---- — BROCKTON — As baseball fans, we only see the finished product on the field. All the behind the scenes work that goes into making a good team can go unnoticed, and underappreciated.
For the Division 2 North champions from Masconomet, it shouldn’t. The work first-year coach T.J. Baril and his staff did in bringing the Chieftains together in an incredibly short period of time was remarkable.
Masco (19-6) lost, 2-1 to D2 South champion Hingham, here in a state semifinal at Campanelli Stadium last night. It was a frustrating end to a dream season because the Chieftains saw several chances to take the lead go by the boards.
Just five months ago, though, Masco didn’t even have a coach. Once Baril and his assistants Mike Linehan and Bryan Duplissie were on board, they had a short preseason hampered by weather and just trying to learn each player’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We didn’t know anybody from a hole in the wall,” said Baril, who took over Masco after seven successful seasons at Swampscott.
Credit Masco’s captains, seniors Speros Varinos and Greg Jain and junior Tommy Budrewicz, with helping the staff get to know the program. Credit seniors Dylan Amore, Josh Griffith, Edison Thayer and even Steve Fiore, who couldn’t play due to injuries, with buying in and staying the course.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better group of seniors. They were our eyes out there and it was like having another set of coaches,” said Baril. “They advocated for Joe Klingensmith (winner of two postseason games) to pitch when we didn’t know he threw. We went over lineup tweaks with them.
“We leaned on those guys a lot during the season.”
Varinos, the Cape Ann League MVP, pitched incredibly well last night. The only two solid hits he gave up came in the sixth when Hingham scored the go-ahead run. He fanned 11, and was victimized by baserunners moving up in strange fashion.
In the second, two catcher interference calls put runners on base and allowed Hingham to score first on a bases loaded walk. The winning run in the sixth moved into scoring position because of a balk, after the first base umpire apparently saw the pitcher’s front leg twitch before a throw over to first.
“That’s baseball. This time of year, quirky things can happen. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just one of those weird things you see in a baseball game,” said Baril.
The Chieftains bought into Baril’s aggressive baserunner style and they parlayed that into a 13-game winning streak that was snapped last night. They memorably handed North Reading its first loss of the season a few weeks ago, then topped Danvers in the North final four days ago.
Last night, Masco had runners thrown out at the plate twice, and lost another on an attempt to go from first to third on a wild pitch. In some ways, they fell back into the recklessness that led to a 6-5 start to the year before their 13-game streak.
“I ran us into a bunch of outs. That’s three runs, maybe two, and I got over-aggressive. We paid for it and these guys didn’t deserve to go out that way. They played their tails off,” said Baril.
Masco has a proud baseball program, with three D2 North titles in the last six years under three different coaches. The school’s first state baseball title since 2000 eluded them, as the South champ won the state semi for the eighth straight year. The progress made this year for a team with just five seniors can’t be overstated, though.
“This was a special group, the closest team I’ve ever been a part of,” said Klingensmith, a junior who hit a solo homer 330 feet to left.
Intelligent driven players like Varinos helped Masco get this far, and the older players that weren’t a part of the 2010 run to the North title relished the opportunity to do it themselves. The leaders set the tone, making young players like freshman Elias Varinos and sophomore Greg Doughtery feel like seasoned vets.
“You turn into a family when you’re around each other this much,” said Baril. “That’s the toughest part (about losing). Now, tomorrow we don’t get to hang out anymore
Matt Williams is the assistant sports editor of The Salem News. You can contact him at MWilliams@salemnews.com, 978-338-2669 and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN. #StrikeOutALS.