Connor Goetz is a dirty player.
His performance at Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton was a prime illustration. As the temperature reached the mid-80s on a cloudless day, the Cohasset High junior catcher blocked pitches, dove for loose balls, and slid along the base paths, caking the vast majority of his uniform in clay-colored dirt.
In the eyes of Goetz, getting dirty is part of the fun of high school baseball.
“I love being a catcher because you get to be active on every play,’’ said Goetz after a 6-4 victory over Spellman. “Obviously, every pitch comes to you, and I just love getting dirty, grinding it out, and working hard.
“[I enjoy] having so much pressure on me. Being in control of the game is a lot of fun.’’
As three-year starter behind the plate for Cohasset (7-0), Goetz has been calling games, without the assistance of the coaching staff, since his freshman season.
In the win over Spellman, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Goetz called a 126-pitch effort from senior ace Jamie Faber, the fourth complete game he has caught this season.
He is not only catching complete games, he has thrown one too.
After rainouts last season forced the Skippers to play eight games in a two-week span, Cohasset coach Pete Afanasiw needed a player to take the ball for a spot start.
“I’ve always been kind of a pitcher, but since I have been catching, I haven’t been able to show my pitching abilities,’’ he said. “I love pitching every time I get out there. I love being in control of the game. It feels natural being out there.’’
Goetz pitched in Little League, but until last season, saw little action at the varsity level. He pitched in a meaningless game at the end of his freshman year - after the Skippers had already clinched a playoff berth - and earned a complete-game victory over Sacred Heart.
With the Skippers vying for the South Shore League crown, Goetz not only gave his team a chance to win, he registered a complete-game one-hitter, walking one and striking out 10 in a 7-0 victory over Hull. Two weeks later, he allowed two hits over five innings in an 8-6 win over Carver.
“Most high school kids are very, very conscious of their appearance,’’ said Afanasiw. “Connor just isn’t like that. He has a very, very high sense of self-confidence, and that translates to his athletic abilities.’’
Goetz, however, had no idea that his selfless act would soon become a blessing for his team.
This spring, with junior Shane Haggerty still on the mend from a torn labrum (sustained in a football game last fall against Abington), Goetz has been thrust into the rotation as the No. 2 starter.
“Our No. 1 concern was games in weeks where we have three games in a week,’’ said Afanasiw. “We wouldn’t feel comfortable having him pitch early in the week. The way it works now is he catches the first two games, and then pitches the third. That way, he gets at least three days of rest before catching again.’’
In his two starts, Goetz has been lights out: a 2-0 mark, with one complete game and a 0.54 earned run average. In 13 innings, he has allowed six hits and one earned run while striking out 19.
According to Goetz, the more he throws, the more he feels like a pitcher as opposed to a catcher throwing pitches. His teammates agree.
“He really wasn’t supposed to be a pitcher,’’ said Faber. “He’s a great catcher, but this year, with Shane being injured, Connor’s really stepped up and has been shutting people down. He’s really shifty. His ball moves a lot and he can control all parts of the plate.’’
According to Afanasiw, having Goetz step up in the starting rotation “has taken a huge weight off of the team’s collective shoulders.’’
His familiarity with game calling has also given Goetz the luxury of calling his own pitches. When Goetz is on the hill, senior John Collins steps in behind the plate.
Goetz knows what works in different situations from his time behind the plate.
“I trust him with most of his calls because we’re thinking basically the same thing almost all the time,’’ added Faber. “I can’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be able to do that for himself.’’
While Goetz has his eyes set on college ball, he hopes his pitching can help catapult the Skippers to their third consecutive Division 4 state title.
No matter how great he pitches, though, his home on the diamond will always be behind the plate. “I’d say that, really, catching is different than anything else,’’ he said. “Pitching is a lot of fun, but it just doesn’t match up for me.’’
Chiusano powering Hornets
After struggling to find her groove during the preseason, Mansfield leadoff batter Bri Chiusano put together an impressive week for the Hornets.
With Mansfield trailing ace Meg Rico and two-time defending Division 1 state champion King Philip, Chiusano launched a three-run homer off Rico to close the deficit to 5-3. The rally fell short, however, in a 5-4 loss.
The following night, however, Chiusano paced the Hornets to a 14-0 rout of Canton, belting a three-run homer.
“Bri is doing everything in her power to help us win games,’’ said Mansfield coach Jinneane Sperrazza of her senior captain.
“She’ll steal a base, slide, or do anything she can [to win].’’
A four-year starter in center field, Chiusano finished the week 6 for 10 with six RBIs five runs, and five stolen bases.
And Sperrazza thinks this could be just the start of a magical season for Chiusano.
“Her softball IQ is off the charts,’’ said Sperrazza. “She brings an element to the game that is just so amazing. She’s so passionate about softball, so, so passionate.’’
Chiusano has a full scholarship to Division 1 Coastal Carolina to continue her softball career.
Avon softball winning big
As of Wednesday, the Avon girls softball team is tied with Leicester for the most wins this season without a loss at 7-0.
The Panthers have outscored their opponents by more than 12 runs per contest.
Andrew MacDougall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.