Boston High School: John Kearney

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. –- As he spoke with a reporter following his team’s season-opening 4-1 win over Marshfield, Bridgewater-Raynham catcher Joe Freiday pointed out to right field, where atop the wall of the warehouse beyond the fence hung a banner commemorating the Trojans’ MIAA Division 1 State Championship last spring.

While oversized, the banner barely covers one-eigth of the two-story wall.

“If you notice, there’s a lot of room for a Super 8 [banner],” the Virginia Tech-bound Freiday said, referring to the inaugural Division 1A state championship tournament introduced for this season.

B-R’s title defense should be an interesting journey, one with lofty expectations -– including a preseason No. 1 ranking in’s statewide poll. But this afternoon’s win over the Rams, a team that is normally a thorn in the Trojans’ side, has to be encouraging.

Notre Dame-bound junior righthander Jack Connolly earned the win after striking out 10 batters in five innings, allowing two hits and an unearned run on 73 pitches (46 for strikes), a performance Trojans head coach John Kearney called “mid-season form”.

“His velocity, his control, midseason form –- as expected,” Kearney said.

Meanwhile Freiday, Connolly’s cousin, appeared to pick up right where he left off a season ago, going 2-for-2 with two RBI, a walk, and a monster opposite-field solo homer in the bottom of the sixth, that gave the Trojans all the insurance they needed. Freiday appeared to get a little bit too under the first-pitch, wristing a chest-high heater from righthander Brian Kwedor, but the ball sailed to his delight.

“Usually the approach is dead red fastball on first pitch,” Freiday said. “When I get it, I’m gonna do what I can with it....I thought I was going to either pop out or land at third, but I’m not going to complain about it.”

In relief, junior righty Andrew Noviello shone. The University of Maine commit struck out five of the seven batters he faced in the final two innings to pick up the save, planting high-80’s fastballs and tight curves on the outside corners to leave batters whiffing.

The B-R bats, of course, were able to give him some room to work with. Freiday plated the first run in the bottom of the first, taking what he admitted was a “defensive swing” on a 1-2 fastball and lining to left-center to score Cory DiNunno from second base.

“Really, I was just trying to fight it off, and I guess I got the good part of the bat on the ball and put it up the middle,” Freiday said.

That was followed by in the second by a balk that scored Cory Wasylow, and a Noviello sacrifice fly deep to left in the third to score Tyler Carey for a 3-0 lead.

Nick Pomella (2-for-3, RBI) got one back for the Rams in the top of the fourth with a single that scored Nick DeGrenier, but the Rams mustered just two hits the rest of the way, going down on strikes in nine of their final 13 at bats.

Raw power: Freiday admits he was surprised by how much his sixth-inning homer carried, despite the slight wind coming in right-to-left. Coming off his bat, it looked almost like a routine pop-fly.

Big swings are nothing new for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Freiday, who made ESPN Boston’s All-State Team last year after hitting .455 with five homers. But a newfound focus on weight training this offseason seems to have brought his power hitting to new, uncharted levels.

Freiday says he lifted weights for the first time ever this offseason, with noted local strength guru Eric Cressey, whose renowned facility in Hudson has helped produce local MLB success stories such as Royals lefthander Tim Collins and Marlins relieve Steve Cishek. Cressey is known for his abstract, astutely customized workout plans for clients, and part of Freiday’s individualized program involved a focus on core and leg strength. By the end of the winter, Freiday says he was deadlifting up to 455 pounds.

“I’ve always had natural strength, but I guess I put it to use this offseason,” Freiday chuckled. “His [Cressey’s] programs are ridiculous, he knows his stuff. It’s incredible.”

Twin terrors: It won’t happen often, but with just one game this week, Kearney opted to give Noviello some work in relief. As noted above, the results were satisfactory.

“I wish we could do that every game,” Connolly laughed. “It’s gonna be fun pitching with him, definitely.”

During the preseason, both Connolly and Noviello clocked in the high-80’s, with the latter hitting 89 miles per hour with regularity, prompting Freiday to declare, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets up to 91 this year, that’s my bold prediction.”

