HUDSON — Just when the amazing Groton-Dunstable baseball team needed another wrinkle to enhance their improbable post-season run, Mother Nature stepped in. The Crusaders conquered a persistent rain and their third consecutive highly seeded opponent as they rallied for six unanswered runs in the last two innings to knock off Worcester Tech, 9-4.
Mike Fotino earned the victory on the mound with a gutsy route-going effort in tough conditions. The senior righthander allowed one earned run and six hits while striking out 10 and walking four.
Worcester Tech starting pitcher Dave Montiverdi was untouchable early, retiring the first nine hitters he faced, but allowed single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Over five innings, he gave up one earned run and five hits while notching five strikeouts.
While the Crusaders bats were silenced early, the Eagles jumped on top with a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the first. Roberto DelosSantos reached on an error, Nick Matthrews walked, and Ysander Figueroa reached on an error to load the bases with no outs. After a lineout, John Boyd ripped a two-run single. Further damage was prevented when Fotino fired to catcher Marco diGrazia, who applied the tag on a sliding Figueroa trying to steal home for the third out.
The Eagles threatened in both the second and third, but Fotino came up with the big pitch when needed to keep the Crusaders within two runs, ending both frames with strikeouts.
Groton-Dunstable finally broke through against Montiverdi in the top of the fourth. Ryan Sheehan singled with one out and after a strikeout, Marco diGrazia doubled into the right center field gap to plate Sheehan.
The Eagles got that run back in the bottom of the inning when DelosSantos singled with two outs and scored on Matthews’ double to make it 3-1 after four innings.
The Crusaders bounced back in the top of the fifth with a pair of runs to tie things up. Kyle Dzwonek singled and John Denomme doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. After a flyout, John Flanagan laid down a squeeze bunt to score Dzwonek and Flanagan was safe on an error. Sheehan came up clutch one out later with an RBI single to make it 3-3.
The Eagles regained the lead in the bottom of the inning when Mike Mastrototaro led off with a single and came around to score on an error. Fotino did an outstanding job of damage control by notching an inning-ending strikeout with runners on second and third.
At the end of the fifth inning, a stoppage in play occurred with the possibility of the game being halted at that time a possibility. But the field received applications of quick dry and the teams sloshed forward, with Matthews coming on in relief for the Eagles.
Groton-Dunstable picked up a pair of singles, two walks in the top of the sixth to move in front 6-4. The runs came on an RBI single by Kyle Dzwonek, a sacrifice fly by Flanagan, and an error by the Eagles when the catcher dropped the ball after a runner was caught between third and home.
Fotino came out in the bottom inning and tossed a crucial goose egg, keeping the two-run lead intact, and the Crusaders put the game away in the top of the seventh with three more runs.
Sheehan and diGrazia sandwiched singles around a strikeout to open the inning before Fotino walked to load the bases. Figueroa came on in relief, but a walks to Dzwonek and Denomme, and a wild pitch boosted the lead to 9-4.
Fotino came out and finished the game in style in the seventh, pitching around a one-out hit batter and ending the game with his 10th punchout.
Sheehan paced the Groton-Dunstable offense with three singles, two runs scored and an RBI. diGrazia added a single, double, two runs scored and an RBI, while Dzwonek singled twice, scored two runs and drove in a pair.