Boston High School: Joe Moran

D2 EMass Final: Plymouth North 8, Burlington 1

June, 13, 2012
LOWELL, Mass -- LeLacheur Park was quiet. Almost too quiet. The kind of quiet that comes over a group when everyone knows a secret, but nobody wants to be the one to bring it up.

As Plymouth North and Burlington entered the seventh inning of their Division 2 semifinal game, everyone in the park knew the secret.

One look at the scoreboard was all it took to see the zero in the Burlington hit column. Was Plymouth North really going to head back to the Division 2 state championship game on the back of a no-hitter?

With a two-out single to left in the bottom of the seventh, Burlington catcher Anthony Cruz broke up Alex Rozak’s no-hit bid, but it didn’t matter. His team lost 8-1, sending North back to the title game for a chance to win their second straight, and third in five years, on Saturday.

Rozak spun a gem for North (18-7), with six strikeouts, five walks, and only one earned run over seven innings.

“He was nasty,” said North coach Dwayne Follette. “He didn’t even have the curveball going, but his fastball was very good, with movement. His splitter was nasty. He threw some splitfinger fastballs that just dropped off the table.

“It’s his 24th career win. Third in this playoffs alone. He’s been doing it his whole life for us. He’s awesome. Did I expect it? Yeah. I did. He was on three days rest too.”

He squared off against Joe Moran, who pitched 8 innings in Burlington’s (16-9) North sectional quarterfinal victory over Reading.

Moran struggled from the very beginning. He walked Cody Holmes to start the game, and then Jamie Dougherty bunted him over to second, but because of the lack of coverage on third, Holmes kept running and found himself on third with one out to start the game.

Next, he hit Connor Follette to put runners on the corners. A walk to John Myette loaded the bases, and then a Joe Kingsbury single drove in two runs to give North the early lead.

“We did a great job on that, getting the guy to third,” said Follette. “Then we left him stranded and we worked the counts. That two-out hit broke it open for us. I thought after that, we relaxed and played our game.”

North added four more in the third, which was helped when a Moran pickoff attempt at first hit off Peter Dawe’s glove and rolled down towards the fence, allowing two runs to score.

Kingsbury got his third RBI of the game in the seventh when his triple knocked in Myette for an insurance run.

One with the No-No's: This wasn’t Rozak’s first go-around with a potential no-hitter.

“I pitched a no-hitter last year to start the season,” he said. “Earlier this season, I pitched against Plymouth South and I had a no hitter into the seventh. It was the same situation as here, lost it with two outs. So it’s kind of funny for me, I’m not disappointed at all. We just won the Eastern Mass title, so it’s huge.”

Shhhh... There is a superstition and ritual in baseball when there is a no-hitter in the works: you don’t talk about the no-hitter. The coaches are not supposed to bring up the possibility, while the players are supposed to avoid the pitcher when he is on the bench, at all costs.

As the game was rolling along, did the Plymouth North players comply with that tradition?

“No, they don’t talk to me anyways,” said Rozak with a laugh after the game. “They kind of let me do my own thing. The pitcher kind of sits on the bench the whole time.”

How about the coaches?

“You know what? I was actually gonna take him out, and my coaches had to tell me (about the no-hitter),” said Follette. “That’s pretty good coaching, huh? I really didn’t know. In the fifth inning, I didn’t know. My coaches had to tell me. You know how you’re not supposed to say a no-hitter? Well they didn’t say it, they just pointed to the scoreboard and I figured it out.”

...Or was it really? There was a discrepancy over the official ruling of whether Rozak was carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning at all. It all stemmed from a play in the fourth inning.

After Rozak walked Peter Dawe to open the inning, Kyle Shields hit a chopper back up the middle that was fielded on a run by David Murphy. Because Murphy’s momentum was carrying him away from the base, he tried to get the quick force out at second by flipping it to Jamie Dougherty, but Dawe beat the throw.

Both runners were safe, and the official scoring of the play was a fielders choice. Some people agreed with the call, while others felt it should have been ruled an infield single, rendering the no-hit bit moot.

“They didn’t score it a hit, and they didn’t score it an error, but it has to be one of the two,” said interim Burlington coach Chris Nance. “It can’t be a nothing, but it was a nothing. If it was fielder’s choice, well that means that Peter Dawe, one of the not so fast runners on my team beat it out. Obviously the ball chopped up enough there to be called an infield hit.”

“Strategically, for me, I think they would’ve pulled (Rozak) after that,” he added. “Then I would’ve had three innings of facing someone else. So I don’t understand it.”

Even Rozak didn’t think he had a no-hitter going.

“I thought the play earlier, I guess that they called a fielder’s choice, I thought that was a hit,” he said. “So I thought the scoreboard was wrong the whole time.”

D1 boys' final: Burlington 6, Milton 2

March, 19, 2012

BOSTON – Dirty is a beautiful word.

At least it was to Burlington.

The Red Devils kept their game on the gritty side – in a clean sort of way – and wound up with their first Division 1 state championship, following their 6-2 triumph over Milton, Sunday, at TD Garden.

“It's the best,” said Burlington junior goalie Derek DeCastro. “We just won Division I state championship. I wouldn't ask for anything more, right now. And it's the best group of guys to do it with, too.”

Senior defenseman Steve Mattos agreed wholeheartedly.

“It means everything,” he said. “There's nothing better than a Division I state championship. It's a great program. Great people. We do the right thing.”

What they did best against Milton was keep it hard and simple.

Skate the lane, crash hard to the cage, finish the chance.

The Red Devils did all of the above and reaped the reward.

“With all shots,” said senior forward Brian Hood, who scored twice for Burlington, “keep them low and just drive the net. See if you can get some rebounds. Games like this are always dirty. Both teams going as hard as they can.”