As a starting rotation, the economical Connolly and overpowering Noviello provide a 1-1A punch rivaled by few in Massachusetts.

“How do you differentiate? The two are just so good,” Kearney said. “We’ve had a [radar] gun on both of them, and Jack’s actually picked up a few miles an hour. He’s throwing legitimately now 88, and Novi has touched 90 several times...and they both have that unbelievable breaking ball. It’s nice to have them both back as juniors like that, it’s great.”

For B-R's Joe Freiday, a marked mutation

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -– Long before he was a rock behind the plate for a state championship team, before he was an NCAA Division 1 commit and before he started showing up on the radar of pro scouts, Bridgewater-Raynham’s Joe Freiday was predispositioned to be a catcher.

“Back in little league, you usually throw the short, pudgy kid behind the plate,” Freiday said. “That was me. I was short, I was a little chunkier, and it really just started as I’d play anywhere just to play.”

Added cousin and B-R teammate Jack Connolly through a laugh: “He was always the cousin who wasn’t as athletic.”

Connolly, a junior pitcher with an electric arm, is already committed to pitch at Notre Dame. Connolly’s older brother Mike followed up his career for the Trojans by playing for the University of Maine, and is currently a pitcher in the San Francisco Giants organization after being drafted last spring.

A growth spurt from eighth to ninth grade for Freiday saw him shoot up eight inches in less than a year, meaning he’d never again be referred to as short or pudgy. The physical tools that came with it mean his athleticism would no longer be questioned.

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Freiday is a lean backstop oozing enough baseball skill that he committed to Virginia Tech last summer, following a breakout spring in which he picked up ESPN All-State honors after hitting .455 with five homers to lead B-R to its first ever MIAA Div. 1 state title.

Even with the physical gifts on the way as he grew, Freiday hardly seemed destined to explode onto the scene last season, after spending much of his sophomore season on the junior varsity squad, only coming up to varsity when an injury to starting catcher Brandon Hoyle created a need for the Trojans.

“He wasn’t a varsity regular or stud as a sophomore,” said B-R coach John Kearney. “With Eddie Campbell, Mike Connolly who we had for a couple of years, Drew Larson I had back six, seven years ago, those kids all played as freshman. Jack Connolly pitched for me as a freshman. They were already as freshman ready to roll. Joe was not. Even as a sophomore, he had a long way to go.”

Added Connolly: “All I remember is him being not the most athletic catcher in the world. He got so much better over the course of a year or two and he grew up, gained some weight and, now he’s a division one guy, maybe getting drafted.”

Total transformation

Developing physically was the first step toward baseball success for Freiday, but becoming a student of the game allowed him to transform into one of the most complete players in the state. A talent who at times shows all five tools a scout looks for in a baseball player (hit for average, hit for power, run, throw and fielding).

[+] EnlargeFreidlay
Jon Mahoney/ESPNBridgewater-Raynham catcher Joe Freiday committed to Virginia Tech last summer after leading the Trojans to their first state championship.
The hitting came most naturally for him, but after making mincemeat of fastballs in the early going last year, teams started pitching around Freiday, offering up off-speed pitches out of the strike zone in an effort to get him out.

“He did have to work more at the defensive part, but offensively he’s still had to learn how to be a good hitter,” said Kearney. “His biggest thing last year was that he had to learn how to hit when teams didn’t want to give him anything to hit. It’s a big adjustment. Word got out that you just can’t throw fastballs to this kid, and he saw a lot of junk and a lot of slop, and he had to learn how to pick his spots.”

Growing up, Freiday’s running speed was anything but an asset. “I was pretty slow. I was a lumbering catcher,” he said.

A commitment to offseason workouts, both to strengthen his legs and develop agility, has turned him into an at least average runner, with his 60-yard dash times clocking faster than most catchers.

Freiday’s arm is perhaps his best tool, and the summer after his sophomore year he posted an impressive 1.93 pop time at a Perfect Game showcase -– a number that many big leaguers can’t throw.

“When I threw that 1.93 at the Perfect Game showcase, I was all over the place,” said Freiday. “I had no clue what I was doing. I’ve really focused on getting my feet to be quicker, getting myself in line to make good throws, and getting the most out of my arm strength.

