Do you like sitting on the edge of your seat? Then you have to love the spring season. When a varsity team that didn't even exist four years ago — Pope John Paul II — wins a sectional baseball title, you know it’s spring. Take a group of seniors who have already graduated, stick them on a field, and anything can happen. That’s what makes the spring so unpredictable. This season was the swan song for some of the state’s great student-athletes, such as Brendan Flaherty, Megan Hennessey, Andre Rolim, and Catarina Rocha. For all those reasons and more, the spring produced sweet memories. In no particular order, here are 10 stories that stood out.
1. Tragedy strikes; dash of triumph follows
The spring season was barely underway when the bombs went off on Boylston Street. Notre Dame of Hingham track coach and Massachusetts Track & Field official Rick Kates was at the Boston Marathon finish line and saw it all. A role that started with assisting wheelchair competitors as they crossed the line quickly became helping the severely injured. Though he was a longtime EMT, nothing prepared Kates for what he saw. In the weeks that followed, his team helped him deal with that day. Notre Dame won the Division 2 outdoor title for the first time in school history and had its best season ever. “It’s been an unbelievable season,” said Kates. And it was a spring no one will ever forget.
2. Smith completes unprecedented career
The Globe doesn’t pick an Athlete of the Spring, but is there any doubt whom that would be? Milford pitcher Shannon Smith has shattered every record in the books, finishing her career with her second state title and a state-record 1,219 strikeouts. Smith, who is bound for Kentucky, didn’t give up a single run in the 2013 postseason, throwing six straight shutouts, including a 1-0 win over Agawam in the state championship. “This is the cherry on top for my career,” she said. “It’s been a great ride here at Milford.” Maybe the best part is that with Milford’s move to the Hockomock League, fans in EMass were happy to see her first-hand. But not the hitters.
3. And the new MIAA boss is . . . Bill Gaine?
In one week’s time, we learned that Tim Tebow had signed with the Patriots and the MIAA had named Bill Gaine its new executive director. Confused about both, many asked, “Why?” In the case of Gaine, the confusion stemmed from his retirement as deputy director of the Franklin-based organization last June. Even though Gaine was still active with the MIAA, retirement generally leads to golf, not taking over management of 371 member schools and the sports they play. But Dick Neal’s retirement announcement was a bit unexpected, even though he was the longest-serving state association director in the country at 34 years. With the young blood not ready to take over, one veteran MIAA watcher said it best: “It just made sense.” Now, about Tebow . . .
4. Wellesley girls dethrone champions
The first indication that something was different on the girls’ golf scene came in late April when Hingham ended Notre Dame of Hingham’s 11-year undefeated run. Each of those years ended with the Cougars winning the MIAA state title, but that streak came to an end as well earlier this month. Wellesley, led by Anna Dailey (84) and Katharine Fortin (86), won the title, beating second-place Hingham by 16 strokes. “The past 11 years have been a spectacular run for him [ND coach Dave Gianferante], and I’m happy that they won those,” said Wellesley coach Ken Bateman, “but I’m also happy we won this year.” Another happy winner was Dover-Sherborn’s Sophie DiPetrillo, who took individual honors by shooting a 74.
5. Boys’ gymnastics gains MIAA support
No. 5 in the winter All-Scholastic section was bad news for the state’s gymnastics community. “Boys’ gymnastics loses MIAA support” the headline said. We’re happy to report we’ve changed one word. Earlier this month, the MIAA Board of Directors changed its mind, restoring support to boys’ gymnastics with a 13-0-1 vote. “When you look at the boys’ gymnastics community, it may be small in terms of numbers, but I think it’s really what the ideals of educational athletics are all about,” said Lowell athletic director Jim DeProfio of the sport’s balance between competition and sportsmanship. Braintree coach Rich Ellis put it simpler: “We’re very happy. We’re ecstatic.”
6. Tennis community weathers soggy finish
Nobody wants to win a state championship after Father’s Day. With the traditional end to the spring season coming before the year’s best holiday (OK, I’m biased), a June 17 state championship meant only one thing: rain. The hurry-up-and-postpone schedule of the tennis season’s biggest championship was frustrating to players and fans alike. But many survived the monsoons to win state titles. BC High completed a historic season by winning its first Division 1 title with a nail-biting 3-2 win over St. John’s (S). Concord-Carlisle, Acton-Boxboro, Manchester Essex, Martha’s Vineyard, and Duxbury all won state titles in their divisions.
7. Hingham turns up heat at state track meet
David Jewett may coach track again someday, but if he doesn’t, he certainly went out on top. The Hingham girls’ coach presided over a team that won the Division 3 Relays, Division 3, and then the All-State meet on a sweltering day better spent on Nantasket Beach. One star of that day was senior Julie McConville who ran the amazing double of the 2-mile and the mile, finishing second in the 2-mile and fifth in the mile while gaining valuable points. The Harbormen won the title by just 3 points over Lowell. McConville and four other seniors missed graduation to compete in the state meet. “They did it not because of themselves but to help the team,” said Jewett. “I cannot say I could be any prouder of them, and it means a lot to me as a coach.”
8. Journey to a title includes a ferry
Maybe they’re used to it, but we’re always more impressed when a Martha’s Vineyard school wins a state championship. Take the boys’ tennis team. Ned Fennessy completed his 23d season as coach by leading the Vineyarders to their second straight Division 3 state title. And it wasn’t easy. For the EMass title match, the team left Oak Bluffs for Woods Hole and was on the road for 15 minutes before finding out the match was canceled. Back to Woods Hole and a ferry ride home. It took three hours to get to Worcester for the state championship, but it was worth it. And with the trophy in hand, the team was greeted on the island by police cruisers and fire trucks, sirens blaring. “These kind of things are pretty big on the island,” said Fennessy.
9. Middleboro deserved a happy ending
The baseball season didn’t start the way folks in Middleboro had hoped. In late March, former teacher and boys’ soccer coach Jim Braga was killed in a car accident. His grandson Cody was a catcher on the baseball team, and the players wore “JB” patches on their uniforms every time they took the field. The last time that happened was June 15 in Lowell, and when the Sachems walked off the field at LeLacheur Park, they were Division 3 state champions. Senior shortstop Kevin Huscher had the winning hit in the bottom of the seventh to beat Hopedale, 4-3. “I told Cody that was for his grandpa,” said Huscher. “He was a soccer coach of mine. He was a great guy.”
10. Mother’s day in May, daughter’s in June
We all knew Meredith would eventually defeat her mother Leslie. It was just a question of when. It didn’t happen in April, when Meredith and her Notre Dame of Hingham lacrosse team fell, 7-4, to Leslie and Westwood in the first Battle of the Franks. But when it mattered most, in the Division 1 South final, ND (H) beat Westwood, 10-7. Score one for the kid. The Cougars didn’t stop there, beating Westford to win the EMass title before edging Longmeadow to win the state championship. It was a grand finale for star senior and two-time All-Scholastic Alex Dalton, who is off to Notre Dame. The MIAA trophy was a nice prize for a long season. But nothing compares with bragging rights at the Frank family summer barbecues.