The Red Devils led 1-0 after the first period and 3-1 after the second.

Hood struck for Burlington at the 1:31 mark, after jetted down the right wing in search of his own rebound, then and popped it past Milton goalie Jay Hankard (25 stops).

“It came off the goalie's pad,” said Hood. “I had to finish that. Right on the doorstep.”

The Wildcats missed out on a chance to tie the game at 10:31, when Dan Curran blew past a pair of defenders, but was thwarted by DeCastro (25 saves).

Brett Romkey made it 2-0 at 3:13 of the second, when he drove hard to the net down the right side, then sliced a backhander inside the near post.

The Red Devils seemed ready to pull away when, at 8:24, Adam Crowley took Joe Moran's right side centering feed and parked a 12-footer.

“We get to be a little too finesse at times,” Burlington head coach Bob Conceison said. “I felt like in a hot rink, if you can beat the guys to the
outside and get the pucks to the net, things can happen. And it happened.”

However, Milton began creating scoring chances of itself, and was able to work itself back into contention.

At 11:45, Mike Davis stole the puck in the Burlington zone but was beaten by DeCastro from point blank range.

But at 12:57, the Wildcats finally broke through, when Brendan Kelley's centering feed from behind the net found Lloyd Hill in the slot. Hill pulled the trigger and his tally gave Milton new life heading into the third period.

“I told our team,” said Milton senior defenseman Dan Curran, “'there's plenty of time.”

Hankard kept the Wildcats within reach with a huge glove save on Trevor Cimino on a power play just 40 seconds into the final stanza.

However, Burlington soon scored twice more, beginning with Dan McMahon's tally at 1:16, to put the game away.

“I don't want to say that took the wind out of our sails,” said Curran, “because we scored again. But that hurt the most.”

Milton's Brian Higgins made the margin closer, 5-2, when he deposited a wraparound at 3:47.

However, with the state title within their grasp, Burlington buckled down the rest of the way.

“To go out with your friends at the Garden,” Mattos said, “it's unexplainable how it feels.”

D1 North final: Burlington 4, Wakefield 2

March, 13, 2012

LOWELL, Mass. -- The quandary for Burlington entering Monday’s Division 1 North sectional title game was how to yet again beat Wakefield senior goaltender Joe Cerulo.

So Red Devils head coach Bob Conceison took a novel approach to the problem. To simulate the lack of holes into against the Warriors’ big netminder, Conceison had two goaltenders in net during practice in each of the last three days.

“Cerulo’s a big boy and a great goalie,” Burlington senior forward Trevor Cimino said. “We got him moving side-to-side, which is exactly what we wanted to do.”

The Red Devils’ unconventional target practice, along with their blazing team speed and some power-play production, helped them to a 4-2 victory over Wakefield. It was Burlington’s first victory of the season over their Middlesex League rivals after the teams skated to a pair of ties in the regular season.

“We knew we could outskate them,” said Cimino, who finished with a goal and two assists. “The two first two matchup we played were in smaller rinks, but this is a huge ice surface, a college ice surface, so we knew we could use our speed to go around them.”

Burlington (17-2-6) dominated play from the get-go, outshooting the Warriors, 14-2.

The Red Devils also took a 1-0 lead to the room at the first intermission after sophomore Joe Scali popped in his first goal of the season. Joe Moran and Dan Metzdorf picked up helpers as Burlington got production out of its third line.

“We’re a three- line team and all three lines contributed tonight,” Conceison added.

Cimino, who had a strong game in all three zones, then had a hand in each of the Red Devils’ next three goals.

First, the assistant captain set up linemate Brett Romkey for his 18th of the season. Cimino then lent an assist to C.J. Grinnell’s wrist shot snipe, which came from inside the left wing circle and found a sliver of daylight above Cerulo’s shoulder and underneath the crossbar at 12:38 of the season.

Cimino finished his three-point night by getting a stick on Grinnell’s point blast on the power play. It was Burlington’s second goal on the man-advantage of the evening while going 2-for-5 overall.

Wakefield (12-7-6) showed some late life, however, nixing Derek DeCastro’s shutout bid in the third. Eddie Matthews stuck on the power play at 9:37 of the third before Kevin Doherty picked up his second point of the game with a goal at 13:11.

But Burlington had simply controlled too much of the play, in addition to strong effort from the Red Devils’ defensemen in front of DeCastro.

“I thought our defense played really well,” Conceison said. “[Steve] Mattos and [Adam] Crowley and [Cody] Crocker, they were all really, really solid.”

Warriors head coach Derek Edgerly was effusive in praise of his squad.

While admitting that he thought last season might have been the Warriors’ prime chance at a state championship (losing to Marshfield, which came from behind in last year’s title game), Edgerly’s third trip to a section final game in six years as Wakefield’s boss was an accomplishment in itself.

And it was in no small part due to the efforts of a couple of his senior leaders.

“Joe [Cerulo] is one of the best kids I’ve ever had and Kevin Doherty is one of the nicest kids and one of the best forwards I’ve ever seen.”

It’s often easy for Super 8 play-in game losers to fall victim to early-round upsets, but credit the Red Devils for collecting themselves and making a run to the Garden regardless.

Cimino gave credit to his teammates in their renewed conviction.

“Who wouldn’t want to be in the Super 8, you know?” Cimino said of the experience. “But, after that, we took a pact with each other that we’ll go all the way now. We said we’re the best team in this tournament and we’re going to the Garden. And now we did it.”

And now the Red Devils have the biggest game of their season ahead with a matchup with South sectional champion Milton at the TD Garden on Sunday.