“I really like to watch college and pro catchers and see what they do. I take everything in and see exactly what they’re doing when they make a perfect throw. I watch where their feet are, the arm angle, where their release point is. I just try to get everything down from that point of view."

The resulting pop times have moved south toward 1.8 seconds, occasionally dipping underneath the mark, allowing Freiday to control the running game of many opponents.

“He has absolutely one of the best arms that you’re going to find in the state of Massachusetts for a catcher,” Kearney said. “It’s a cannon. It got to the point last year, and I’d like to see it this year, where teams weren’t running on him very often. They were testing him early, then word got out on him. In the state tournament, we played six games and I would say in those six tournament games he probably had eight to ten attempted steals and he threw out 75 percent of them. Pop time, arm strength -– he’s second to none I think in the state. He doesn’t even have to pop up. From his knees he could throw guys out.”

His defense and receiving skills were the ones not so obviously enhanced when his body type changed, and it’s this part of the game Freiday has had to work hardest at.

“Something he really had to work on was blocking and keeping it in front of him,” Kearney said. “When he was younger, he used to have a lot of balls go off the end of his glove. I think it was a concentration issue. I was pleasantly amazed with how improved he was coming in to last year at that.”

Kearney continued, “It starts from within with him. He’s got to want and be able to accept the challenge from inside himself, and he does that. He embraces it. We were pretty hard on him his sophomore year and the beginning of his junior year. In a very kind and loving way, we were criticizing a lot of the things he had to work on defensively, and he did it. It’s not just with us all year round he’s work with other catchers, college and pro guys. He’s learned from a lot of sources.”

Best yet to come?

Freiday’s game continued to elevate after his breakout junior year and after he’d committed to Virginia Tech. By the end of last summer, he’d caught the attention of enough people in pro baseball to get invited to some elite showcases -- including East Coast Pro, an even featuring many of top high school players in the country. He also made stops at showcases at both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

The scouts at these events pushed his game to a new a level.

“They all just critiqued me on little, little things to make my game that much better,” said Freiday. “The small parts people don’t usually notice unless you’re a catcher.”

Freiday sponged up everything he could about baseball, about catching, and about the mental game of pitch calling. Like his hero, Jason Varitek, Freiday developed a cerebral approach to catching.

“He studied hitters’ tendencies. He really got to know what guys were trying to do. It’s no wonder he’s caught a record number of no-hitters,” Freiday said. “I tried to do some scouting. I’d go to games of teams I knew were coming up in the future and I tried to get their tendencies down. I watched hitters’ swings. When I went to the pro events this summer, I would sit with pro scouts and scout with them. The next game I caught a combined staff no-hitter with three pitchers at Metropolitan Classic.”

When the summer showcases concluded, Freiday didn’t take for granted that he’d already committed to school, instead pushed himself throughout the offseason. He added nearly 15 pounds of good weight, balancing strength workouts, baseball drills and even averaged a double-double for Trojans hoops team; all with an eye toward continuing his baseball transformation.

“Joey eats, sleeps, drinks baseball. Everything is baseball,” said Connolly. “The kid is in love with baseball. I’ve worked out with him every winter and this year was the hardest we ever worked. Every day, it was just ‘let’s go hit’ or ‘let’s go throw.’ It’s always baseball. Everything he thinks about is baseball, baseball, baseball.”

And it’s because of that that the Trojans’ captain even though he began catching because of his physical stature, Freiday has proven over the last year –- destiny or not -– that he belongs behind the plate.

D1 Baseball State Final: B-R 4, Nashoba 0

June, 16, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. –- It has been quite a tournament for Bridgewater-Raynham ace Mike Bruemmel. The senior southpaw, fresh off a Sunday start where he helped lead the Trojans to a win over B.C. High, put on his best pitching performance of the year.

