BRAINTREE, Mass. -- Pope John Paul II head coach Mark Santos was asked about sharing this MIAA Division 4 South championship with his son, second baseman Matt, and there were some waterworks. He bowed his head and choked up, a dramatic gesture succeeding what was an otherwise routine-looking 8-1 defeat of Millis.
The most dramatic move, though, might be how much of a leap the Lions have made in such a short time. The Hyannis-based school was founded in 2007, and fielded its first varsity baseball squad four years later. In just three short seasons, the Lions have gone from nonexistent to hanging hardware -- literally.
Not to mention, this year's quest has been pretty dominant. Heading into the postseason, the Lions had outscored the opposition 240-35 against a schedule that was perceived to be weak -- even by Division 4 standards -- but also included a season split with Division 1 power Barnstable just a few miles down the road.
The Lions' win over Millis also put a finishing touch on an impressive four-game run, outscoring opponents a cumulative 32-3 for the tournament. They can complete this untracked of seasons in Tuesday night's state final, where they'll face D4 North champion Lowell Catholic.
"I really can't put it into words," said Mark Santos of capturing hardware so quickly. "I see what the kids do every day, with the time they put into the offseason. They deserve this. I know everyone out there says that they're a team and everybody works hard, but these truly are a team in every phase of the word. They work their tails off, they deserve everything they get.
"I know there's been a lot of people who have doubted our schedule and everything else, [but] we can't pick our league. We play whoever is in front of us, and that's what we did. We don't worry about anyone else, we just say let's play our game. Let the script play out and see what happens."
Ben Gibson was once again the catalyst for the winning effort, doing damage on the mound (CG, 7 K's, 6 hits) and at the plate (2-for-3, HR, 4 RBI).
Holding a 1-0 lead in the top of the third, Gibson took a 1-1 curveball and blasted a two-run shot to right field, scoring Matt Santos. Then in the bottom of the sixth, he finished off a five-run inning with another mammoth shot, this one a two-run double that made it 8-1.
"He was throwing me a lot of curveballs -- and since I'm a bigger player, that's what I was expecting," Gibson said. "So I was sitting on the curveball, sat back and just put a good swing on it...It felt unbelievable. It was a perfect swing."
Grand Theft Lions: PJP was unafraid to test the arm of Millis' catcher early and often. Through the first four innings, they swiped six bags on the Mohawks, adding to an already stressful day for the Millis defense.
"I knew he was a freshman, but really we go off of pitcher's movement," Mark Santos said. "We're a very athletic team, and we just said 'You know what, we're going to run'. We're going to press the issue, and make them play our game. If they stop us, they stop us.
"But I think once we get pressure on the base paths, it kind of gets the pitcher a little worried, then maybe he hangs a couple of pitches. I think that's what happened today."