NORTHBORO -- The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders fell to Northboro in the opening round of the Minuteman Babe Ruth League Playoffs to Northboro,10-6, Tuesday evening at Memorial Field in Northboro. Northboro used a four run third inning to hold off the Crusaders.
Groton-Dunstable scored the game's first run in the opening inning on an Ethan Cook RBI double that scooted all the way to the fence in left field to bring in Brendan Ferrari, who advanced on a walk. Groton-Dunstable was unable to knock in Cook, as Joe Bushnell was retired on a curveball that dropped in on the outside of the plate for a called strike three.
Northboro added three runs in the bottom of the inning off of Groton-Dunstable starter Jamie Watt. Groton-Dunstable put runners at the corners with one out in the second, but the bottom of the order failed to knock in Smith and Jeremy Keast, who each singled in the inning.
Watt settled in after allowing a scorching double off of the American Legion billboard in right field and retired the final two Northboro batters in order with offspeed pitches to mitigate the damage to two runs.
Watt thrashed a double to the left field wall, but he was left stranded as the final two batters struck out to end the threat. Northboro scored four runs on four hits in the bottom of the third inning to take a commanding 6-1 lead at the end of three.
However, Groton-Dunstable refused to pack it in.
Northboro continued its consistent success at the plate and added two more runs on three hits in the third inning to take a commanding 8-2 lead. Groton-Dunstable added a pair of runs in the fourth inning on an RBI single by James Wilson and a passed ball that went to the backstop and allowed Watt to slide across to cut the Northboro lead in half at 8-4.
Groton-Dunstable reliever Connor Keegan baffled the Northboro bats after he took over in the fourth inning. Keegan received a touch of help from his left fielder Ryan Baker who made a couple of tough running catches in left field to end the inning.
The Crusaders scored two runs in the top of the fifth inning on no hits. The Northboro reliever had some control issues which led to three Groton-Dunstable walks. Groton-Dunstable speedster Marco Gutierrez swiped second and third before diving home headfirst with a gutsy steal to bring his team within two runs.
Northboro added a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning to ultimately put the game out of reach for the youthful Crusader bunch. Groton-Dunstable left nine runners on base in the loss.
"We came in here as the youngest team in the league," Groton-Dunstable manager Craig Keast said. "This is the first time the kids are playing on the big diamond. I think they did a great job and showed a lot of spirit. We made a game of it here.
"I think these kids are only going to get stronger as we move forward."