[+] EnlargeB-R baseball
Jon Mahoney for ESPNBoston.comMike Bruemmel carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning as Bridgewater-Raynham captured its first state title in school history.
Bruemmel pitched a complete game two-hitter on Saturday afternoon, striking out 12 Nashoba batters to help bring Bridgewater-Raynham its’ first baseball state title in school history. Dominant from start to finish, B-R (20-3) knocked off the Central Mass. champ Nashoba (21-4), 4-0.

The lefthander, who is headed to Division 3 power Wheaton College in the fall, was at the top of his game after being forced to shut it down in the middle of the year for what B-R coach John Kearney called a minor arm injury.

When he returned from injury and back into the Trojans’ starting rotation, “He came right back and picked up right where he left off,” Kearney said.

Bruemmel had a no hitter going into the eighth inning before Nashoba senior captain Jack Sarnoski broke it up with a base hit to center field.

Kearney praised his pitcher for his command after the game.

“He mixes up his pitches. He’s got three or four different pitches, he throws them all with real good control and command," Kearney said. "He just mixes it up and he’s got a little bit of velocity, so you’re got to be aware of that as a hitter—he can throw it by ya. He was just on the whole game, the whole game!”

Joe Freiday, who went 2-for-4 and, per usual, was Bruemmel’s battery partner behind the plate, had one simple way to answer when asked what Bruemmel had going on the mound.

“Everything. He wasn’t missing spots. His curve ball was on, his change up was on, everything was down and out, and that’s what we need...Mikey was on today when we needed him most,” Freiday said.

Bruemmel helped get the Trojans’ offense started in the third inning, too, getting a base hit to drive in Corey Dinunno (2-for-4) to plate the game’s first run.

Tyler Carey, on a hit ball to shortstop that resulted in an error, brought Brian McSherry in to score in the fourth inning to extend the lead. Two batters later, sophomore Andrew Noviello drove Carey in on a double to left center. The aggressive plate approach against Nashoba ace Drew Foster, who coming into the game boasted a 0.97 ERA, was all part of B-R’s plan.

“Our offense, again, putting the pressure on them the whole game," Kearney said. "I know only putting four runs up may not seem like it, but we had pressure on them offensively...I thought the offense really stepped up against quality pitching. All three ingredients, great pitching, real good defense, and I thought the hitting was outstanding today."

They’ll be back: With 11 players returning to next year’s team, including Freiday, Carey, Dinunno, Noviello, and Eastern Mass. final hero Jack Connolly, the Trojans will have quite the core coming back for next year—most of whom have gained some serious big-game experience over the course of B-R’s title run where they won games over Attleboro, Braintree, Walpole, B.C. High, Billerica, and Nashoba.

For the time being though, Freiday -- who said after the game he has a scholarship offer from Maine, and will be visiting Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Coastal Carolina over the summer -- says they’re going to enjoy the moment, stressing the amount of excitement that has built up at Bridgewater-Raynham as the community rallied around the baseball team.

“They’re gonna love it, we had a huge crowd the last few games. They all wanna come, they all wanna see the team, and it hasn’t been like that for the last couple years. We picked it back up and we brought B-R baseball back…we’re forming a dynasty, I can feel it.”

D1 EMass Baseball Final: B-R 5, Billerica 2

June, 13, 2013

LYNN, Mass. -– Bridgewater-Raynham’s two sophomores, Jack Connolly and Andrew Noviello, were the ones who got it done on the mound to help the Trojans advance to the state championship game. Some in attendance may have been surprised, but coach John Kearney is used to it by now.

Connolly picked up the win on the mound for B-R, while Noviello picked up the save by pitching a scoreless final two innings to give the Trojans (19-3) the 5-2 victory over Billerica (18-7) in the Eastern Mass. Division 1 championship game

[+] EnlargeJack Connolly
Tim Hart for Sophomore Jack Connolly picked up the win for Bridgewater-Raynham, which is making its first ever Division 1 State Final appearance on Saturday.
"[Connolly] had been scuffling, that’s how he pitched during the regular season,: Kearney said. "He gave us more than we expected. Our pitching has been pretty good all year, it really has been a real solid plus for us all year. We were hoping to get as much as we could out of Jack, and I knew if we could get it to Novi, cause he was rested, that he’d pitch just like he did tonight."

