Around the Horn
Reminded that he’s coming up on a significant coaching milestone, Danvers High baseball coach Roger Day’s response is a window into the singular focus and attention to detail that have made the Falcons the premier baseball program in the Northeastern Conference in his 26 years in the dugout.
“We’re just trying to get to 10 wins. It’s a battle to get there,” Day said, referencing the number of victories needed to qualify for the state tournament rather than the number Danvers needs to help him reach a remarkable career achievement.
After yesterday’s win at Worcester South, the Falcons are 5-0 on the season. Day, a recent inductee into the Mass. State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, now has 397 wins as Danvers coach.
He could win his 400th game as early as next Monday when the Falcons travel to meet rival Gloucester. Day will join St. John’s Prep coach Pat Yanchus, ex-Bishop Fenwick coach Kevin McCarthy and former Swampscott coach Frank DeFelice in the 400-win club in the immediate area. Jim Tgettis won his 400th game with Salem last year, with a bevy of those victories coming in his time at Lynn Classical, and around the North Shore North Reading’s Frank Carey and former Newburyport skipper Bill Pentingell were well over the 400 mark.
Day doesn’t spend time thinking about the games the Falcons won last week, much less ten years ago. Instead, he’s finding ways to get his team to improve and play its best baseball going forward.
“Crisper and smarter,” Day said after his team beat Marblehead at Seaside Park Monday morning. “We need nine guys focused, going at it the right way and doing the little things. They know what they’re supposed to do, and when we get nine guys doing it the right way that’s when we’ll get where we want to be.”
Danvers executed fairly well Monday morning at Seaside Park, with the only errors they made coming in the seventh inning as the Magicians made a seven run game interesting. The Falcons closed it out and won, 8-5, on the strength of a seven run fourth inning.
The encouraging think for Danvers was that they got a pair of outs as Marblehead left the bases loaded in the bottom of the third with a 2-0 lead. The Falcons immediately responded with a huge rally sparked by clutch hits from Ray Arocho and Dan Connors.
“We work hard at practice and coach has us prepared to play clsoe games. We know if we keep it close, we can scratch some runs across and knock some in with the bats, too,” said Connors, a senior second baseman who had three hits Monday.
Junior Brandon Hyde had three of Danvers’ five wins this year, though with four games this weekn the Falcons pitching depth could be tested.
“Our guys are throwing strikes and that’s what it’ll come down it. They’ve been great so far,” said Connors.
Day’s Danvers teams have won 14 or more games in 14 of the last 15 years, and they’ve won 12 NEC titles in that time (eight outright and four in the “Small” division since the league split in 2008). He led the Falcons to the Division 2 state title in 2001, the state final in 1999 and a 66-game NEC winning streak in that stretch.
Night games at the Twi-Field have become a fixture in town with community support and the rise of the Falcons.
“Coach Day has built a terrific program and we all feel very, very luck to be living in Danvers, playing for such a great coach and in a community that gives us as much support as they do,” Connors said.
No detail escapes the eye of Day and assistant Bob Boyce. The difference could be learning to read an opponent’s swing or arm slot, positioning in the outfield or exactly how much to lead off the bag.
“Everything matters. There are no plays off and nothing is taken for granted,” Connors said.
Danvers has a solid senior nucleus that includes Connors, Arocho, shortstop Evan Eldridge and outfielders Anthony Garron and A.J. Couto. Joe Olszak has been solid behind the plate and freshman Andy Olszak is playing well at third.
“You can’t start any better than 5-0, and it might be better than we expected,” said Day. “But we want to keep improving.”
Senior Speros Varinos has all three wins on the hill for Masconomet (3-1, 3-0 CAL) so far this spring. The hard-throwing righty has been impressive for the Chieftains, who’ve had plenty of time between games in the early going.
“He’s been a bulldog and he’s shown he’s the ace,” said Masco coach T.J. Baril. “He works at a good pace, pounds the striek zone and has done a really nice job.”
The Chieftains have also gotten good innings from Joe Klingensmith, who has tossed four perfect frames in relief in the last two games. Masco’s captains first told the staff they should check out Klingensmith’s arm, and with plenty of practice time lately, they did. He’s delivered.
“His teammates were really advocating for him and we got a look in practice and he looked good,” Baril said. “He’s done the job.”
Speaking of coaching milestones, congratulations to North Reading coach Frank Carey on the 700th win of his remarkable career at North Reading. The defending Division 3 state champions will certainly be one of the tougher teams in the Cape Ann League again this season and topped Newburyport 9-1 yesterday to hit the milestone.
Peabody’s Pat Ruotolo took some time to get on track in his season debut against Beverly last week, though that’s relative to the dominance he showed last season. By allowing a few baserunners, Ruotolo looked human but ultimately recorded another shutout, his 7th over his last 10 starts.
“I don’t care who are you, when you have your first start you might be a little jittery,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt. “I think around the third inning, he picked it up a notch and you saw the ball jump out of his hand.”
Ruotolo’s been remarkably durable, having gone seven or more innings in 12 consecutive starts dating back to his last regular seaosn outing as a sophomore.
North Shore Tech evened its record at 3-3 yesterday and got an outstanding outing from senior Tim Andersen over the weekend in a shutout win over Chelsea.
“Timmy’s locating his spots and mixing his speeds,” said Bulldogs coach Jed Beauparlant. “We beat Chelsea out by a game to make the tournament last year and he shut them down, limited them to three hits.”
Younger players like freshman Mike Mitchell has been contributing with the bats for North Shorer.
“Guys up and down the roster are doing the job. Everyone from the freshman to our captains Tim and Bryan Jackson,” said Beauparlant. “We’ve been spreading the wealth.”
Home runs have been the order of the day for St. John’s Prep, which has won five in a row. Brandon Bingel, Tommy Buonopane, Sawyer Billings, Tyler Noe and Nick Latham have all gone deep for the Eagles during their winning streak.
Around the Horn, a column on North Shore high school baseball, appears in The Salem News every Wednesday during the spring sports season. Contact assistant sports editor Matt Williams at MWilliams@salemnews.com, 978-338-2669 and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN. #StrikeOutALS.