By Phil Stacey
---- — LOWELL — Their starting pitcher wore fluorescent green socks under his ankle-length baseball pants.
He and the rest of his Masconomet teammates, as they have since mid-April, wore baseball hats with the words ‘Boston Strong’ written in black ink on either side of the red ‘M’ that adorns their caps.
And everyone associated with the Chieftains’ baseball program wore smiles as long as Route 97 by the middle of yesterday afternoon.
Captain Speros Varinos snapped a tie game in the top of the seventh and final inning with an RBI single to left and teammate Tom Budrewicz added a two-run single, enabling Masconomet to capture the Division 2 North title with a 5-2 victory over Danvers at LeLacheur Park.
It was the 13th straight victory for Masconomet (19-5), which won the North crown in head coach T.J. Baril’s first season at the helm. The Chieftains haven’t given up more than two runs in a game since their winning streak began on May 6.
“It’s just a great, great feeling,” said Varinos, the Cape Ann League’s Player of the Year, who had two hits, scored twice and knocked in the game-winning run. He also earned the save, coming on in the bottom of the seventh after teammate Joe Klingensmith hurled the first six frames to pick up the win.
“We knew we were facing a great team, but we’re confident in ourselves and our ability. We got down early but had the faith we could come back. We got that run to tie it (2-2) in the sixth, then really made it happen in the seventh.”
After capturing the program’s fifth North championship, the Chieftains advance to the Division 2 state semifinals tomorrow night in Brockton (time TBA) against Hingham.
Trailing since Danvers (21-4) got two runs in the bottom of the second inning, Masconomet got a run back in the third on Klingensmith’s long double to left, which plated Varinos. They tied it in the sixth after Klingensmith had an infield single, was sacrificed to second and came home on third baseman Greg Jain’s single to center.
So what did Baril say to his team before the seventh inning began?
“I’ll be 100 percent honest with you: we told them ‘You guys talk’,” he said. “We’ve played 24 games together now and know who we are and what we need to do.”
And so they did.
Elias Varinos (Speros’ freshman brother) reached on an infield error with one out, took second when Greg Dougherty singled to deep shortstop and scored when his brother fought off a Raffy Tylus fastball on the hands and snuck a sharp grounder by Danvers shortstop Evan Eldridge and into left field, giving Masco its first lead, 3-2.
“I just wanted to get a good swing in after being down 0-2, then fouling another pitch off,” said the 18-year-old Varinos. “I knew I couldn’t strike out in that situation. I got a fastball and with the infield in, I just had to poke it through.”
With runners on second and third, Danvers chose to intentionally walk Klingensmith, the cleanup hitter, and face Tom Budrewicz. The junior got some advice from Jain before stepping into the batter’s box and flared a shot into right field, scoring both Dougherty and pinch runner Sam Hamburger.
“Greg Jain told me to take it as an insult when they were walking Joe,” admitted Budrewicz. “He said get up there and make them pay.”
Second-seeded Danvers played uncharacteristically at times; the Falcons commited three errors (after playing errorless ball in their previous three playoff games) and made nine outs through the air instead of hitting the ball on the ground and forcing the Chieftains to make plays.
“Their infield was playing two or three steps in on the grass at times; we needed to hit down on the ball and some ground balls through their defense,” said Danvers head coach Roger Day. “We’ve won this season with pitching, great defense and finding a way to get around the bases, but today we weren’t able to do that.
“Credit Masconomet; they’ve got some real athletes over there, some real good ballplayers. And (Klingensmith) made some real big pitches when he had to. He was poised and confident. We were one hard-hit ball away from opening things up a bit (in the sixth), but he was tough when he had to be.”
The Falcons put the first two runners on in the bottom of the sixth after Tylus (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 3 K) singled and Tyler Dustin reached on an error. Eldridge’s sacrifice bunt moved each up a base, but Klingensmith bore down and struck out Joe Olszak before getting Andrew Olszak to fly out to deep center.
“I was a little bit tired from throwing a lot of pitches on Tuesday and didn’t have my best stuff,” admitted the neon-socked Klingensmith, who allowed just four hits and struck out two, with five walks and 97 pitches thrown. “And I didn’t strike out a lot of guys like I did last time out (11 vs. Winchester), but I have a lot of faith in my defense and they made all the plays behind me.”
Danvers got its only two runs in the bottom of the second when Dustin, who had singled, came home when Klingensmith was called for a balk with the bases loaded. Senior A.J. Couto’s RBI single to left plated Joe Olszak, but Andrew Olszak was thrown out at the plate trying to score to end the inning.
“We believe in every guy on this team. They just persevere,” said Baril. “It doesn’t matter what shirt you’re wearing or which sock you put on first or what kind of gum you’re chewing; once you get between the lines, it’s just baseball.”