ATTLEBORO — The summer basketball league season began Monday night at Mass. Premier Courts, but Attleboro High’s Nick McMahon and Tim Callahan were not on the floor.
Instead, the Bombardier juniors were stationed at shortstop and second base at Hayward Field, batting seventh and at leadoff for Attleboro in its one-run victory over Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High in the MIAA Division 1 South Sectional quarterfinals.
McMahon had been at second base all season while Callahan was a fixture from the first game of the season as the starting AHS shortstop, but for postseason play, Attleboro coach Steve Dunlea made a bold, but not so dramatic change — flip-flopping McMahon from second to shortstop and Callahan from the hole to second base.
McMahon had two putouts and two assists, initiating a double play in the fourth inning against the Trojans while Callahan had two assists and four putouts, leaping and latching onto a line drive for the final out of the fourth inning to strand a pair of B-R baserunners.
With McMahon and Callahan anchoring the middle, and the Bombardiers having URI-bound senior Mason Houle at third base and junior hoopster Lorenzo Wilson at first base, AHS ventures into the semifinal round of Division 1 South play.
The No. 11 seed Bombardiers next face the second-seeded Hilltoppers of Durfee High in a 4 p.m. game Wednesday in Milford.
The Bombardiers will not be the only area team representing the Hockomock League on the MIAA diamond. Coach Joe Breen’s Mansfield High Hornets will play their third game in the Super 8 Tournament, meeting Boston College High in a 4 p.m. loser’s bracket game at Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium.
“Both of those kids are talented middle infielders,” Dunlea said of making the switch for the Bombardiers’ first tourney game at Barnstable. “We had tried it a little bit in a scrimmage with Stoughton that we had before the tournament began and we rolled it out at Barnstable.”
The rationale, according to Dunlea, was that Callahan is projected to be a second baseman at the collegiate level, so it would be better to showcase his talents at that spot in the postseason, and McMahon has a bit stronger throwing arm.
“Tim wants to play baseball in college (his elder brother Matt plays at Dean College) and he projects to be more of a second baseman,” Dunlea said, “and Nick has a little bit of a stronger arm.
“Tim has great range and glove work and so does Nick. Both of them are quick and they are both baseball-smart. Being a first year coach, it takes a while to figure out what you have (for a roster). It just made the most sense.”
Both Callahan and McMahon think that the footwork and quickness on the basketball floor render themselves similar to the shuffling of feet left and right on the diamond dirt.
“It helps a lot because the quickness from basketball helps you get to the baseball,” Callahan said of his fielding. “Some of the drills are the same, helping with our quickness. The defensive slides help, especially when you’re shuffling to get over for a baseball. It’s that quick reaction when a ball comes off the bat. It helps you pick it up a lot quicker.”
Callahan was a shortstop through his youth league days, except for after his freshman year with the American Legion baseball team when he was a second baseman. McMahon has pretty much always been a shortstop as well.
The duo has AHS basketball teammates all over the infield.
“We had that connection,” McMahon said. “We had a very successful basketball season, so we had that chemistry built up, we have fun out there. Coach sent me a text (about the switch) because I had a doctor’s appointment and it kind of caught me off guard.”
It’s mainly a different view of the batter out in the field and different responsibilities for covering second base on steals and positioning for relay throws.
“A lot of times with the second baseman, I have to shade more up the middle than I would (at shortstop),” Callahan said. “Moving from shortstop to second base doesn’t make much difference to me,” Callahan said. “It actually helps me because it gives me more time to get my feet set and make a better throw.”
All those defensive slide drills that AHS basketball coach Mark Houle put Callahan and McMahon through have worked wonders on the baseball field.
“It improved our range,” said McMahon, who hadn’t played shortstop last season either. “I played shortstop most of my life, so it’s not really much of a difference.
“With righties (hitters) I have to play more in the left hole and lefties up the middle more. Other than that, the throw is just longer.”