B-R got some timely hits from Tyler Glavin and Brian McSherry, Glavin drove in Tyler Carey to draw first blood in the first inning. Glavin also had an RBI on a single on a base hit in the fifth.

Kearney praised Glavin after he made the move from outfield to shortstop earlier in the year look seemingly effortless.

"Tyler moved in from where he was in the outfield all year," Kearney said. "He made all the plays at short, and the made them with some pretty fast guys at the plate. He’s been getting a couple hits almost every game. Glavin had an outstanding game."

Following two straight walks after Glavin’s single, McSherry ripped line drive to left field that scored Joe Freiday and David Miller.

"That bases-loaded gapper was huge huge," Kearney exclaimed, discussing McSherry’s hit. "The first two swings he didn’t look so good...he fouled off the third one, just barely, and then he just hit a shot. That and Sullivan’s big play at second with men on were two huge plays."

B-R, while making three errors of their own, was able to capitalize on five errors by Billerica, including three in the first inning. In addition, Billerica was forced to pull starting pitcher Max Frawley early in the game. The senior walked off the field in excruciating pain, holding his right shoulder.

Billerica managed to add their second run on an error in the seventh inning, but Noviello slammed the door shut from there. Despite having a team with very little playoff experience before this year, B-R will advance to the state championship game on Saturday against Central Mass. champion Nashoba. This is the first time the Trojans have made it to the state final since moving up to Division 1.

Kearney said the calmness and confidence on the bench was due to his seniors, who combine vocal leadership with leadership by example.

"The senior leadership on this team is outstanding...those kids have been great," he said. "In the ballgame all the time, keeping the kids up, the senior leadership has been a big key for our resurgence here. They’ve kept the team focused from preseason. It’s tremendous...this is a great feeling—that’s a good Billerica team, that’s a real good Billerica team."

D1 South Baseball: B-R 4, BC High 3

June, 10, 2013

BROCKTON, Mass. -— As Bridgewater-Raynham trotted onto the field for the top of ninth inning clinging to its 4-3 lead over Boston College High in Sunday’s Division 1 South final, it seemed like the already heart-pounding affair couldn’t inflict any more chaos on the players, coaches and fans in attendance.

But, sure enough, it did.

The Eagles put runners on first and second with one down in the ninth with No. 3 hitter Ryan Tufts stepping to the dish. And after Tufts worked the count full against Trojans closer Cody Medairos, BC High decided to send both runners on the pitch as Tufts blasted a shot towards the right-centerfield gap, causing both runners to try and motor on home to take the lead.

Fortunately for B-R, centerfielder Tyler Carey was there to save the game and the season.

Carey hauled in the fly ball on the run, then turned and fired to second to double-up the Eagles baserunner frantically trying to retrace back to the bag, providing the final moment of jubilation in a game full of them, as B.R. stormed onto the field with its 4-3 victory finally safe in its possession.

The Trojans will play D1 North champion Billerica Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the D1 Eastern Mass. Final at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.

Carey said he saw the runners take off when the ball came off Tufts’ bat, so he knew he would have a chance to double the runners up if he could get to the ball. But even he knew that wasn’t a sure thing.

“I made catches like that before so I knew it was possible, but I don’t know,” Carey said when asked if he thought he’d get to the ball. “I just tracked it down.”

B-R coach John Kearney said Carey’s grab was “one of the best catches you’ll ever see.”

“Everybody in the park probably thought that was going to be trouble. No question,” Kearney said. “But I looked up and I saw Carey got a great jump and I’m thinking, ‘He’s got a shot.’ I’ve seen him do that all year. He has tremendous speed and he’s made those kind of catches all year.”

“If that falls in, we’re gonna get two or three (runs) there,” B.C. High coach Norm Walsh said. “That puts a whole different spin on things.”

If the catch weren’t enough, it was Carey who gave the Trojans the lead in the bottom of the eighth. With David Miller on second, Carey worked the count full against Eagles pitcher Dan Cobban and ultimately lined a single through the infield and into left field, bringing Miller roaring around to score the go-ahead run.

