LYNN — Brian McSherry received his diploma from Bridgewater-Raynham High two weeks ago, but he was not quite done leaving his mark on the Trojans’ baseball program.
In the fifth inning of the Division 1 state semifinal against Billerica Wednesday at Fraser Field, McSherry stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded, the Trojans leading, barely, 2-1. He swung and missed at the first offering from Billerica pitcher Dylan Lavery , then did the same on the second. He barely got a piece of the third to foul it off and stay alive.
“Another defensive swing, high pitch. I probably never should have swung,” McSherry said.
On the next pitch McSherry sent a line drive to left-center to plate a pair, extending B-R’s lead to three in the eventual 5-2 win.
It was a signature moment for the senior first baseman who had been scuffling during the Trojans’ run to the state championship game, one in a long list of momentous plays for McSherry and his classmates.
There was Tyler Glavin’s RBI single to permanently give the Trojans the lead three batters before McSherry, not to mention the sound defense from Glavin at shortstop while captain Dave Miller is limited to designated-hitter duties with a shoulder injury.
Another captain, southpaw Mike Bruemmel , tossed a workmanlike 7⅓ innings in the South sectional championship after he and righty Cody Medairos sparkled in relief during the first three rounds.
The list goes on, but the theme is clear: For the Trojans, who missed the tournament completely in 2012 but played in their first Division 1 title game in a quarter-century Saturday, the road to success was paved by the 10-member class of 2013.
“The senior leadership has been key for our resurgence here,” coach John Kearney said, citing Bruemmel, Miller, and their fellow captain, Ryan Scripter , in particular. “They’ve kept the team focused from the preseason on.”
Senior leadership. It’s a buzzword for coaches everywhere all season, but especially now when any given game could be the last for the team’s oldest players.
It rings true, too, for the other two area teams that made it to their respective state championship game, Hingham (Division 2) and Middleborough (Division 3).
The first three years of Alex Bean’s Middleborough baseball career, the team had solid seasons, qualifying for the Division 3 South sectional tournament thrice. All three times, though, the Sachems’ season ended earlier than they would have liked.
They lost in the quarterfinals when Bean was a freshman on the varsity in 2010, the sectional finals the next year, and the semis last season.
But this season — Bean’s last — they finally got over the hump.
Middleborough beat Abington, 6-1, last Sunday to claim the South title, then moved on to the Division 3 state championship Saturday vs. Hopedale by toppling Whittier, 10-1, on Wednesday.
“It feels amazing,” Bean said of finally tearing down that sectional title wall. “We’ve always been solid, but it’s great to finally come here and push through all the way.”
The Sachems’ run is the longest in coach Bill Lawrence’s 15-year career. First baseman/pitcher Cody Younger and Bean, the center fielder, have been integral to the team’s success.
In the EMass final, Bean went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a walk.
“[Bean] leads by example, and if he gets upset he puts his head down and does what he needs to do. He plays through that,” Lawrence said of his only four-year varsity player. “We’re going to miss him.”
Hingham coach Frank Niles could probably relate to that. He had to say so long to a group of six seniors after Saturday’s game against Auburn. Speedster Stephen White , Niles’s center fielder and leadoff batter, is in that group. So is Stonehill-bound Eddie Bowler, the owner of five home runs and 36 RBIs in 2013.
“He’s a big strong kid,” Niles said of the 6-3, 250-pound Bowler. “He’s daunting in the batter’s box.”
The senior the Harbormen may miss most is righthander Evan Flanagan , who had arguably the most impressive individual performance of the postseason in the sectional semifinals. In a 3-1, 10-inning win over Nauset, Flanagan went the distance while striking out 16. He also tripled and scored to tie it in the sixth, then had a go-ahead, two-out RBI double and came around to score for insurance in the 10th.
“He’s been very good all year,” Niles said. “And he’s continued to be excellent in the postseason.”
Even when all three teams’ seniors no longer influence what goes on on the field, they can leave a lasting mark on their younger teammates. Just ask B-R righthander Jack Connolly .
Connolly had a wildly successful regular season as one of two sophomores, along with Andrew Noviello , to pace the Trojans’ pitching corps. But when he ran into trouble in the tournament, including getting chased by top-seeded Walpole in the first inning of the sectional semifinal, Bruemmel and the others were right there standing by him.
“[They all] said, ‘You’ve done it all year, you’re a good pitcher,’ ” Connolly said. “The seniors are the biggest leaders on the team. They’re always keeping us in the game. If we’re down one run they say, ‘Let’s go, we can do this, we’ve done it all year.’ They come up in big situations. Some of them had a rough regular season, but during this postseason . . . they’ve all been clutch.”
Added McSherry: “We all know each other, we’ve all grown up playing Little League. It’s been great playing with all of them. Last year was kind of a rough year — we didn’t make the tournament — but all the seniors battled back this year and really made it a year to remember.”