By Matt Williams
---- — Masconomet baseball coach T.J. Baril knows his team is glad to be able to play another game.
“All we’ve said all along is that we want to keep playing games,” he said last night. “We’d play in a driveway or in a parking lot just to be able to play a game together.”
The venue for today’s Division 2 state championship game with Westwood High School is a bit classier than pavement: Campinelli Stadium in Brockton. The Division 2 North champion Chieftains (21-2) will face the Division 2 South champion Wolverines (19-4) play at 4 p.m.
Senior Joe Klingensmith is scheduled to take the mound for Masconomet, which is 3-0 in the playoffs (with Klingensmith beating Dracut 2-1 and fellow senior Will Twiss throwing a pair of postseason shutouts). Twiss has had four days of rest since last week’s North final and will be available if needed.
Masco also has strong arms in junior Ethan Dyer and center fielder Tommy Budrewicz, who has come out of the bullpen during the season.
Westwood has three arms to choose from: Dan Howard has eight wins and an earned run average of 0.95; Eric Bamford had five wins and a similar ERA of 0.92; and Liam Burke is also strong with an ERA of 1.11 and three wins.
“They have some outstanding pitching, very good team speed and a solid defense,” Baril said of Westwood. “We’re expecting the same kinds of games we’ve seen through the tournament: low scoring with good pitching on both sides.”
The Wolverines were the No. 1 seed in Division 2 South, won a pair of 1-0 playoff games and then edged Dartmouth, 2-1, in the sectional final. They finished second in the Tri-Valley League (league champ Bellingham has already advanced to the Division 3 state final), with Howard, Bamford and Bo Berluti earning All-Conference honors.
“We have four guys we don’t have any problems throwing out there on the mound. We’re hoping to compete and keep it tight. We have a team with some fighters,” Westwood head coach Brian Whelan said. “We know Masco’s a good program and they play in a tough league. They’re battle tested.”
The Chieftains return to the site of last year’s state semifinal loss against Hingham looking to win the school’s first state baseball title since 2000. With realignment, the state moved Central and Western Mass’ Division 2 and 3 teams down to Division 3 and 4, respectively, meaning today’s North/South game in Division 2 is a state final.
Westwood was moved up to Division 2 from D3 for this season and certainly showed they belong. It’s also worth nothing that the Division 2 North champ hasn’t beaten their South sectional counterparts since 2005, with Masconomet’s program falling in this game three times in the last eight years.
“Division 2 South is very strong. We saw that last year with Hingham,” said Baril, whose record in two years as Chieftains’ head coach is an incredible 40-8. “This game, like any game, we want to have the same attitude that we’ve had all year. We want to come out and play the best that we possibly can.”
Berluti is Westwood’s most dangerous hitter with a .461 average and 16 RBI. Bamford hits at a .400 clip and has driven in 15 runs, and the Wolverines are hitting .313 as a team for the season.
“Our offense is a ‘When in Rome’ philosophy. It’s whatever the game calls for,” said Whelan. “It sounds like both of Masco’s guys can pitch pretty well, so it might be hard to pound the ball all over the park. We’ll do what we need to try to score runs.”
Masconomet’s lineup has been driven by catcher Mike Manni this postseason; he’s hitting .555 in the playoffs with an on-base percentage of .600. Shortstop Elias Varinos (.400), Chris Rich (.333, .600 OBP) and Twiss (.500, .625 OBP) are also hot over the last three games.
The key for the Chieftains has been that seven players have scored their 11 postseason runs, and five players have recorded at least one RBI.
“Guys are committed to hitting the ball, and when their spot in the lineup comes up in a big spot the trust each other to do the job,” Baril said. “Looking at box scores, it’s been a different guy at the top every game.”
Both teams have playoff experience, with Westwood playing three one-run games this year and advancing to the Division 3 South semis in 2013.
“The experience helps, but you can throw it all out when the game starts. It’s a bunch of kids out there having some fun, and I’m sure Masco feels the same way,” said Whelan. “You hope for a good, competitive game. They’re on a heck of a run and we are, too; that’s the reason we’re both here.”
Masconomet baseball state final and semifinal history
2014: Won Division 2 North championship, results TBA
2013: Won Division 2 North championship, lost to Hingham in semi's
2010: Won Division 2 North championship, lost to Duxbury in semi's
2008: Won Division 2 North championhip, lost to Plymouth North in semi's
2007: Lost in Division 2 North championship game
2000: Won Division 2 North championship, won Division 2 state championship
1999: Lost in Division 2 North championship game
1997: Won Division 2 North championship, fell to Middleboro in semi's
1990: Lost in Division 2 North championship game
1984: Lost in Division 2 North championship game