Every dynasty in sports needs a seminal moment that a team can look back on and say 'That's where it all began.'

It can be one game — witness the Patriots' "Snow Bowl" playoff triumph over the Oakland Raiders, leading to their first Super Bowl title two weeks later. Or it can be an entire series — the 2004 American League Championship Series four-game comeback by the Red Sox against the Yankees certainly qualifies.

So when the subject is the Danvers High baseball program, which played some of the best ball in North Shore history from 1999-2001 — going a combined 71-2, winning all 54 of their Northeastern Conference games during that time, carrying a 62-game regular season winning streak and reaching two state finals, winning the state crown in 2001 — there had to be one moment when the Falcons went from being a very good club to a great one.

That happened on June 10, 1999.

It was that evening at Alumni Field in Lowell that Danvers took on the state's undisputed champion of Division 2 baseball — Reading High — and didn't just beat the Rockets, but did so in a way that was a virtual how-to manual of the way head coach Roger Day prepares his teams to execute.

"Superb pitching. Extraordinary defense. Timely hitting. Aggressive baserunning. A killer instinct." It's how colleague Mike Grenier described the contest in the next day's Salem News, a tidy 3-0 victory by Danvers that improved their record to a spectacular 23-0. "We played a picture perfect textbook game," said Day, who said the game remains his most memorable. "That win put us on the map."

In a contest played before an estimated 3,000 fans — you read that right — the Falcons sent their enormous throng of supporters home happy.

"That game was about as perfect as we could play," added Scott Bevan, who was a sophomore catcher on that team and turned in one of the biggest defensive plays of the night to quell a Reading threat. "They were the team you had to beat in Division 2; it would have felt like we had cheated if we somehow did what we did without having to play them.

"Beating them that night, it was like a passing of the torch."

Regular season a mere formality

The 1999 Falcons came into the season feeling good about themselves. A preliminary round loss to Winchester the previous June saw them end a decent year at 14-7, but to a man they knew they'd be better the following spring.

L.J. DeMaino, the lone senior on the team, was the one everyone else looked to for leadership whether he was on the mound (with 10 wins and throwing 74 percent of his first pitches for strikes), at second base or in the outfield.

DeMaino's ability to get on base and speed at the top of the lineup (he stole 35 bases that season) set the tone for virtually every Danvers rally. He hit .483 and set team records for runs (46), hits (42), doubles (10) and stolen bases in a season.

But he was also well aware of the younger, talented teammates that surrounded him, including four sophomore starters and one freshman.

Brian Marshall was the team's No. 2 pitcher and played second when he wasn't on the hill, while Ryan Holt went 8-0 as the team's No. 3 man and also played right field. Sluggers Jesse Langner (third base) and Jeremy Bourgeois (DH) could mash against any pitcher they faced, while Derek Lyons scooped up virtually anything that came his way at first base.

Bevan was a hyperactive catcher who seemed to make everyone else calm, playing his best when it counted most; fellow sophomore Matt Valentine was a left-handed left fielder who was a virtual second leadoff hitter cranking out hits out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup; and steady David Miller was a rock at first base who could also deliver big hits from the bottom half of the batting order.

Then there was the freshman — or make that The Freshman — Daryle Crowley. So good that he batted cleanup for the Falcons as a ninth grader, Crowley crushed the baseball to faraway spots where high school outfielders never imagined opponents hitting them to. He roamed center field with grace, and although not blessed with blazing speed was an extremely smart baserunner and who knew, like anyone who plays for Day, how to take the extra base and put himself in position to score.

"I based my captaincy on our team being like one big family," said DeMaino, who recently turned 30 and is married with a 31/2-year-old son and another due to arrive in two weeks. "I was a guy who led by example; I felt like my attitude and work ethic showed that. I could use a few choice words when I had to, but everyone was so good and bought into what we were trying to do that I really didn't have to. That team's positive attitude took off like wildfire."

When the regular season began, the Falcons didn't just beat their opponents; on most days, they destroyed them. In outscoring their 18 NEC foes 189-41, they had just two close calls: a 2-1 win over Swampscott in which Crowley scored the game-winning run off a passed ball third strike; and a 3-2 triumph over Marblehead in which Langner delivered the winning hit in the eighth inning.

The Falcons, who had eight players named to the NEC all-star team, were the state's unanimous No. 1 team, ranked as high as No. 3 in New England and No. 7 in the East by USA Today.

"We we played our game, we felt like we could beat anyone. Anyone," said Marshall, repeating the word for emphasis.

Pitching brilliance

A 4-2 win over Westford Academy in its tournament opener led to a second round matchup with Melrose and Day's good friend, Red Raiders head coach Dave Wilbur (now at Beverly High). Remarkably, the host Falcons twice rallied from four-run deficits, including in the bottom of the seventh and final inning, before winning 10-9 in the bottom of the ninth on Bourgeois' RBI single to score a sliding Crowley.

