My favorite moment of the spring sports season was more of a collection of moments, as this baseball season was so good it delivered several that could be considered my favorite. The Gloucester, Rockport and Manchester Essex baseball teams may have only put up a combined record of 28-34 but spring, but when watching the teams play it was evident that baseball on Cape Ann is in a good state.
We will start off with the team that took the biggest strides in 2012, Manchester Essex. The Hornets usually finish at the bottom of the Cape Ann League and had not won a state tournament game since the early 1980's. But by mid season something clicked, the Hornets made the transition from a decent team to a good team.
The Hornets knew coming into the year that they had a strong rotation at starting pitcher in Max Nesbit, Joe Burgess and Adrian Frattini. But as the season wore on the defense turned into a legitimate strength and the offense began to come into its own.
As a result the Hornets rattled of wins in six of their final seven games qualifying for the state tournament and earning a share of the Cape Ann League Division 3 title with Rockport and Georgetown finishing up the season at 9-10. Winning the CAL and hovering around the .500 mark an impressive feet for one of the three smallest schools in a very deep league for most Division 2 and Division 3 Schools, a league where the Hornets play the majority of their games against bigger schools.
Manchester Essex also proved to be a player in the Division 4 North Section pulling off a win on the road against Cristo Rey, the program's first state tournament win in three decades and even took No. 1 seed Northeast to the brink dropping a razor thin 1-0 contest in the sectional quarter finals.
Watching this team climb the ladder and turn a corner was definitely one of the top moments of the spring season.
The Gloucester baseball team also continues to be one of the most consistent teams on Cape Ann qualifying for the state tournament for the ninth straight season.
The feat was particularly impressive this season when considering two factors, the Fishermen had just two starters returning from 2011 and appeared to be in rebuilding mode. The Northeastern Conference was also as strong and deep as it has been in a long time with nine teams qualifying for the state tournament. Those nine teams put together an 8-1 record in the first round of the tournament proving that there were no flukes coming out of the NEC.
The Fishermen, who finished with a record of 11-11, got off to a huge start with impressive wins over Andover, Peabody and Beverly despite the fact that they were breaking in several new starters. Jason Vizena emerged as a bona fide staff ace while junior Alex Webb and Sophomore Jordan Pallazola emerged as a strong duo in the middle of the batting order.
Gloucester also won a tournament game for the fourth straight year, a 10-0 drubbing of Boston English. Their record may not show it, but the Fishermen were a team that nobody wanted to play this season, they were young but athletic and gave just about every team they played a game.
Gloucester baseball is now the most consistent team at Gloucester High School over the last decade, and it appears as if they will not be going anywhere in 2013.
The future is also looking bright as Gloucester has nine juniors and three Sophomores. The team's entire starting rotation of Vizena, Sean Gillon and Lenny Taormina will all be returning next season with a wealth of experience. Next door in Rockport John Parisi graduates two seniors from this years squad and neither was a starter meaning the Vikings lineup next year will be identical to this season's. Pitcher Tucker Meredith and infielder/pitcher Mike Tupper lead the charge of underclassmen as Meredith picked up six of Rockport's seven wins this season and Tupper contributed in several different roles this season for the Vikings.
An exciting season in 2012 and the emergence of several strong underclassmen has the baseball scene on Cape Ann looking like it's in good hands for the near future, lets just hope next season can duplicate the drama.