By Matt Williams
---- — A second consecutive trip to the Futures Collegiate Baseball League finals wasn’t in the cards for North Shore this summer, but that hardly means the Navs didn’t enjoy a successful season.
Finishing up 26-26 including an extra innings playoff loss to Brockton, the Navs nevertheless grew together as a team. The pitching staff especially battled through injuries and fatigue to get to the finish line.
One of the biggest bright spots for the Navigators was Derek DuBois, the team’s pitching MVP from Haverhill and Clark University. The former St. John’s Prep standout was an FCBL all-star and went 4-2 with a 1.68 earned run average in seven starts.
“Dubois’ work ethic is unbelievable. He’s a great guy and I know he was approached by a scout or two at the all-star game,” said Navigators manager Jon Cahill. “He’s a scholar and he’ll get his degree next year, and he definitely has the ability to get drafted or sign as a free agent after that.”
The FCBL is a wood-bat, college league primarily for players from or playing college ball in New England. The league also draws players nationwide, however, and one of the Navs’ best was from Benedictine University and Illinois: Tim Hendricks.
In his third season with North Shore, Hendricks was an iron man with 48 games played. He hit .354 with team-highs in RBI (28), stolen bases (15), doubles (6) and hits (68).
“Timmy’s a great teammate, a quiet guy that leads by example and does all his talking on the field,” said Cahill. “He’s one of those guys that always has a smile on his face and you couldn’t ask for a better kid to have around.
“He has so many tools — he hits for average, hits the ball to the gaps, runs well, has a good arm. He was a big key for us.”
Bringing together players with different goals and different background for a few months in the summer can be challenging. The Navs had a positive outlook through some ups and downs this season in Cahill’s first as manager.
“You want to find 25-30 great character kids and they’ll find ways to get together and mesh. Our guys got along very well, and one of the most important things to me was they hung by each other. We picked up and supported each other,” said Cahill, who is an assistant at Endicott College as well.
Lynn’s Kyle Devin, a recent high school graduate, was productive at catcher for North Shore, and ex-St. John’s Prep players Justin Peluso and Alex Markakis played as well.
As a team, the Navs committed 90 errors, more than they would’ve liked. That hurt them at the end of the season, with four errors in the playoff loss to Brockton proving costly.
“One of our mistakes all season was giving too many free bases and too many free outs,” Cahill said. “Brockton took advantage of some opportunities and we didn’t.”
Pitching-wise, the Navigators ended up losing Peabody’s Joe Gruntkosky, an FCBL all-star last summer, to an injury after just two starts. Draft choice Riley MacEachern also went down, as did reliable starter Joe Carnevale.
That gave guys like ex-St. John’s Prep grad Rob DiFranco a chance to pitch late in the season. Justin Davis wound up with four wins, Will O’Conner was a welcome addition and Tom Cripsi made seven starts with a 2.07 ERA.
“I hate to blame anything on injuries,” said Cahill. “There are a lot of talented guys around and the guys we brought in did a great job. They competed every day and there are some younger guys we’d love to have back.”
Cahill was also grateful for the efforts of pitching coach Sam Grainger, “He did an outstanding job. He’ll be a great college assistant coach where ever he lands.”
Playing at Fraser Field in Lynn, the Navs saw their attendance rise for the third straight season. In 2011, their last season in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, North Shore drew 19,318 fans. Last year it rose to 23,203 (an average of 1,009 per night) and this year attendance was 26,873 (an average of 1,075, fourth in the FCBL).
From Cahill’s standpoint, the job general manager Bill Terlecky and the front office and press box staff did managing the game day experience was first rate and second to none.
“It was a great experience. I loved every minute of it,” Cahill, a Peabody High and UMass Lowell standout, said. “Working closely with Bill and Ashley and the rest of the staff and interns, they made it possible for myself and the players to be able to just go out and play well. They took care of the fans and the day-to-day stuff, and we owe them. They made our jobs easier.”
North Shore was hoping to go further in the playoffs, and had been hitting their stride with one stretch of eight wins in 10 games in late July. They stumbled near the end, however, and were outlasted by Brockton in the one-game elimination scenario.
“There’s always a lull near the end of any baseball season and we did our best to maintain our steam and fight through it. We hit that breaking point,” Cahill said.
“I think a lot of guys improved this summer and hopefully they can say that and take some things back home with them. I’m happy to say I don’t have any regrets about the season, and I’m very proud of our guys.”