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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL

With growing familiarity, talent, and depth, Middleborough baseball has been formidable in a 10-0 start

Justin Plausky (18), Derek Zakroski (1) and their Middleborough baseball teammates have celebrated 10 victories, and no losses, thus far in 2021.
Justin Plausky (18), Derek Zakroski (1) and their Middleborough baseball teammates have celebrated 10 victories, and no losses, thus far in 2021.Bud Morton

On the first day of baseball practice this season, first-year Middleborough baseball coach Josh Porter found himself staring at a sea of strangers.

“I didn’t know any of them, not a single soul,” he said this week.

But that unfamiliarity lent itself to a fresh evaluation of the talent on hand, which has led the Sachems to a 10-0 start after Friday’s 5-3 nonleague win at New Bedford.

“We’ve been building a relationship with the guys and earning their trust and having them believe in who we are and what we’ve done,” said Porter, a 2003 Middleborough graduate who played at Northeastern and coached at Roger Williams.

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The Sachems, who didn’t return a single starter from 2019, feature 12 seniors and a deep roster.

“I have the easiest job in the world and the toughest job because I have 18 guys who can play in the lineup every day,” Porter said.

The Sachems lineup has come up with key hits in clutch moments and is paced by Shayne Querscher, who is hitting .387 while tying for the team lead with nine runs and nine RBIs, as well as Nick McGourthy (.280, 7 RBIs, 9 runs and the team’s lone homer) and Alden Larson (.333, 8 RBIs, 9 runs).

The pitching staff — led by starters Tristan Lewis (2-0, 2.11 ERA), Shayne Querscher (3-0, 1.41 ERA) and Justin Plausky (1-0, 1.33 ERA), as well as relievers Justin Tullish (3-0, 1.00 ERA) and Zach Reed (1 save, 1.00 ERA) — has emerged under the tutelage of pitching coach Justin Gordon, a former Milwaukee Brewers draft pick from Taunton who previously served as pitching coach at Temple.

Porter has also faced the unenviable task of replacing Bill Lawrence, who won 327 games and two state championships (2013, 2015) during his 21 years at the helm. JV coach Mike Henderson took over the team on an interim basis in 2019 while Lawrence underwent knee surgery.

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In June 2020, Lawrence lost his year-long battle with cancer. During a 7-0 win over Mashpee on May 22, the field at Peirce Playground was dedicated to Lawrence’s memory.

Porter played for Lawrence, then coached alongside him. They grew to be friends and Lawrence even attended Porter’s wedding. But their family connection goes back even further. Porter’s grandfather and Lawrence’s father served together as Brockton firefighters. When Porter’s grandfather retired, Lawrence’s father got his badge number and his lieutenant position.

“Taking over for Bill has been nothing but an honor. As I sit here and talk about it, I still get choked up,” said Porter, who serves as director of Alternative Pathways in the Middleborough district and lives with his wife and two young children in Halifax.

“I want to make sure the values and what he stood for for the last 20-plus years keep moving on. Wins and losses aside — obviously, it’s nice to win — he preached three things: family is No. 1, school is No. 2 and baseball is No. 3. That’s the same three things I tell these guys.”

The Sachems — who have already clinched their 25th consecutive MIAA tournament appearance — face one regular-season game left Saturday vs. Cohasset before the three-round South Shore League Tournament begins on Tuesday.