SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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June 7, 2013

Varinos' gem lifts Masconomet past Dracut, into title game

LOWELL — Dracut High brought an unimpressive 9-14 record into yesterday’s Division 2 North baseball semifinal against Masconomet, so Chieftains fans might have assumed their team would have a free pass to the final.

The Masconomet players would’ve been foolish to make that assumption, however. Dracut had played much better in the postseason than its overall record indicated, and as the Chieftains discovered, there would be little margin for error if they wanted to move on.

As it turned out, Dracut gave Masconomet its stiffest test in three tournament games. But senior right-hander Speros Varinos pitched spectacularly and his teammates came through with just enough offense late in the game to give the Chieftains a hard-earned 2-0 victory at Alumni Field.

Masconomet (18-5), which is now on an 11-game tear since midway through the regular season, has pushed its way to the North final for the first time since 2010, when it whipped Reading (9-1) before losing to Duxbury (2-1) in the state semifinal. The Chieftains will play second-seeded Danvers (20-3) Sunday at 1 p.m. at Lowell’s LeLacheur Park.

“We have seniors who’ve been on varsity for three years and we haven’t done this before, so it’s pretty great,” said Masconomet centerfielder Tom Budrewicz, who hit a crucial triple and scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the fifth when Greg Jain punched a single through Dracut’s drawn-in infield.

Masconomet’s postseason story has centered on its pitching, and with good reason. The Chieftains have posted three shutouts in succession. Varinos shut down Melrose, 9-0; Joe Klingensmith blanked Winchester, 4-0; and Varinos came back yesterday with a three-hit masterpiece in which he struck out 11. One of those Dracut hits was an infield job.

“He’s our horse,” Masconomet coach T.J. Baril said of Varinos. “He’s been doing this all year. He’s going to throw strikes and our defense has confidence in him and will make plays.

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