BARRE -- Nathan Foster's two-out base hit delivered Tim Mahoney and Nick White with the game-winning runs in the top of the seventh inning, as the North Middlesex Regional baseball team pulled to within one game of qualifying for the postseason with a 3-1 come-from-behind win over host Quabbin Regional on Monday afternoon.
NM is now 9-2 overall and 4-1 in Mid-Wach C, with its first crack at 10 wins coming when it travels to Burncoat Wednesday. Quabbin fell to 1-10 (1-3).
It took quite a while for the bats to heat up on this cold day, but when they did, there was no stopping North Middlesex. The Patriots had fallen behind, 1-0, after Quabbin's Mike Chamberlain belted an 0-1 fastball to center to bring in Nick Gaumond in the bottom of the third.
But some clutch hitting with two outs in both the fifth and seventh put the tourists in the driver's seat.
"It took a good four innings to hit," said longtime NM skipper Tom Bartleson. "We tried a few different things, like a hit-and-run and getting the guys going. It helped. You hate to play baseball from behind, no matter the team you're playing against. I'd rather be playing ahead, but the kids showed some heart.
"All parts of the order helped and contributed. This was a typical North Middlesex-Quabbin game; it's been a one- or two-run game every time these last four or five years."
Second baseman David Hurley prevented a 1-2-3 fifth, hustling through and beating the throw by a step to keep the inning going.
"He didn't give up, and that's the thing: they were frustrated the first few innings. Everyone was on the front foot," Bartleson said.
He would take second and third on steals before Pat Aubuchon belted a 2-1 Ryan Malkowski pitch into right for a stand-up double, bringing Hurley in with the game-tying run.
"You expect that (from Aubuchon)," Bartleson said.
Two innings later, Mahoney singled to right to lead off the frame, before he went to second on a wild pitch.
He went to third as White's grounder to short got away from the fielder; White would take second uncontested.
And after Quabbin intentionally walked Aubuchon to load the bases with two outs, Malkowski went full to Foster before the Patriot third baseman squeezed a seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield.
Quabbin went quietly in the seventh.
Brendan Sullivan struck out seven Panthers in the win, yielding only four Quabbin hits and walking four. But the big right-hander also managed to strand six runners, including the bases loaded in the home half of the fifth.
Gaumond had walked before Ryan Judd reached on an infield single, putting runners on first and second.
Travis Lanpher then popped a bunt that fell practically at Sullivan's feet, allowing him to erase Gaumond at third, before Malkowski singled to left, loading the bases.
Chamberlain swung and popped the first pitch he saw to White at short for the infield fly and the second out of the inning.
Sullivan then struck out Alex Marcinkiewicz to end the frame.
"He was efficient," Bartelson said of Sullivan. "He was a little shaky and was shaking us off (on called pitches), but he gutted it out. And the defense held us."