We kicked off 2020 by honoring the best athletes of the 2010s for each sport. Now we’ll honor the top teams of the past decade. Current and former Standard-Times sports staff voted to determine the Top 10 teams of the 2010s.
No. 6: 2017 GNB Voc-Tech baseball
Coach: Rick Avila
Record: 19-6, including 14-6 in the regular season
Key players: Tylor Arruda, Noah Rivera, Kevin Santiago, James Estrella, Jared Methia, D.J. Lopes, Andrew Mattos, Corey Viera, Andrew Vinagre
Postseason appearance: Beat Danvers 6-2 to win the 2017 Div. 2 state championship
The late Andrew McCann provided inspiration to the Bears on their magical run to the program’s first-ever state championship in 2017.
On June 15, 2017, the morning of GNB Voc-Tech’s state title game against Danvers, head coach Rick Avila twice visited the grave of McCann, a former Bear (who wore No. 15) and prayed.
More than six hours later as Avila and the Bears celebrated their 6-2 win over Danvers, the longtime coach reflected on McCann’s untimely death five years earlier from a car crash.
“I believe in this, and I mean that,” Avila said in 2015. “These kids have been so great to me. All these years we say ‘1-2-3 Bears’ and we say ‘McCann’ and that’s how we do it. This is for AJ (DaSilva) and for him.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s been a great ride. I really mean that. I’m so proud. I’m ready to break down crying right now.”
It took a combination of gutsy pitching from Tylor Arruda and clutch hits across the lineup for the Bears to rally past a perennial state-contending Danvers team, which was making its third straight title game appearance. The veteran Falcons went ahead 2-0 in the first inning, but Voc-Tech answered.
Arruda allowed just three baserunners in the final four innings and the Bears broke it open in the bottom of the fourth when James Estrella scored on a wild pitch and Kevin Santiago drove in two runs on a single.
“It’s every kid’s dream to be able to come up in a big situation and break the game open and give your starting pitcher all the confidence in the world,” Santiago said after the game. “I was trying to look for something I could take up the middle and poke into the outfield. Luckily, I did it. It felt great. It was a great feeling to see the bench and crowd pump you up.”
Arruda retired eight of the final nine batters he faced, the final one on the fly-out to left, where Cam Massa made the catch.
“In my head it was like 50-50, I’m like ‘Oh my God we’re going to win’ and ‘Please don’t drop it,’” Massa recalled after the game. “It was a dream come true. Watching the crowd going crazy and running in toward everybody was awesome.”
Santiago agreed, “It was amazing. I threw my mask off and my glove and watched Cam make that catch in left field. It was just amazing. There’s no better feeling. It’s unreal.”
When the Bears ended their regular season losing four of their final eight games and lost in the semifinals of the state vocational semifinals, a deep tournament run seemed unlikely. But as the No. 5 seed, GNB Voc-Tech reeled off wins over Bishop Feehan (13-4), Milford (2-1), Hopkinton (3-2 in nine innings) and Westwood (5-3) to reach the program’s first state title game.
“It’s the fire in our hearts,” Mattos said in 2015. “We have so much chemistry and we never quit. We get pumped up for everything and no one stops.”
Arruda, who finished the year 10-0 with his performance in the state championship, was named the 2017 Standard-Times Baseball Player of the Year. Arruda was also one of the most consistent hitters in the South Coast Conference, batting .389 with 20 RBIs in the No. 3 spot.
Rivera and Santiago were named to the Standard-Times Super Team. Rivera, a third baseman, hit .375 with 14 RBIs while Santiago was one of the best defensive catchers in the area. He batted .324 with 12 RBIs. Estrella and Methia were All-Stars.
Avila was named the 2016-17 Standard-Times State Champion Coach of the Year.
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