|Mike Delponte (.473 average last season) calls the shots for Tewksbury. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
Tewksbury couldn't have asked for more. The young team stormed into the 2007 Division 2 North quarterfinals and had staff ace Scott Oberg on the mound in a showdown with powerhouse Danvers. The talented junior pitched as advertised, silencing the Danvers bats and yielding only one hit. Things went perfectly, until Tewksbury lost.
It was a 2-1 heartbreaker courtesy of a throwing error.
"There was no satisfaction on that bus ride home," said Tewksbury coach Ron Drouin, whose young team finished the season 16-6. "After you play a full season, you're not babies anymore. We thought we could win it all. That taste is still in our mouth."
So here come the Redmen, with 13 players returning. Featuring UConn-bound Oberg (7-1, 1.00 ERA, Globe All-Scholastic last season) at the top of the rotation, tournament experience won't be an issue.
The team boasts impressive talent up the middle. Catcher Mike Delponte (.473 average) leads the team from behind the plate, while Justin Torname (.429) will play center field. Last season's Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star Game MVP Mike Ferriero will bat leadoff and play shortstop, and Bobby Burns, who went errorless last year, returns to play second.
"The kids' expectations are high and mine are high," Drouin said.
With his team struggling early last season, BC High coach Norm Walsh inserted juniors into his lineup. It turned out to be the right decision, as BC High went on to win the Division 1 South championship. Now, BC High has virtually the same lineup, with seven starters returning.
Walsh is looking for big seasons out of third baseman Jimmy Albano, shortstop Matt Kelly, and center fielder Bill Miller. And base stealers will think twice before running on four-year catcher Tom Conley: He caught 26 of 30 base runners.
Malden Catholic brings back the top hitter in the Catholic Conference in Tony Serino and one of Eastern Massachusetts's best righty-lefty pitching combinations in Robert Machado (3-1 last season) and Chris Labriola (4-1).
Oliver Ames coach Leo Duggan's team pitched 25 scoreless innings to end last season en route to the Division 2 state crown. Duggan has two pitchers who were instrumental in that streak, righthander Dallas Nunes (8-0) and lefthander Michael Holmes (3-0 in the state tournament).
Westford Academy (12-9 last season) looks primed for a big run. Two of its losses were against Lincoln-Sudbury ace Kevin Scanlon, the Globe's Division 1 Player of the Year. Westford's pitching is deep, led by aces Derek Klinka and Colin Royal.
Last season, Lincoln-Sudbury and coach Kirk Fredericks lost outfielder Mark Hogan early, but went on to win the Division 1 state title. Now ace pitcher Derek Lowe is hurt and may not be back until tournament time. But pitchers Jordan McCarthey (2-0, 1.40 ERA last season) and Sam Finn (3-0, 1.32) will take the reins.
Acton-Boxboro is led by Clemson-bound pitcher Scott Weisman.
Greater Boston League champion Peabody must replace All-Scholastic Kyle Multner. In the Bay State Conference, Walpole (20-4) earned a spot in the Division 1 South final, but must replace All-Scholastic Sean McDermott.
Middlesex League champion Reading finished 19-3 and Division 2 Coach of the Year Peter Moscariello will look to repeat that feat. At league rival Burlington, coach Jim Curtin is in his 49th year and has 561 career wins.
Danvers will go to battle with senior captains Bob Dean, Chris Perry, Jeff Eldridge, and Jake Korthas.
With defending champion Harwich minus the graduated James Hamilton, the race in Division 3 is wide open. Last season's North champion, Tyngsboro, will make a run, with its top four hitters coming back. Swampscott and Georgetown should also make some noise.
Boston English won the city tournament and the challenge will be to do it again, minus graduated All-Scholastic Roberto Zapata.