(Lowell) “Exciting,” wouldn’t justly describe this game. Ask anyone who was there at sunny LeLacheur Park on Saturday morning!
Middleboro got a 2-out, 2-run walkoff single by senior Kevin Huscher to pull out a 4-3 win over Hopedale and capture the 2013 Division 3 baseball title.
Hopedale (21-4) scratched out a go-ahead run in the top of the seventh and then brought on senior Ian Strom to seal the deal. Ian came in with a 9-1 record having K’d twelve batters in his last outing.
The sequence in the last inning elevated the tension: walk (Taylor Frazier), strikeout (Cody Braga), walk (Brandon Lavelle – Sam Yost runs for him), strikeout (Paul Sances), and walk (Neil Perry).
So you can see the pattern the inning was going in. The outcome rested on the arm of Ian Strom and the bat of Kevin Huscher. During the at-bat, Kevin hit a long foul fly down the rightfield line that rightfielder sophomore Kevin Lynch came close to getting. But he didn’t, and then Kevin hit a sharp grounder up the middle. With two outs, all runners were on the move. Junior Taylor Frazier scored easily and pinch runner senior Sam Yost was home from second long before the throw came in.
It was clearly the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat right in front of our eyes!
Senior Alex Bean pitched two innings of relief to get the win for the Sachems (21-5).
Middleboro picked up their first run in the second inning and took a 1-0 lead. Senior Andrew Card singled and reached second on a wild pickoff attempt by Blue Raiders starter senior Dan Mantoni. Taylor Frazier bunted Andrew to third before sophomore Cody Braga’s sacrifice fly delivered Andrew.
Hopedale took the lead in the fourth with two runs, both unearned. MHS second baseman junior Neil Perry dropped a popup and then had a hard one-hopper glance off his glove enabling Ian Strom and senior Chris Embree to score a pair of gift runs.
Dan Mantoni had limited the Sachems to three hits over five innings but in the sixth inning Middleboro got a 2-out/2 strike triple from Andrew Card to right bringing Kevin Huscher across from third tying this game at, 2-2.
But back came Hopedale in the seventh. Kevin Lynch singled to deep short leading off and Luke Manoli bunted him to second. A ground ball to short (Kevin Huscher) went well for Hopedale. Kevin tried for the runner (Kevin Lynch) at third and didn’t get him…….it was close. Cole DeDonato followed with a slow grounder to second that allowed Kevin Lynch to give Hopedale a big one-run lead.
However, six batters later, that one-run Hopedale lead was gone as well as a chance for their first state baseball title.
Instead, it was Middleboro winning a second title (they won in 1997) in a dramatic way.
There were plenty of memorable plays in this game.
(1) On a single to left by Chris Embree in the second, senior Tyler D’Urso was held at third (from second) even though LF Paul Sances bobbled the ball. Chris tried for second on the play and was thrown out on a good throw. Might have been a run there for Hopedale.
(2) Pitcher Dan Mantoni picked Alex Bean off second (1-6) to end the Middleboro second.
(3) Sophomore Kevin Bresciani reached third with two outs but Middleboro starter Cody Younger K’d Cole DeDonato looking to end inning.
(4) Leftfielder Paul Sances saves a run with two straight diving catches in the fifth inning.
(5) Centerfielder Ian Strom got the tip of his glove on Kevin Huscher’s double in the sixth inning. Kevin later scored the tying run.
On this hot day, Middleboro coach Bill Lawrence probably wasn’t unhappy to get the ice water poured over him in the post-game celebrating.
Kevin Huscher had the game of his life: a walk, a steal, scored tying run, and drove in the final two runs.
Andrew Card had two hits, an RBI, and scored a run.
Kevin Lynch paced Hopedale with two hits and a run. And I’m sure he’d like another try at Kevin Huscher’s foul fly in the bottom of the seventh!
Hopedale coach Joe Small is retiring after twenty-four years.
No team had gotten more than two runs off of the Blue Raiders in their 12-game winning streak leading into the Middleboro game.
Ian Strom will be pitching for UMass Lowell in 2014. They play their home games at LeLacheur Park, also the home of the Lowell Spinners.
Middleboro ends their season winning ten straight. A lot of serious baseball is played in that town. Their Little League teams have reached the state semi-finals five times since the year 2000.
Their 2008 Little League team lost in the state finals. Taylor Frazier, Cody Braga, and Andrew Card were on that team.
LeLacheur Park is a terrific place to view and photograph a game. The parking? Well, not so good. The Spinners start their home season this week.
(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)