"After that win, I thought it was the greatest in the history of the program," said Day. "I mean, who comes back twice from being down four runs in the same game?"

The emotional high that the program felt after the win was quickly ebbed when they saw who awaited them in the North semifinals: Reading.

Coach Peter Moscariello's team was the model for which all others aspired to be. The Rockets were playing for the right to advance to the North final for the sixth straight season, and always seemed to call other team's bluffs while beating them by any means necessary.

"I remember Reading being so good; they won all the time," said Marshall. "They were the team where if you saw you'd be facing them in the playoffs, you'd see their lineup and all of their all-conference guys and be like, 'nobody survives beating them.'

"But at the same time, we felt like we could win any game, no matter who we were facing. We never thought about losing."

Bevan clearly remembers his team, as the designated home club, taking warmups first before retreating to their bench to watch Reading hit the field for pregame drills.

"I always thought we'd dominate when I watched other teams. That was the first time I saw a team that was as big and athletic as us," said Bevan. "They were like a mirror image of us. It was like, 'Whoa.'"

He needed haven't worried. Marshall, who drew the starting assignment that night, was nothing short of brilliant. Following two first inning walks, he got locked in and gave up just five hits and struck out three the rest of the way. His gem took just 79 minutes to complete.

"When I pitched in high school," said Marshall, "our games averaged about an hour and 15 minutes. I just got the ball and threw it. Coach Day called the pitch and I never shook Scotty off. Get the ball, throw it and let them put it in play for our defense to make the play."

"I was always pitching backwards. I still do," he added with a laugh. "When your fastball tops out at 80 miles an hour, you use your offspeed pitches to set up your fastball, not the other way around like most guys. You have to hit your spots, mix and match. I could do it because I was able to throw all three of my pitches for strikes."

Bevan agrees that his batterymate was "ridiculous" that night, but disagrees with the assumption that Marshall didn't have a top notch heater.

"He could bring it up around 84-85 mph when he wanted to, but his offspeed stuff was so nasty that he didn't have to use it much," said Bevan. "If you looked at Coach Day's pitching chart from that game, he probably threw 50 percent changeups — even when he was down 2-0 or 3-1 in the count — 30 percent curveballs and 20 percent fastballs.

"I always thought of Marsh on the mound, saying to the hitters, 'I don't need to, but if you want me to blow a fastball by you I can.'"

Practice pays off

Bevan, as noted earlier, was involved in the defensive masterpiece of the evening — on a night when the Falcons got a diving stop from DeMaino at second, a brilliant catch by Holt in right field and even Marshall making two spectacular plays fielding his position.

With his team trailing by three, Reading's Kevin McPhinney led off the top of the fifth with a single to right. Bevan, a boundless bundle of energy, naturally sprinted behind McPhinney up the first base line trailing the play.

When McPhinney took an unusually generous turn around first base, Holt knew what to do. He fielded the ball in right field and came up firing to Bevan, who had snuck in behind the play to cover first. The bang-bang play worked — "the first time I've ever seen it done successfully," Mosciarello said after the game — and totally grounded the Rockets for good.

"Tremendous play by Holt, tremendous play by Bevan," said Day. "We practiced that play every single day, and it paid off in a huge situation."

"Once we backdoored (McPhinney), you could see it took the wind right out of their sails," said DeMaino, who went on to play Division 1 college ball at Clemson and now works at his family's restaurant in Revere. "One huge defensive play like that can absolutely kill a team."

While the Danvers offense wasn't prolific on this night, it didn't need to be, either. DeMaino laced a two-out single in the third and scored on Marshall's double to straightaway center. Langner's Texas League single to right scored Marshall to double the Falcons' lead, and Lyons' RBI single in the fourth plated Miller for all the offense they'd need.

Danvers followed that win with another dramatic triumph, 7-6 over Masconomet in the North final after trailing (again) by four runs earlier in the game. The Falcons ran their record to 25-0 by beating Dedham in the state semifinals, 5-3, before suffering a Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson-type upset in the state final, falling 4-2 to Hudson.

The Falcons would have unbeaten regular seasons in each of the next two seasons, finally winning their long-awaited state title in 2001. They even stretched their NEC unbeaten streak to 66 games into the 2002 season before falling.

It was a great time to be a Falcon on the diamond, an era that's unlikely to ever return. And the run of true excellence began that night against Reading, according to the man who was, and still is, at the Danvers helm.

"Everything about that time — the crowds, people putting up signs all over town, they way we always found a way to win — it was so special," said Day. "That one game helped set everything else that happened for us."

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