AYER — The Groton Cubs looked poised to spring an upset in the Cal Ripken Minor League, MacIntosh League playoffs on Wednesday night when they built an early lead against the Ayer Athletics. But keyed by the brilliant relief pitching of Kevin Lewis, the Athletics rallied to post a 14-7 win.
Lewis entered the game with his team trailing 4-2 with the bases full of Cubs and no outs, and did a great job of damage control. Over three excellent innings, he surrendered no earned runs, three hits while striking out three, allowing the Athletics to mount a comeback.
The Cubs drew first blood in the top of the first with a two-out rally. Ayer starting pitcher Danny Baldino struck out the first two hitters he faced, but Evan Lexo got the rally started with a booming triple to right field. After Jordan Dorff and Spencer Rowden walked to load the bases, Kyle Fisher walked to score a run, before Evan Bunis’ two-run single put the Cubs on top 3-0.
The Athletics responded quickly with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. Alex Walker walked and Baldino singled to set the table and both came around to score when Benny Butler ripped a triple. Groton starting pitcher Lexo bore down and escaped further damage with a pair of strikeouts and a flyout which centerfielder Bennett Marston hauled down.
The Cubs extended the lead to 6-2 with three more runs in the second on consecutive walks to Matt Adams, Anthony Roufos, Jack Phelps and Marston, and a two-run, ground rule double by Lexo. Baldino made a strong defensive play for an important out from his catching position, making a running catch of a foul pop-up.
The Athletics bounced back with their six run explosion in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good. Lewis, Chase Murphy, Kevin Seary, Baldino and Butler all walked and ended up scoring, while Jason Boutlier and Bobby Lawton (three RBI) came through with singles.
Groton got one run back in the top of the third when Fisher singled and ended up scoring on a wild pitch, but that would be the Cubs final tally of the game. Lewis completed his strong stint with a scoreless fourth, before Butler came on to toss goose eggs in the fifth and sixth.
Ayer built the lead to 10-7 with two runs in the bottom of the third. Alex Callabrese and Lewis set the table by drawing one-out walks. Callabrese scored on an error, before Sean Callahan delivered an RBI single.
The Athletics took advantage of three Cubs’ errors to put up their four spot in the fourth.
Ayer shortstop Walker came up with a pair of sensational defensive plays in the final two innings to help keep the Cubs at bay.
In the fifth, he made an over-the-shoulder catch of Jordan Dorff’s popup in shallow left center field and tagged second base to complete the double play.
In the sixth, he leaped to snag a hard line drive by Carl Ellerkamp to take a hit away.
Nick Apostolakes pitched well for the Cubs over the final two innings, allowing no earned runs and notching a strikeout.
Baldino (two runs scored, RBI) and Lawton (three RBI) each led Ayer with a pair of singles. Butler added a triple, three runs-batted-in and two runs scored, while Lewis walked in all three plate appearances and scored three runs.
Lexo played a strong all-around game with a double, triple, a run scored and two RBI, in addition to a great defensive play at third base. Fisher added two singles, an RBI and a run scored.