Three days earlier, Ryan Browner had thrown 107 pitches in a 5-2 win over Northeast Regional for the Division 4 North title.
Now, the Georgetown High senior righthander was in an early jam, with runners on second and third in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s state championship game against Harwich at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.
With two outs and a full count, Browner glanced at the runner on second before diving into his submarine-style release, hurling a changeup that caught Matt McNeil looking at strike three.
In the seventh inning, with the Royals in command, 11-1, he finished off his 122-pitch, five-strikeout effort, inducing a fly out from Jake Malone to secure the first state championship in program history.
“[Ryan] runs after games,” said Georgetown first-year coach Justin Spurr . “After the 107-pitch performance in the Division 4 North championship, later that day, he was running sprints.
“To have 31 wins in a high school career, I was praying he wasn’t going to be stuck on third [on Tuesday]. I was the assistant the last two years, and I knew that Ryan Browner was the workhorse of the staff and he’s showed it.”
Browner, who will pitch at perennial Division 3 power Southern Maine this fall, credits hard work for his success.
“Before the season, I would take the tires the football team uses and would flip them from the high school to my house,” said Browner. “Then I would throw weighted balls to build arm endurance and power, and I did that both before and during the season.”
The 6-foot-1 Browner pitched in four of the Royals’ five postseason games, striking out 24 and allowing only three runs in 22 innings.
“Losing in the state finals in baseball [to Cohasset] last year and in soccer [to Sutton] in the fall really left a bad taste in Ryan’s mouth,” said Spurr. “He knew what it took to play at that level, and that experience definitely helped him get it done this year.”
The Royals entered the North tourney as the 10th seed with a 9-11 record, but with wins over Fenway, Lowell Catholic, Mystic Valley, Northeast, and finally Harwich, Georgetown proved that seeds are just a number, outscoring opponents 38-5.
“During the regular season, we played mostly Division 2 and 3 teams and we faced almost every team’s ace, so it really helped us when it came to playing in the tournament,” said senior catcher Mark Berkland .
With most of the Royals team members playing together since middle school, chemistry was key. The Ingraham brothers, Colby and C.J., moved to town from Idaho last year. But their cousin, David Ingraham , was already on the team.
“My brother and I have played at second and short together most our lives, so we click pretty well,” said junior second baseman C.J. Ingraham.
“Me and Mark have been playing together since the sixth grade, and the rest of the guys, except for C.J. and Colby, we’ve been together for a few years too,” said Browner.
Last year, under now-retired coach Mark Rowe , Georgetown also entered the tourney with a losing record, yet reached the final, losing to Cohasset, 6-1.
“We had most, if not all of our team from last year and we had our ups and downs, but we were a team,” said Spurr, an assistant under Rowe last year.
“Every year, the team we have is better than the year before, and it is. These kids were committed this year. I would unlock the weight room and they’d be in there for hours, and in the offseason their parents would buy tunnel time for them to hit. They wanted to be the best.”
The Royals went through a rough patch in the season, losing three consecutive games twice in the middle of the season, but Browner and company did not lose focus. They saw the opportunity to come together and build chemistry.
“Losing is always tough, but coach always tries to bring us together both in and out of practices during those times,” said Browner. “Sometimes we brought music out to the field during practice and sometimes we went down to grab food together in town. We knew it was just preparing for our main goal, and that was the state title.”
Georgetown will graduate three seniors, but Spurr said he believes this state championship win will provide a foundation on which to build.
“We’ll have some big holes to fill for sure, but the experience the guys coming back gained from the tournament and playing with this year’s seniors will only make them better baseball players.”
For Dracut, a season to remember
Finishing the season 23-2, the Dracut girls’ softball team made an impressive run, winning 20 straight games, including a 6-0 shutout of Winchester in the Division 2 North final, before losing to Abington 5-4 in the state semis.
Junior ace Lauren Ramirez capped off an illustrious year, striking out 211 batters and posting a record of 18-1.
“We had a very good season and I am proud of how we did,” said Ramirez. “It’s disappointing to lose, but next year I am looking forward to winning it all.”
The Middies finished their postseason run outscoring their opponents, 34-6.
EMass All-Star game rosters announced
The Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association EMass. All-Star game will be held Monday night at Fraser Field in Lynn. Mike Viggiano (Madison Park) and Ron Drouin (Tewksbury) will coach the North seniors roster, which includes pitchers Dan Dymecki (Phillips), Matthew Lounsbury (Matignon), Jason Harper (Northeast), Matt Tulley (Lowell), and John Jennings (Newton South); infielders Steve Girolamo (Peabody), Chris DeLouchrey (Brighton), Gehnsy Troncoso (Salem), Sam Steeves (Latin Academy), and Mac Cook (Reading); outfielders Peter Franchi (Lynnfield), James Machado (Dracut), and Manny Powers (Malden Catholic); and catchers Brandon Walsh (North Andover) and Jack LeClair (Waltham).Ryan MacInnis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.