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HS BASEBALL NOTEBOOK

With plenty on their plate, these high school catchers relish handling anything that gets thrown at them

Westford Academy catcher James McDermott attempts to apply a tag at the plate on Chelmsford's Grant Engelhardt, who was called safe and wound up scoring the game's only run.Winslow Townson for The Boston Globe

The responsibilities of a catcher are endless. Frame pitches. Block balls in the dirt. Control the running game. Manage the pitching staff. Westford junior James McDermott takes pride in the many tasks he faces each game.

“There’s obviously the things people see like throwing runners out and keeping the ball in front of you,” said McDermott. “But then there’s the side of catching people don’t see. Being responsible for managing the pitching staff and the game. It can’t be taught. It’s more of a feel thing.”

Westford Academy catcher James McDermott said he relishes the mental aspect of playing his position, but it can be intuitive. "Being responsible for managing the pitching staff and the game. It can’t be taught. It’s more of a feel thing,” he said. Winslow Townson for The Boston Globe

McDermott, Natick’s Will Fosberg, Medfield’s Scott Donahue, and Franklin’s Tyler Bellan have all used their preparation, leadership, and baseball IQ to excel behind the dish this spring.

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“Scott is an extension of what we try to do and the philosophical approach we’re trying to bring to our team,” said Medfield coach Dave Worthley. “He’s a leader, he has a high baseball IQ, and his ability to understand situations and call the right pitches helps our team tremendously.”

For the first time in his coaching career, Worthley ceded pitch-calling duties to Donahue ahead of his senior season. Donahue embraced the challenge by building trust and chemistry with his staff, creating open dialogue after bullpen sessions or between innings.

‘Being able to use your baseball IQ and manage the game at a deeper level is a lot of fun.’

Medfield catcher Scott Donahue

Donahue has developed a feel for what pitches are working during a particular game. He also studies hitters’ tendencies. The UMass Lowell-bound senior has helped Medfield (14-5) surge to No. 2 in the latest Division 3 power rankings, win 10 of 11 games, and post a team ERA of 2.20.

“It’s definitely been a learning curve but I feel like it will help me at the next level,” said Donahue. “I’ve built trust with the pitchers. I’ve spent so much time with my pitchers that we’re sort of an extension of one another. Being able to use your baseball IQ and manage the game at a deeper level is a lot of fun.”

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Franklin coach Zach Brown understands how critical a trustworthy catcher is in the state tournament. Brown believes he has an edge with Bellan, who not only blocks pitches and throws runners out, but has an innate feel for the game.

“If I ask Tyler, ‘How’s the pitchers stuff today?’ or ‘How’s the breaking ball looking?’, he’s got a really good sense of the game and a feel for the pitchers,” said Brown. “He has a lot on his plate, but he’s a conduit to our coaching staff.”

The top-ranked Panthers have allowed 33 runs en route to an 18-1 record and the No. 1 seed in the Division 1 power rankings. Franklin is vying for a second state title in five years.

“As you go deeper into the tournament, one thing you notice is how elite those catchers are,” said Brown. “There aren’t any average catchers left late in the tournament. I think a good catcher is so vital to a team’s success and we’ve been really fortunate.”

At Natick (13-4), the 6-foot-2-inch Fosberg said he likes how Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutcshman calls games and receives pitches because they are the same height.

The Northeastern-bound senior takes pride in his pitchers excelling, pointing to the no-hitter he called for righthander Charlie Doyle in a May 11th win over Lincoln-Sudbury as the signature moment of the season.

“During Charlie’s no-hitter I trusted his curveball enough to call it during any count, even 2-0,” said Fosberg. “That was a really good example of what I try to do to command my pitching staff. If they pitch well I consider that a success for me, but if they don’t, I take the blame for it.”

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‘I like to create a tunnel for my pitchers when they are on the mound. It blocks out everything else going on.’

Westford junior catcher James McDermott

McDermott is in his first year as the starter for Westford, No. 2 in the Globe Top 20 baseball poll, anchoring a deep and talented pitching staff that allowed 20 runs during a 17-0 run. McDermott is learning, but focuses on keeping his pitchers level-headed. He also works closely with the coaching staff to map out game plans, pitch sequences, and highlight potential base stealers.

“I like to create a tunnel for my pitchers when they are on the mound,” said McDermott. “It blocks out everything else going on. I love the mental side of catching the most.”

Said Worthley: “It’s a luxury having a great catcher. It’s a huge edge. It’s one whole variable of the game I don’t have to contend with.”

Extra bases

▪ With the season entering its final weekend, the MIAA plans to release brackets for the baseball state tournaments at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

▪ O’Bryant head coach Ted Curley earned his 400th career win Saturday when the Tigers defeated Boston International, . Curley won 286 games at Milton High before taking the job at O’Bryant in 2013.

▪ It was a big week for Bridgewater-Raynham, which won the Southeast Conference title, then handed No. 1 Franklin its first loss, 5-4, on a 3-run homer from senior captain Casey Wensley with two outs in the top of the seventh inning … Holliston captured the program’s first Tri-Valley League title in 34 years … Mashpee claimed the South Shore League title outright, and East Bridgewater won the Sullivan Division … Milton and Weymouth split the Bay State Conference Herget title and Natick won the Carey title … Sandwich captured the Cape & Islands crown … Beverly and Masconomet split the Northeastern Dunn Division title, and Worcester Academy took down Dexter Southfield to win the Central New England prep schools Tournament on Sunday … Just three unbeaten teams remain in Massachusetts: Westford Academy (17-0), English High (19-0), and Pioneer Valley Regional (9-0).

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Games to Watch

Friday, BC High at Central Catholic, 4 p.m. — With the Raiders just one spot ahead of the Eagles in the MIAA Power Rankings, this nonleague game will undoubtedly affect the two D1 powerhouses’ tournament paths.

Friday, St. Mary’s at Lynn English, 7 p.m. — The nightcap of day 1 of the Mullins Tournament – named in honor of Doug Mullins, a former coach at both schools – should be a solid matchup. The winner faces the winner of Swampscott/Lynn Classical in the final on Saturday at Fraser Field.

Saturday, East Bridgewater at Duxbury, 7 p.m. — The Dragons, 9-3 at home this season, host the South Shore League Sullivan Division champs in a nonleague matchup.

Sunday, Waltham at Weston, 6 p.m. — Two of the Dual County League Foley Division’s top teams wrap up the season by facing off for the first time.

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Monday, St. John’s (Shrewsbury) at Franklin, noon — The No. 5 Colonials take a trip down 495 to face the No. 1 Panthers on the season’s final day.

Correspondent Mike Puzzanghera contributed to this story.