Carey, who said he has been playing baseball since he was five-years-old, had trouble putting the game into words.

“I’m dreaming right now,” he said. “This isn’t real. This is crazy.”

B.C. High tied it up at three in the top of the eighth. After B.R. starter Mike Bruemmel walked Tommy Landry with one down, Kearney went to Medairos in the bullpen. But Medairos walked Andrew Jaehnig and then gave up an RBI single to Billy Mitchell to knot the score.

The Eagles nearly took the lead two batters later. With Landry on third and Jaehnig on second and two down, Tom Russo grounded a ball to second. But the ball ate up Connor Sullivan and ricocheted to his left, prompting the second baseman to slide to the dirt, spin and throw out the sliding Russo by half a step.

Bruemmel was tremendous on the mound, logging 7-1/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and four walks while fanning eight.

B-R jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first after a sacrifice fly by Joe Freiday, followed by an RBI triple by Miller and a passed ball to bring him in.

The score stayed that way until the sixth when Mitchell ripped an RBI double off Bruemmel to finally get the Eagles on the board. One batter later, Mitchell came around to score after a throwing error by the Trojans, cutting the deficit to 3-2.

D1 South Baseball: B-R 12, Braintree 0

June, 4, 2013
BRAINTREE, Mass. -- They went down in order. They went down looking. When the reality of the season's end became apparent, they went down swinging.

Eighteen Braintree batters struck out against a deep, but less-than-experienced Bridgewater-Raynham pitching staff. The Trojans rode the impressive pitching display, coupled with late-inning offense, to a 12-0 win over the Wamps in the Division 1 South quarterfinals at Braintree High.

“I've said all along that our pitching staff is the strength of our team even though our lineup has been solid,” B-R head coach John Kearney said. “Our pitching staff has been our greatest strength this season. We have four or five guys that can come in and get the job done.”

While B-R's pitching kept Braintree at bay, an explosive eight-run ninth inning put the game well out of reach. After Andrew Noviello, Tyler Glavin, Mike Bruemmel and Joe Freiday knocked in five runs for the Trojans, B-R's Brian McSherry hit a no-doubter home run to right-center field to put the score at 12-0.

It was McSherry's first home run of the year.

“It was a great game. I know the final score isn't indicative of that, but they made some great plays throughout that game,” Kearney said. “Our guys had a big inning, but it was a great game.”

Noviello, B-R's sophomore righty, started the game and struck out 11 Braintree batters over six innings. He used an accurate fastball to make up for his curve, which wasn't consistently hitting the strike zone until the third inning. During his six innings of work, Noviello threw 118 pitches.

“That's pretty much as hard as I've thrown. The curveball slipped a little bit, but when I got it in there, I got it in there,” he said.

Noviello's only scare came during the bottom of the fourth inning after he gave up a single to Steven Lee, and proceeded to walk Gino LaRossa and Patrick Horrocks with one out. The sophomore reared back and struck out both Adam Chin and Nick Susi to get out of the inning.

B-R rode the momentum into the top of the fifth inning and scored three runs on four hits and a walk to put the score at 4-0.

“Getting out of that bases-loaded jam was huge. That was probably the biggest spot in the game at that point,” Kearney said. “He's only a sophomore, but he's been pitching in big games all year for us.”

Between innings, Braintree head coach Bill O'Connell told his guys to be patient and wait for a hittable fastball. As soon as they changed their approach, Noviello's looping curve started to fall into the strike zone.

It was the first time the Wamps have been shut out this season.

“I've been coaching for 19 years and that's about as good a pitching staff as I've seen on a team. We've had a pretty good team this year...We haven't been shut out all year,” O'Connell said. “The scouting report (on Noviello) was: 'He throws hard, but his off-speed could get wild at times.' That's not what happened –- not tonight.”

Noviello was spelled in the seventh inning by Mike Bruemmel, a lefty with good movement on his fastball. The senior picked up where Noviello left off and struck out six of the seven batters he faced.

Braintree used four underclassmen pitchers during the game, and started Scott Creedon, a 14-year-old righty. Creedon pitched the first two innings before getting pulled for sophomore Bobby McNiff. The youngster let up one run on three hits during his two innings of work.

