The baseball team began defense of its Division 3 state championship this week and the weather was the Lancers’ toughest opponent when their workouts started on Monday afternoon.
It was only nine months ago when Norton registered its sixth consecutive victory and earned the Division 3 state title with a 7-4 win over West champion Ware on June 19 at the LeLacheur Park in Lowell.
“It doesn’t feel any different from the start of practice last year,” said third-year Norton head coach Ted Currle, who has guided the Lancers to a sectional semifinal and a state championship during his first two seasons running the program.
“We have a new team and are starting over. Last year is something that the returning players and I will never forget, but we are at the beginning stages of hopefully another good team. I’m really excited about the new faces that will step in as well as the development of the returning guys.”
It was a magical run for the Lancers last spring. They entered the 2010 MIAA Division 3 South Sectional Tournament as the 10th seed with a 12-8 record.
Norton defeated Coyle-Cassidy, Abington and Apponequet before the team beat Hanover 1-0 in the sectional final at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton. The Lancers then throttled North champion Whitter Tech, 21-4, in the Division 3 state semifinals in Brockton.
It has been a busy nine months for Currle as he got married last summer and coached the Lancer football team to a successful season last fall. “Last year almost seems like a distant memory right now,” he says. “But the time from the end of the football until now just flew by. I wear my (state championship) ring for good luck every so often.”
Norton loses seven seniors from that state title squad, including captain Scott Fraatz and classmates Ed Hannon, Chris Lenihan, Bryan Feeney, Andrew Ethier, Jeremy Wright and Steven Finney. “That group of seniors was tremendous,” Currle said.
The captains this spring for Norton will be A.J. Bashaw, Tom Munger and Brian Fox.
The Tri-Valley League is always challenging, but as the Division 3 state champions, Norton will have a target on its back this spring. Prior to winning their state title a year ago, the Lancers finished tied for third place in the league with a 12-6 record.
“Our league is really tough every year,” Currle said. “After winning the state championship, the other teams in the league will want to beat us as much as they did before if not more. We have a lot of new kids on the team that will have to prove themselves this year, but we feel we will have a solid chance in the league.”
Norton could officially begin workouts on Monday, but the team has only been able to be outdoors for part of the week because of the snow and the cold temperatures.
“We have not done a lot of throwing outside,” Currle said. “It has been too cold. We pitched one day outside. We got to look at every pitcher and we saw some good things. But we limited each kid to one inning and 20 pitches. We have also worked a little on our defense, but we have really limited the kids’ throwing in this weather.”
You would think following a championship season that the number of youngsters coming out for tryouts at the start of this week would have been high, but that wasn’t the case.
“I was a little disappointed with the numbers,” said Currle, who filled out his junior varsity and varsity rosters at mid week. “I thought after last year that we would have had more kids come out for the team this year. I don’t know whether the other kids in the school heard we were going to have a lot of returning players this year, I’m not sure. But I was a little surprised and disappointed with the turnout for tryouts.”
“I want everything in and committed to memory and that will be done after Sunday,” he said as far as the mental preparation for the season opener April 8. “We want to get the kids prepared to play the brand of baseball we play at Norton. We hit, pitch and play solid defense.”