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June 18, 2009

Around the Horn baseball column: Team of the Decade: St. John's Prep, Peabody or Swampscott?

Around the Horn

Matt Williams

The final outs have been recorded not only on this past baseball season, but on the first decade of North Shore high school hardball in the new millennium. Which begs the loaded question: Which local team deserves the title 'Program of the Decade'?

Three local powerhouses qualified for the state tournament every season from 2000-09: St. John's Prep, Peabody and Swampscott. Two other programs, Danvers and Masconomet, made it in nine of 10 seasons — a remarkable achievement, but just below the bar set by the abovementioned cream of the crop.

Let's breakdown some arguments and evidence for and against each of the three powerhouse programs:

CHAMPIONSHIPS: The reason they play the game. St. John's Prep boasts a sterling 30-9 state tournament record, including the 2000 Division 1 state title and North championships in 2002 and 2006. They have two more North final appearances to their credit and won at least one tournament game every season this decade.

The Tanners were 17-10 in the state tourney, with the lone hardware a North title in 2004. They lost in the North final on three other occasions, but faltered near the end of the decade and haven't won a postseason game since 2007.

Swampscott won back-to-back Division 3 North titles in 2002 and 2003, and went a combined 20-10 in the postseason during the last decade.

Edge: Clearly St. John's Prep, compounded by the fact that they're 2-1 against Peabody in the tourney. Nobody wants to play the Eagles in June (unless you have Jeff Allison on the hill, as Peabody did in arguably The Game of the Decade, the Tanners' 2-1 win in the North semifinals in 2003).

OVERALL RECORD: In total regular season play from 2000-09, Peabody clocks in at 151-48 (.759), St. John's Prep is 141-57 (.712) and Swampscott has been 131-65 (.668).

Incidentally, Danvers has the best record of the decade at 167-38 (.814) — and that's including their 15 losses in 20 games this spring.

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