarly dazzling heights, said that Dana’s work is appreciated by all at the high school. “Derek has worked hard to give his players the total baseball and student-athlete experience, not only the outstanding instruction that comes from Derek’s own years as a Division 1 college player and professional baseball player, but from the overall respect and enjoyment of the game of baseball that his players will carry with them forever,” lauded Newhall.
“To attend that St. Mary’s-Hopkinton game in Hopkinton and have hundreds of their fans lining the field, and for Derek’s players to execute all the little things you need to do – that’s how state championships are won.” While Dana said he’s very proud of how his players worked hard and united to become a state champion, the former catcher is particularly proud of Colby Magliozzi’s development as the St. Mary’s backstop this season. “You can’t say enough about that kid,” said Dana. “He gives you everything that he has. He had an excellent season in his first year behind the plate.” What’s next for Derek Dana and the state champion St. Mary’s Spartans? There will be an awards banquet, state championship rings, another banner on the wall at the Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium – and then next spring the returning St. Mary’s players – including Division 1 college prospect Aiven Cabral – will try to make it three titles in a row.