By Hector Longo
---- — HAVERHILL — As far as opening days go, Tom O’Brien has seen warmer, prettier and much more gratifying.
But the cold, the wind and even the result, a 6-1 loss to Masconomet Regional, aren’t about to dampen the second-year Haverhill High baseball coach’s enthusiasm.
“Yeah, there are three or four sophomores starting out there for us, but I’m not just excited about down the road,” said O’Brien. “I’m excited about this season and what we can accomplish.”
The Hillies displayed the pains of youth — mistakes in the field and on the bases — and struggled against Masco righthander Spiro Varinos, who fanned 13.
“We’ve got to do a better job of putting the ball in play,” said O’Brien, whose club opened without shortstop Nick Comei (foot) and outfielder Tommy Maguire (flu).
The Hillies scored their lone run in the bottom of the third.
With one out, sophomores Casey O’Sullivan and Sean Doherty laced back-to-back singles. After the runners moved up, Bryan Bellemore delivered the first Hillie run to tie things at 1-1. But Doherty, who had two of the five Haverhill hits, was gunned down at the plate trying to take the lead.
From there, it was Masco pecking away against future University of Maine offensive lineman Dan Burrows and Matt Burns.
Burrows took the loss, going 4.2 innings and allowing two earned runs on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts. The junior Burns closed things out with 2.1 innings of five-hit ball.
“I thought both guys pitched pretty well. I was very happy with their work,” said O’Brien. “We didn’t make a couple plays in the field that we needed, but that’s going to happen in the cold and the wind.”