Halo effect

The St. Mary High School baseball team celebrates a Division 4 championship victory Saturday at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. (Photo by Marc St. Onge)

AMHERST – Wikipedia describes the “halo effect” as a cognitive bias in which an observer’s overall impression of a person, company, brand or product influences the observer’s feelings and thoughts about that entity’s character or properties.
Whether or not that is an accurate description of what occurred at Saturday’s West Division 4 baseball championship at UMass, the haloed ones from St. Mary High School sure did have a spirited effect on the game’s outcome.
No. 2 St. Mary won a 3-2 thriller over fourth-seeded Granby to capture its third championship in school history Saturday, and first since 2009.
“Typical Westfield kids,” said St. Mary coach Troy Collins, who coached the Saints to their second title in nine years. He was also a player on the 1979 championship squad, the only other time the school won the title.
“It’s so tough to get here – to win it is awesome,” coach Collins said. “The opportunities don’t come along a lot so you just have to ride it when you get them.”
St. Mary (21-2) rode the arms of starting pitcher John Daley and reliever Nate Bonini in the championship game.
Daley allowed just three hits through 5 2-3 innings. He struck out five batters, walked three batters, and hit one. Bonini gave up one hit after coming in with one batter on and two outs in the sixth inning before striking out the next four batters to end the game.
“Today we got some hits – not a lot of runs, but we still got the job done,” Daley said. “We were great offensively and defensively today.”
St. Mary wasted little time in seizing the game’s first lead.
Matt Masciadrelli led off the bottom of the first inning with a double deep to the left field wall. Shaun Gezotis (3-for-4, 2 runs) followed with an RBI single through the right side of the infield.
The lead was short-lived.
In the top of the second, Joe Bessette reached after being hit by a pitch. A one-out double from Michael Sosa deep to the left field wall tied it.
St. Mary stranded runners in scoring position in the top of the second. Bonini reached on a lead-off walk, and Quinn Powers roped a double to the furthermost corner of the outfield, smack dab on the left field line. Granby (19-5) brought in Noah Bleakley to relieve. Bleakley forced two ground outs and a fly out to end the threat to take starter Michael White off the hook. Granby went ahead in the third when Bleakley roped a laser down the third base line that resulted in a run-scoring double.
The early back-and-forth affair swung St. Mary’s way in the third. Gezotis beat out a slow-roller on the left side for a lead-off single. With one out, John Daley singled to center field. Hunter Authier followed with a sac-fly RBI to tie it 2-all.
St. Mary took the lead in the fifth inning. With one out, Gezotis hit a one-out double. Jake Butler drew an intentional walk. A walk from Hunter Authier loaded the bases. A passed ball resulted in the Saints’ go-ahead run.
Granby threatened to tie it in the sixth off reliever Bonini. Thomas Rezzani drew a two-out walk. Sosa singled. Bonini came back though to strike out Tristan Guzik to end the inning.
“My teammates were picking me up saying ‘go get them,’ ‘you’ve got this,’ ‘you’ve done it this whole year,’” Bonini said. “It’s a team effort, nothing else about it.”
Bonini struck out the side in the seventh inning to close it out.
“We knew when they were eighth graders we had a special group coming through,” coach Collins said. “We had our thoughts and predictions, and we set high goals for ourselves. We’ve completed a couple of them. We still have one more big one to go – we want to play in that last game of the year.
St. Mary moves on to face the Central Mass representative Tuesday night at Tivnan Field in Worcester at 4 p.m.
“I can’t say enough about all the people in Westfield who give their time up to coach and do whatever to produce baseball players for us, for (Westfield) High School, for Westfield (Technical Academy). They just keep feeding them through, and that’s a tribute to the people who give their time up.”
Notes: First baseman Drew Collins made a spectacular play at first base in the fourth inning, robbing Sosa of a hit with a diving catch toward the second base bag. …Gezotis is the latest family member to bring home a trophy as his brothers Christian (STM) and Nick (WHS) both won Western Mass titles in 2009. Their father, Curt, won a championship with Westfield High in 1981. “It’s just an awesome accomplishment,” Shaun Gezotis said. “Everyone thought that we weren’t going to make it, even in the playoffs. We just came out firing. We did everything that we could to make it here, and we got an accomplishment.”

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