It’s never easy for a team to win a championship in sports. In high school, winning a state championship, more often than not, means surviving a grueling regular season schedule and advancing round by round through do-or-die state tournament games.
Prior to the start of the 2004 season, the Bishop Fenwick baseball team was slated to have a strong spring given the mix of talent and experience the Crusaders carried on their roster. Although it was far from easy, Fenwick delivered on the early-season predictions with the program’s first, and only, state championship.
For their efforts on the diamond, those who starred on the 2004 state champion Crusader team can now relish in another accomplishment-the ultimate Fenwick athletics honor. The team is one of eight new members of the Bishop Fenwick Athletics Hall of Fame, set to be inducted on November 24 at Montvale Plaza in Stoneham.
“I was thrilled when I heard we were going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Kevin McCarthy, who coached the 2004 Crusaders, said. “Anytime that a team’s recognized for winning a state championship, it’s incredible. A lot of people don’t realize the amount of work and good fortune that goes into it.”
McCarthy coached the baseball team at Fenwick from 1975 to 2007. In 1985, the Crusaders reached the state championship game but fell short. In 2003, one year before winning it all, Fenwick fell to Swampscott in the state tournament.
The loss to Swampscott fueled the Crusaders to a 24-3 record in the 2004 season, capped off by victories over Ipswich, Newburyport, Lynnfield, Watertown, Hull and St. Joseph Central in the state tournament. Fenwick defeated St. Joseph at Bentley University in the state final.
“One of my players told me it was like winning the World Series and I told him it wasn’t,” McCarthy, who teaches math at Fenwick, said. “You can lose the first game of the World Series and still win it. The state tournament is one and done and the pressure’s incredible. It’s quite a feat and I’m glad the team’s being recognized.”
What McCarthy remembers most about the team’s championship run was the dynamic offense that led the way. After winning a close game against Ipswich, 4-1, in the first round of the tournament, Fenwick’s bats came alive and never looked back.
“In the postseason, the bats really came alive,” McCarthy said. “Offensively we got on a pretty good roll. The first game we played against Ipswich was the game I was most nervous about because we had a first-round bye. We won 4-1 in a close game but other than that our bats really came alive. All facets of the game came together but we really scored some runs in that postseason.”
The 2004 Crusaders were nominated for Hall of Fame consideration by David Surface Sr., whose son, David Surface Jr., was the team’s starting catcher that season.
Surface Jr. played for Fenwick for three seasons, 2002-2004, serving as the starting catcher for the final two.
“Winning the state championship was great,” Surface Jr., who attended Bentley after graduating from Fenwick in 2004, said. “We lost to Swampscott in the state tournament the year before. It was surreal. You’re so used to losing the last game of the season and when we won it, it was as if we asked ourselves, “what’s next?'”
As the team rolled through its postseason opponents, the Crusaders found a sense of confidence that carried them all the way to the championship. Surface Jr. credited that confidence as one of the keys to winning it all.
“After we won the first few tournament games, we had a lot of confidence,” Surface Jr., who was raised in Saugus, said. “The confidence kept building and building. Looking back on it all, it was inevitable that we won the state championship.
“The person I’m happiest for is Coach McCarthy,” Surface Jr. added. “He dedicated his life to Fenwick baseball. Being the team that won it all for him, that’s what makes me the happiest.”
Surface Sr. was with his son and the rest of the Crusaders every step of the way. A former coach of the Fenwick freshman baseball team, Surface Sr. was the president of the program’s booster club.
“The team was ranked by the Boston Globe, 1 or 2, for most of the year,” Surface Sr. said. “They were ahead of much larger schools. What they accomplished as a smaller school made me want to nominate them. It was a Division 3 team and we played some Division 1 schools and we beat them. The team was very, very competitive.”
Surface Sr. also remembers the team coming together in 2004 after the heartbreaking loss to Swampscott the year before. What made the team a unique group, Surface Sr. said, was the unselfish attitudes each of the individual players brought to the team.
“I think it was an amazing accomplishment,” Surface Sr. said. “The momentum started the year before, in 2003. We lost a tournament game to Swampscott in extra innings. The next year, the kids really bonded together and they did a great job. The most important thing is they were unselfish although they were very talented.”
Both McCarthy and Surface Jr. are looking forward to November’s induction ceremony as a chance to reunite with their former teammates, players and coaches.
“Reuniting with all the teammates and coaches, that’s something I’m looking forward to,” Surface Jr. said. “The person I see the most is Coach McCarthy because my mom also works at Fenwick. We don’t communicate as a team that much.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the team reunited with the coaching staff and all the players,” McCarthy said. “Sometimes when you’re going through it you don’t really have a chance to reflect. Looking back, the players can all say ‘wow that was something special.'”