“I didn't want to leave him out there too long,” O'Connell said. “He looked pretty comfortable, but he's still a freshman.”

After McNiff was touched up a bit in the fourth inning, the Wamps brought in junior Matt Bickford, who slowed the bleeding until the ninth inning when he allowed two earned runs. Scott Strachan came in for relief, but B-R's bats, which had been uncharacteristically quiet, erupted.

“That's a tough task for those guys, but we'll be a good team in the future,” O'Connell said. “We started a freshman, two sophomores and a junior, so it wasn't easy out there.”

Cody Medairos finished the game for B-R, and caused two pop-ups and struck out Jack Zanca to end the game.

Kearney believes his staff is set up for nine-inning baseball. The Trojans played five nine-inning games this season, which helped him set up a game plan for the playoffs.

“That does help the mentality. Nine is a long game. I like playing nine because it lets teams play it out a little more truly, I think. A lot can happen in a short time in a seven-inning game,” he said.

Braintree graduates eight seniors, including captains Alex Alexander and Steven Lee.

“I just feel for our seniors. This is the last time they get to go up there under the lights as a Wamp,” O'Connell said. “All eight seniors just gave us everything they had. I told the guys, 'There's only going to be one happy team at the end of the day.' Today was their day.”

Recap: No. 16 B-R 8, No. 24 Barnstable 0

May, 1, 2013
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Voters flocked to the old Bridgewater-Raynham High School building to fill out their ballots. Meanwhile, across the street, B-R's Jack Connolly was campaigning to be the best sophomore pitcher on the South Shore.

Connolly pitched eight shutout innings against Old Colony League rival Barnstable High School (5-2) en route to an 8-0 victory. The young righty, who threw 119 pitches against the Red Raiders, had a battle plan heading into the game: Set things things up with the off-speed stuff, and then let the fastball fly.

“I try to keep them off-balance with the curveball, and with the fastball I just reared back and threw it as hard as I could,” he said. “There was probably a good two- to three-mile-per-hour difference between my regular fastball and when I reared back. I felt really good.”

Bridgewater-Raynham (7-2) manager John Kearney knew his ace would rebound after a forgetful outing against Marshfield on April 25, when Connolly only lasted two innings in a 10-3 loss.

“He was in the game today, he really was. He was really pumped up and in the game,” he said. “I had a great feeling about Jack today. I just knew that, after that last start against Marshfield, he wanted to come out and just try to dominate the game.”

The Trojan offense quickly got to Barnstable's Riley Ashe, who was coming off a no-hit performance against Falmouth on April 11. B-R put up four runs in three innings against Ashe, capped off by a Tyler Carey RBI double to deep center in the third.

Ashe had some control problems, walking three batters, while hitting two others with pitches that got away.

“He looked a little nervous, and I think our kids were really good about waiting him out and making him throw a lot of pitches,” Kearney said.

Barnstable's Dan Holzman came in for long relief duty in the fourth inning and gave up four runs on five hits and four walks in four innings of work.

A Family Affair: While Connolly was pitching his best game of the season, it was his cousin, catcher Joe Freiday, calling the game from behind the plate. Freiday, a junior, said he considers Connolly the team's “virtual ace” at this point in the season.

“I've been catching for him my whole life, and we basically have it down to an art,” he said. “His off-speed was really keeping them off big time, and he would just come back with that fastball. I've never seen him throw harder. He pitched a great game.”

Connolly added that he feels a little more comfortable when he and Freiday are on the diamond together.

“Me and Joey have been playing together all of our lives, and we just have a lot of chemistry going on,” he said. “He knows exactly what pitch I want, and I never have to shake him off. Whatever you see me shake off he tells me to shake off.”

Connolly also has an older brother, Mike, who is currently playing college baseball for the University of Maine as a utility player. Mike Connolly was a team captain at B-R and played both shortstop and pitcher.

Their father, Mike Connolly Sr., was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 1982 out of East Bridgewater High as a right-handed pitcher.

“There's some good bloodlines there,” Kearney said, with a laugh.

