In our latest installment of "Roundtable", we went around and asked ESPNBoston.com staff and correspondents to make a bold prediction for the MIAA tournament in baseball, softball and lacrosse.
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor
Bold Prediction: No. 15 seed Xaverian will beat No. 2 Walpole on Saturday in the first round of Division 1 South, and return to the sectional final for a third straight season.
I know, in theory this wouldn’t really be an upset. Xaverian went into the tournament with 10 losses two years ago and was a few outs away from winning the state title. Last year, they again came into the tournament with 10 losses and made it all the way to the sectional final before falling to Franklin (themselves a tournament Cinderella) by way of the walk-off. Walpole, in spite of its terrific run production, isn’t immortal on the mound. Just ask Norwood, which got four runs off the Rebels in a shutout win last week.
The Hawks upset BC High two weeks ago, and have won seven of their last eight games headed into the tournament. They’ll also have a healthier Austin DeCarr to shore up a deep stable of arms that is peaking at the right time. Beyond that, look at the right side of the D1 South bracket –- after Walpole, there is no overwhelming favorite the rest of the way down.
ESPN Boston High Schools Editor
Bold Prediction: Duxbury lacrosse should be prepared to play in a one-goal game in the semifinals.
No, really. Look it up. Both Lincoln-Sudbury and Billerica played the Dragons to a one-goal games in their respective regular season bouts. And, with both the Warriors and the Indians on the other side of the bracket, Duxbury should be in store for a serious challenge. With that said, I still have the Dragons winning the state title, so it might not be such a bold statement. But you try sticking with that juggernaut goal for goal.
Bold Prediction: A No. 8 seed will win a softball state title.
Spurred on by the work of the L.A. Kings, I'm calling a No. 8 seed, namely Division 3 South No. 8 seed Greater New Bedford Voke. The Bears were in contention for the South Coast Conference title until the second to last week of the regular season. The SCC was loaded this year, with conference champion Fairhaven a favorite in D2, Seekonk, Case and Dighton-Rehoboth, which could make a little run in D1 South. After going toe-to-toe with the best the league had to offer this season, the Bears are battle-tested for the postseason.
Bold Prediction: A team that won the state championship last year WILL win it again this year. I’m looking at you, Newburyport and Lincoln-Sudbury.
Everyone knows how difficult it can be to win a state title, especially with the one-and-done format the way it is. Combine that with the level of competition in both the Division 1 and 3 North brackets this year, and it will be very difficult for either team to repeat. However, once again, Kirk Fredericks had L-S back on top of the Dual County League. The team has enough pitching and defense to squeak out wins in the two-run and one-run games that happen so often in the playoffs. I would not at all be surprised to see L-S in the state title game again.
Newburyport could win for the same reasons people are picking the San Antonio Spurs to win the NBA Finals this year: it’s a veteran team that has been there before, knows how to win the big games, and wants to show that last year wasn’t a fluke. I could see them winning it all again this year.
Staff Writer, Brockton Enterprise
Bold Prediction: Of the teams that won the South Sectional titles last year (Franklin Div. 1, Plymouth North Div. 2, Apponequet Div. 3), none will even reach the South final this season.
Franklin did the near impossible a season ago when they won the Div. 1 South crown, something usually reserved for a Catholic Conference team. The Panthers were able to get the best of BC High and Xaverian in the semifinals and finals, but climbing that mountain two years in a row won't be easy. Even as the number one seed, Franklin's path will be challenging. They'll be tested every time out, and will have to face off against either BC High, Barnstable or Catholic Memorial if they reach the South semis.
In Div. 2 South Sectional play, Plymouth North hits the tourney as a six seed, lower than they're used to in recent years. The Blue Eagles open with a tough draw in Dennis-Yarmouth, a team they lost to twice in Atlantic Coast League play already this year. If they can make it through that game, either No. 2 Hingham, or the winner of Oliver Ames and Pembroke would be lining up on the other side. OA and Pembroke would be back to their aces -- David Holmes and Luke Nagle, respectively -- and the offense will have a hard time scoring that day no matter what.
The boldest prediction of these three teams not reaching the South final is that Apponequet won't even get out of the first round. As the eight seed, the Lakers open with No. 9 Rockland. The Bulldogs have been gritty all season, beating South Shore League powers East Bridgewater and Cohasset as well as every other team they faced at least once. Dan DePippo made a name for himself last season in the South Sectional, pitching Apponequet to wins in the first round, semifinals and finals, but he's about to square of a kid who has established himself as one of the best pitchers Div. 3 pitchers anywhere in the state.
Sean Roche went 8-0 this season for Rockland, with five of those eight coming against teams that qualified for postseason play (Pembroke, Cohasset, East Bridgewater, Harwich, Mashpee). DePippo went 4-2 with a 1.40 ERA and 102 strikeouts in just 55 innings, which is flat out dominant. Roche piled up eye-popping numbers too, and against strong lineups all season. Beyond his 8-0, Roche compiled an ERA of 1.53 and struck out 86 in 55 innings.