Athletic News

Baseball Comes Close at New England Tournament

June 12, 2011

By Bob York

Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks had such a passion for the game of baseball, he became the source of one of the sport’s most renowned quotes when he’d quip, “Let’s play two!” 

Big Green coach Phil Blood has a love for baseball, too, but after this past season, his response to Banks would probably be: “Let’s not!”

Deerfield posted one of its best records in school annals this spring with a 12-5-1 showing. But, as Blood was quick to point out, four of his team’s five losses cropped up during doubleheaders, and three of those four setbacks came during the nightcap.

“We got a lot of good stuff out of the kids this season,” said Blood, but a lack of depth appeared to be one of his team’s few shortcomings, especially when the schedule dictated: “Let’s play two!”

And that’s the exact format the Central New England Baseball League (CNEBL) uses for its tournament. It invites only its top four teams to Worcester for a showdown that opens and closes on the same day.

The good news was that the Big Green was one of those four teams invited. The bad news was that it would have to win two games in one day to capture its second tourney title in the past three years, and unfortunately “we came up a little short of our team goal, which was to win that tournament,” said Blood. 

Deerfield ousted Andover—a team it had split a doubleheader with earlier in the season—in the tourney opener, 4-1. Then came top-seeded Worcester, which the Big Green had defeated 5-4 in Deerfield and tied 0-0 in a rain-shortened game in Worcester. This time, however, it was Worcester’s turn, as it thumped the Big Green, 9-2, to win the tourney title.

“I’m really proud of the way the kids played this spring,” said Blood. “They battled all season long and to come so close to achieving your goal is a frustrating way to go out, but they deserve every bit of the success they met with.  They were a hard-working bunch of kids.”

Blood admitted that with the turnover a typical prep school athletic team undergoes year-to-year, “I really didn’t know what to expect this season. I felt we had a pretty good nucleus returning, and we got some new faces that really helped out and things ended up working out real well for us.”

According to Blood, shortstop Mat DeNunzio ’11, who earned a spot on the CNEBL All-Star Team, “was the guy who made this team go. He was an outstanding leader and was a big contributor both offensively and defensively.” DeNunzio, who was the recipient of this year’s Rev. G. Richard McKelvey Spirit Award, posted a .328 batting average, thanks to a team-high 20 hits, despite having six games canceled due to rain. He also drove in nine runs.

The most productive new face this spring belonged to Kyle Brenner ’11, a postgraduate, “whom I couldn’t have been happier about,” said Blood. “He helped set the tone this season.”

Brenner, another CNEBL All-Star who was named winner of this year’s Arthur S. Williams J. Baseball Trophy and who will be taking his talents to Williams College next year, chipped in on Deerfield’s success from the mound as well as the plate. He was the Big Green’s No. 1 pitcher, as he sported a 5-1 record and a stingy 1.08 earned run average. He struck out 62 and walked just 15 in 48 innings of work and also contributed a save. Offensively, he lugged a hefty .340 batting average to the plate.

The Deerfield pitching staff, which owned a 2.90 ERA this season, saw Noah Bakker ’11 fill the No. 2 slot, as he posted a 3-1 record, while Logan Mobley ’11 was next in line with a 2-2 mark. Mobley proved to be one of Deerfield’s most effective relievers, particularly during the early going, as he rang up two wins and two saves in what Blood described as “four quality innings of pitching.” Both players were situated in the outfield when not on the mound.

Blood also had high praise for his senior first baseman Raul Tavares, who led the team in RBIs with 16 and finished with a .315 batting average. His lofty stats weren’t the only reason why Blood was happy to have him on the squad, however.

“Raul played in some pain this season,” explained Blood. “He suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder well before the season began. In fact, he came to me and told me about it. He said he had seen a doctor, who had recommended he have surgery but also said that he couldn’t damage the shoulder any more than he already had.

So,” continued Blood, “he opted to postpone his surgery until after the season and we moved him from third base … where he had started for us last year … to first base, where he wouldn’t have to throw the ball so much, and it seemed to work out great.”

Nolan Doyle ’12 and Niko Grupen ’12 have been elected co-captains of next year’s club. 

Bob York is a Greenfield Recorder wire editor. His email address is byork@recorder.com.