That Winning Look: ME Baseball Wins State Title


 When BJ Weed knows one of his players is dialed in and ready to deliver a prime performance, he will often use the phrase, “He had that look in his eye.”

All season long, the Manchester Essex baseball coach would say this about any number of his players, knowing they were going to elevate their game and lift the team along with them.  Whether it was Vaughn O’Leary, AJ Pallazola or Mike Deoreo or one of any number of other key players in 2022, there were plenty of Hornets that “had that look” in their eyes, be it during practice or during a playoff game.  These players were dialed in, and wins were sure to follow.

On June 18 against Seekonk in the Div. 4 State Finals at LeLacheur Park, the story was no different.  This time, it was O’Leary, the Hornets’ ace, who “had that look in his eye,” according to Weed.  The senior lefty delivered, striking out 13 while allowing only two hits and a walk in a complete-game effort, delivering his second shutout in as many starts (the senior was dominant in a win over Leicester earlier in the tournament).

“Against Leicester, he was unhittable, and it wasn’t even close,” explains Weed.  “In the last game, he might not have been as good, but he had the determination to have his “A” stuff, whether he had his “B” stuff or not.”

Henry Otterbein provided the only offense that the Hornets would need to secure the win and the state title with a two-out single in the fourth inning that drove in Deoreo from second and Ryan Andrews from third.

“Henry hit that first pitch to right, between first and second,” Weed says of the game-winner. “Henry is one of the unsung heroes for our team; he’s really played shutdown defense in right field.”

The win gave Manchester Essex its first state title since 2019, with the seniors in this group determined to make the most of 2022 after having the 2020 season cancelled due to the initial outbreak of COVID-19 and the 2021 truncated for the same reason.

“The team that won the 2019 state championship was very talented, there was no doubt they were going to do it,” Weed explains.  “This team will go down as one of my favorites because of what we did with what we had on paper.  There were a lot of doubters, but they had the talent and that look in their eye.”

That determination allowed the team to win low-scoring battles like the Seekonk game, as well as dogfights like the 6-5 win over Abington in the Div. 4 Final Four on June 14.  The Hornets were down 3-0 early on in this one, but battled back once the pitching staff buckled down and the offense got things moving.  Freshman Satchel Rubin pitched well during a crucial point late in the game that allowed Manchester Essex the opportunity to complete the comeback and pull out the win.

“We slowly made our way back in that one and tied it,” says Weed.  “That could have made our broken our season.  Our freshman comes in and goes one-two-three, and we came back in the next inning and won.”

While the pitching staff – including freshman Conner Heney – was stellar this season, the Manchester Essex offense was just as productive.  Colin Coyne played well in the field, but also scored five runs and went 7-for-19 in the playoffs.  Deoreo hit just under .500 during the regular season and actually increased his batting average during the playoffs.  Pallazola was 8-for-16 in the postseason after hitting .478 during the regular season.  Andrews was clutch at shortstop and near the top of the batting order, while catcher Simon Rubin provided clutch hits of his own during the postseason.

And of course, there’s O’Leary, he of the .156 ERA.

“He wanted the baseball every single game,” says Weed.  “He’d ask, ‘Can I throw the next game,’ and I’d have to remind him, ‘No, you threw 100-something pitches and you’re ineligible.’  I knew he was locked in every time he got the ball.”

The Hornets lose seven seniors to graduation, including O’Leary, Andrews, Coyne, Pallazola, Colby Doan, Zach Parot and Simon Rubin.  Junior pitchers Matteos Sarmanian and Troy Flood should anchor the staff in 2023, while Otterbein and Deoreo will lead in the field and at the plate.

“This team was determined to achieve something no one thought they could do,” says Weed.  “The effort was there every single game and practice. I never had to yell at them once.  That’s why they won.”

catcher, baseball, shortstop, satchel rubin, mike deoreo, matteos sarmanian, ryan andrews, zach parot, simon rubin, conner heney, vaughn, troy flood, colby doan, aj pallazola, henry otterbein, manchester essex baseball coach, colin coyne