Mike Driscoll perfectly fits the image of a coach’s dream.
Described as a dedicated, hard-working leader, the 6-foot righty headed to Northeastern University spent three seasons on the varsity baseball squad at St. John’s Prep while maintaining a high grade point average.
As a senior this spring, pitching on a loaded staff, Driscoll sported a 1.24 ERA and 20 strikeouts over 17 innings pitched. His stats were admirable, but it was his work ethic that stood out, earning him the coach’s award for his effort as a player and as a teammate.
Having just completed his 33d and final year as the varsity coach at St. John’s, Pat Yanchus has the utmost respect for Driscoll.
“He’s an outstanding person, a hard worker, a leader in practice, and a good teammate,” Yanchus said of the North Reading resident. “He’d carry equipment, chase down foul balls; whatever needed to be done, Mike would do it.”
Now dominating on the mound for Danvers Post 180, Driscoll has earned half of the team’s six wins and is sporting a 1.40 ERA, racking up 33 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched.
Joe Olszak , who caught Driscoll two years ago with an AAU team in Middleton and has worked as his batterymate this summer with the Legion team, says the pitcher has really upped his velocity.
“His fastball’s probably the fastest I’ve ever caught,” said Olszak, who will be a freshman at Gordon College. “His slider is sometimes inconsistent, but he’s got a great changeup and keeps everything down. He’s just really easy to catch.”
Although Northeastern will not allow Driscoll to pitch for Danvers (6-6) past July 15, manager Tom Ladd could not be happier to have Driscoll represent Post 180.
“He has very good velocity, keeps the ball down, and has a very good changeup as well,” Ladd said. “He’s certainly our top pitcher.”
Driscoll first hit the mound at the age of 8, and it’s been a comfort zone for him ever since.
On his 13th birthday, pitching in the North Reading Little League, he tossed a perfect game, striking out 17 of the 18 batters he faced.
But he acknowledges that keeping pace has not been easy.
“It’s tough because everyone just keeps getting better,” he said.
“I went to The Prep and freshman year was like hitting a wall with all the talent there.”
Two of his classmates, Brandon Bingel (Bryant), the Globe’s Division 1 Player of the Year, and Dustin Hunt (Northeastern), will also play college ball at the Division 1 level.
“It helps having really good players around you because it drives you to keep up with them,” he said, noting that he did not know he had the makings of a Division 1 talent until midway through his junior year.
“I didn’t even think I’d be able to play [in Division 1], and then I guess people just started telling me that I had a chance to,” Driscoll said.
“Going into the winter of my junior year, my dad told me that I have to make up my mind if I really want to go after college baseball, because if I wanted it, I’d have to really work at it and get in front of coaches.
“That winter I went to a lot of showcases and worked with my pitching coach [Keith Forbes] a lot, and coaches just started talking to me.”
He attended a showcase at Northeastern and eventually caught the eyes of assistant coaches Mike Glavine and Kevin Cobb .
“On the mound I saw someone that has a really quick arm and is athletic, so we felt like he was someone that would continue to get better,” said Glavine, a member of the athletic halls of fame at both Billerica High and Northeastern.
He also appreciated Driscoll’s demeaner and maturity off the field.
“In talking to him, we saw a very dedicated student,” Glavine said. “We don’t have to worry about him working hard in the classroom and we don’t have to worry about him working hard in baseball.”
But the college choice was no easy matter for Driscoll.
Last August, he had narrowed his choices down to Northeastern and William and Mary.
The day that he was making his first visit to William and Mary, Aug. 6, Northeastern called, asking for his decision. That night. But NU granted him a one-day extension as he toured the grounds of the Huskies’ Colonial Athletic Association rival.
The next day, while waiting for his plane at Richmond International Airport, he called Northeastern, saying that he was on board, feeling that the university gave him more options academically.
With the stress of his college decision behind him, Driscoll went into his final season at St. John’s Prep aiming for an unforgettable season.
In the Division 1 North final, the Eagles were stunned by Billerica, 4-3. Driscoll came on in relief, allowing the final run on a balk.
But he was part of a Prep squad that won 22 straight games in Yanchus’s final run.
He also hit a personal milestone: reaching 90 m.p.h. on the radar gun in his final high school game, against Billerica.
Driscoll, who earned a partial scholarship, will don his Husky jersey for the first time in a few months. He cannot wait for the challenge.
“I’m really excited, but it’s going to be interesting because I know it’s going to be a lot of work and I know there’s a lot of good players in that level, so I have to step up my game even more than I’m doing already,” he said.
Medford moves on
Medford Post 45 was looking to add another checkmark to its miracle turnaround season Tuesday night as the Zone 5B champion competed for a spot in the state’s Elite Eight tourney at Holy Cross.
However, standing it its way was a Sudbury team that simply wouldn’t budge, as Post 191 (13-1) pushed past Medford (9-3) and its flu-ridden star pitcher John Lavoie for an 8-5 win.
“We have eight games left and the top four teams overall in Zone 5 make the sectionals, and right now we’re in a good position,” Medford manager Ryan Kozul said after Tuesday’s game in Weston. “We can’t dwell on this game; we have to take care of business moving forward.”
The Northeast softball squad was the only unbeaten team remaining in the Bay State Games competition entering the gold medal game. But the Central team halted that perfect run in the final, 12-6.
Northeast was 4-0 through Tuesday, including a 5-1 win over Central, but split its final two games on Wednesday.
Playing in six games in three days, with just pitchers on the roster — Brooke Bogacz of Tyngsborough High School and Central Catholic’s Meagan Hanley — took its toll.
According to head coach Jesse Bilafer , the strain of the rigorous schedule pushed the girls to their limits physically, but did not affect them mentally.
“They were definitely tired, but mentally they were very strong and they never gave up,” said Bilafer, a rising senior captain on the Endicott softball team and women’s ice hockey teams. “They didn’t let what they were feeling physically affect their mental game.”
“At the end of the day, the girls were smiling; they had a good time,” she said. “Even though we didn’t win the final game, it was a positive experience for everyone.”