TOWNSEND — The term “heartbreaker” is used too often, but it applied on Tuesday night at Craven Field.
The Pepperell Yankees met the Townsend Dodgers with the winner advancing to meet the top-seeded Pepperell Braves on Thursday. The Yankees entered the bottom of the sixth with a 1-0 lead, only to see the Dodgers rally for two runs to advance.
The Dodgers were held hitless over the first five innings by Brendan Cook (2 1/3 innings, five strikeouts), and Francis Phillips (2 2/3 innings, three strikeouts), and it appeared that a great pitching performance by the Dodgers’ Liam Coughlin was going to be waster. Coughlin allowed no earned runs and three hits while striking out 11 and walking two over 5 1/3 innings, before Matt Russell came on to retire two of the three hitters he faced to pick up the win.
The only run off Coughlin came in the top of the third when Anthony Sylvester led off by reaching on an error, and scored when Joe Sullivan ripped a clutch, two-out double into the right field corner.
That run held up until the bottom of the sixth. Russell walked and Michael Wolfgang was hit by a pitch to set the table with no outs. Sullivan came on in relief of Phillips and struck out the first hitter he faced, but Coughlin grounded a single up the middle to plate Russell to tie the game. Seconds later, Wolfgang came in to score the decisive run on a wild pitch.
The game was a fast-paced affair with the pitchers throwing strikes and the defenses playing well behind them.
The Yankees mounted the first theat of the game in the top of the second when Bobby Larsen doubled and Ricky Schafenbil reached on an error, but Coughlin notched an inning-ending strikeout to escape.
After the Yankees took the lead in the top of the third, the Dodgers looked poised to answer back, but were denied by a superb defensive play. WIth Anthony Cappucci on second and Russell on first, Joe Smith hit a looper into shallow left that was flagged down by shortstop Cook, who made a diving catch.
An inning later, Cook made another dazzling play when he charged across the diamond and barehanded Zach Ryan’s ground ball and fired to first for the out.