With a memorable and historical season for the Gloucester baseball team in the books, the only thing left to do is debate where this team stands amongst the best baseball teams in Gloucester High School history. There's just one problem with that; there is no debate as to where this year's Fishermen stand.
The accomplishments of the 2009 team far and away outnumber the accomplishments of any other team in school history. For starters, the team shattered the all-time school wins record with 20, four more than the 1998 team who had 16 wins to their credit. They made the longest state tournament run in school history making it to the state semifinals as Division 1 North champions. The Fishermen were also Northeastern Conference Small Champions, their first conference title since 1998.
"When I picked the team in March I was actually a little nervous picking 10 seniors," Gloucester head coach Joe Orlando said. "There were some expectations this season and I thought to myself, "This team is either going to be the biggest flop or they are going to have an incredible season." And to the kids credit they got the job done."
So exactly how did the team from a city that's not exactly known as a baseball hot bed and from a program that's not rich in tradition make their way through the daunting Division 1 North state tournament? Fishermen senior centerfielder Ross Carlson summed it up best.
"If you fight hard and play at 110% every game," Carlson said. "It doesn't matter what the odds are, you can get it done."
Carlson's words epitomize the Fishermen's play this season, as Gloucester often outworked teams to get their wins.
In their state tournament run, the Fishermen were pitted against a talented team from the powerful Merrimack Valley Conference in Lawrence, the No. 1 seed with 20 wins on their record in Lincoln-Sudburry, and a perennial powerhouse from a school that has the pick of the litter when it comes to baseball talent (St. John's Prep).
Instead of being amazed by their opponents achievements, the Fishermen focused on what they had, and played their brand of baseball en route to three straight one-run victories. In those three games the Fishermen played mistake free baseball combined with several heroic performances.
In their state tournament run, clutch performances for Gloucester were about as certain as a ball or strike call. The Fishermen saw team captain Ryan Cusick boldy steal third in extra innings and eventually score the winning run in walk-off fashion to knock off Lawrence. In that same game, pitcher Dylan Maki threw 10 innings, compiling 15 strikeouts on 148 pitches. Not to be outdone, Maki came back five days later and threw 173 pitches to help tackle St. John's Prep. On that same night, Cusick delivered a walk-off single to the gap in left center field to crown the Fishermen Division 1 North Champions.
The Fishermen also got three stellar outings from senior pitcher Taylor Burbine, who shut down both Waltham and Lincoln-Sudbury's offenses. Junior reliever MacKenzie Quinn came in on two weeks rest to earn a six out save against LS in the semi finals. And sophomore Caulin Rogers delivered three RBI singles out of the No. 8 hole to help beat the Prep.
While a gritty, never say die attitude and a flair for the dramatics were such a huge help, the Fishermen had one more thing on their side: Talent.
The first five hitters in their batting order were Northeastern Conference All-Stars in Cusick, Maki, Trevor Curley, Brett Cahill and Conor Ressel.
Gloucester also had a pair of aces in NEC All-Stars Burbine and Maki, who proved that they not only have top of the rotation stuff, but they are also big game pitchers who performed their best when the stakes were the highest.
The Fishermen's blend of talent, production, toughness and intelligent play make it very easy to say that the 2009 Gloucester Fishermen were the best baseball team in school history.