The theme for Eastern Mass. baseball in the spring of 2019? A season of firsts.
North Andover became the first No. 8 seed to win the Super 8 title, blanking St. John’s Prep, 6-0, in the finale behind stellar work on the hill from sophomore lefthander Brendan Holland and senior righthander Sebastian Keane, the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
“The last two years we got knocked out in the first round,” said North Andover coach Todd Dulin, who guided the Knights to a 20-4 finish and the Globe’s No. 1 ranking in the final Top 20.
“After the Super Bowl win, [senior captain] Jake McElroy told me, ‘We are going to win the state championship in baseball, I promise.’ He just reminded me. It’s just unbelievable. I couldn’t be more happy and proud.”
For the first time, Taunton ruled Division 1. The seventh-ranked Tigers are now in the conversation as a Hockomock League heavyweight after surviving Lincoln-Sudbury, 6-5, and then Shrewsbury, 5-3, in the state final. Taunton closed the season with 11 straight wins.
Manchester Essex won its first state championship, topping Tahanto in D4, and St. Mary’s won Division 2 for the first time. Medway captured its first D3 South crown before losing to Taconic in the state final.
After winning its final 22 games, culminating with a 3-0 shutout of power Turners Falls in the final, Division 3 champion Austin Prep (24-2) sits atop the Globe’s final Top 20. It was the first state title in program history, marked by superb offense and gutsy pitching from senior Serena Gilbride.
With the graduation of three-time Globe Player of the Year Logan McDonald, Gilbride stepped up, helping Austin Prep repeat as North sectional champion, earn a trip back to the state final, and beat Turners Falls after defeats to the perennial Western Mass. power in 2016 and 2017.
Division 1 runner-up Methuen finishes the year right where it began — in the No. 2 spot — and D2 runner-up Gloucester occupies the eighth spot.
Methuen dropped an extra-inning heartbreaker to unbeaten Wachusett in the D1 final, while Gloucester fell, 4-1, to Hudson in its first state championship appearance.
One year away from the top was enough for Lincoln-Sudbury, which claimed its fourth Division 1 title in five seasons with a 17-8 win over Hingham to finish atop our Top 20.
The Harbormen, who captured their first Division 1 South title, clock in right behind the Warriors, up from third in the final poll of the regular season.
Winchester, which won a thriller over Medfield, 11-10, in the Division 2 final, checks in at sixth, up from ninth, while the Warriors slot in right behind the Sachems.
Dover-Sherborn, which won its fifth Division 3 title over the last eight seasons with a 7-4 win over Grafton, rounds out the top 10 after finishing the regular season at No. 17.
Two teams are new to the final poll, including Dracut, which made a spirited run to the Division 3 North crown. The Middies finish 17th after their best season ever, while Wellesley also jumps into the final rankings on the strength of its upset win over Newton North in the Division 1 South first round.
Notre Dame Academy of Hingham (23-3) maintained the No. 1 ranking through the first five weeks of the season, dropped a spot with a loss to Westwood, but finished the season on top following an 8-7 win over Longmeadow in the D1 final. And that followed a decisive victory over Westwood in the South final.
Cohasset finishes No. 2 after capturing its second Division 2 state title in the last three years, and Walpole slides into the No. 3 spot after winning a Division 1 East title.
Manchester Essex, Chelmsford, and Foxborough made serious noise in the poll after winning their respective sectional championships.
State finalist Natick ends the season on top of the Globe’s rankings after capturing its third consecutive Central title. The Redhawks (17-5) breezed through sectionals, defeating Lincoln-Sudbury in the final for the second straight season. In the state semis, coach Peter Suxho’s crew rallied from a 0-2 deficit against North champion Winchester with an epic rally, winning 22-25, 24-26, 25-20, 25-14, 15-4 to advance to its first final since 2010 before falling to three-time champion Westfield.
“It’s more of a team-oriented play this year, so I feel as though we just worked off that,” Natick setter Brett Olen said. “We were all struggling in the first two sets and we fixed it, and I just thought that brought us to victory. Just good, solid team play.”
Winchester (22-2) and South champion Newton North (17-5) are Nos. 2 and 3, followed by Boston Latin (20-4).
Newton South, a preseason favorite, ends at No. 5 after the Lions barnstormed into the South final. Chelmsford reenters at No. 20 after beating Central Catholic in the North first round.
Dan Shulman, Jake Levin, Trevor Hass, and Brandon Chase also contributed.