Transformation Complete: Connolly spent most of his freshman year in the bullpen, and Kearney has used the beginning portion of this season to transition him into a starting role. Aside from the setback against Marshfield, Kearney is pleased with Connolly's development.

“Last year as a freshman he pitched in a lot of big games like this, but many of them in relief coming in with people on. He was so good. I needed him. Our staff wasn't really quite as deep last year,” he said. “He is loose now. He's ready to get in there and start for us the rest of the way. I knew he would be primed for this one.”

On the Rebound: While the loss to Bridgewater-Raynham was a setback for Barnstable, manager Joe DeMartino said he expects his team to bounce back for their next game against Nauset on Wednesday.

“I think more often than not, coming off a tough loss like this, guys show up mentally prepared. But I'm going to wait and see what they look like tomorrow before I confirm that suspicion,” he said.

The Trojans were the first team to shut-out Barnstable this season, but DeMartino felt his squad was swinging the bat well. The Red Raiders had seven hits and drew five walks but were never able to string enough together to get into an offensive rhythm.

“For the most part, I think our approach at the plate was not bad. We swung the bats and a few times took pitches we shouldn't have,” DeMartino said. “When a guy is on like that, and he's throwing his good stuff, it's hard to compete with.”

Recap: B-R 5, No. 11 Barnstable 4

April, 26, 2012
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — In John Kearney’s mind, Bridgewater-Raynham was playing with house money.

The Trojans had battled back from a four-run deficit to tie things up in the bottom of the ninth, and that was before Mike Bruemmel came to the plate with two outs in the inning.

With Jack Connolly on second base, Bruemel stung a liner into left field in front of strong-armed Dylan Morris. As Connolly was rounding third base, Morris bobbled the ball and wasn’t able to catch the speedy freshmen to finish off a 5-4 comeback home victory for the Trojans over Barnstable.

Having extra-innings already in his back pocket made the decision to send Connolly, with or without the bobble, an easy one for the Trojans.

“It’s tied already, so you take the chance,” Kearney said of the last play of the game. “All of their outfielders have excellent arms. The leftfielder has a very good arm and that little bobble is all it took. We had a little bit of speed on second with Connolly. But being tied, we take that chance. If he gets thrown out on a great throw we go extra innings. Down a run, I don’t know if we go. I don’t know. We might not if we are down one.”

The Trojans are now 4-5 overall and grabbed a huge win in the Old Colony League to push their record to 2-0. The Red Raiders drop to 7-2 and 1-1 in a conference that has been neck-and-neck between these two teams for the past couple of seasons.

Bruemmel's Game-Winner: Kearney has noticed his junior centerfielder scuffling at the plate after a nice start to the season, and this game might have been a microcosm of Bruemmel’s season.

Bruemmel was 0-for-4 in his first four plate appearances, while going 0-for-2 with a runner in scoring position, but jumped on the first pitch he saw from reliever Dan Holeman to get the game-winner.

“First few games of the year that’s what he was doing for us. Then he had a couple of games when he was trying to find himself,” said Kearney. “The past couple of games he’s been right back. This is his third year with us. I brought him up as a freshman. That’s the kind of kid he is, a clutch kid. A really clutch kid.”

Bruemmel didn’t feel like waiting around in his last at-bat.

“It was a straight fastball, chest high,” Bruemmel said after his first career walkoff. “I just went for it and took it to left.”

Bullpen Shows Rust: The Barnstable starters have been so good for the Red Raiders this season that Joe DeMartino’s bullpen has been used minimally.

It looked like his bullpen would have to wait another day with the way Keegan Dellacona was dealing. Dellacona held the Trojans scoreless through 8-1/3 innings, but after two singles by the bottom and 133 pitches, DeMartino gave him the hook.

Dellacona scattered seven hits and gave up two earned runs with six strikeouts and two walks in 8.1 innings of work.

“I had told myself that if (Dellacona) gets into trouble in the ninth then I was going to pull him,” said DeMartino. “The bullpen needs work, and they haven’t been able to get into games.”

The Trojans made the bullpen pay as they put five of the next six guys on to secure the comeback victory.