WEST GROTON — Controversy, timely hitting, high stakes, heroes and goats; game three of the Nashua River Valley Softball League championship series had it all.
Trailing by six heading to the bottom of the seventh, things looked bleak for defending champion Devens Grille. But thanks to some clutch hits and poor defense by Townsend, the Burgers were able to push across seven runs and take a dramatic 14-13 victory against the backdrop of darkness on Thursday night.
One of the things that can’t be done in softball is to give a good hitting team extra outs. On this night, the Pats made six errors which the Devens Grille took advantage of, as nine of their 14 runs were unearned on the night. Included in those nine were the last four as Townsend made three errors during the decisive inning, allowing the Burgers to grab control of the series and move within one with of clinching a second straight NRVSL title.
It didn’t take long for the Pats to get on the board as they pushed three runs across in the top of the first. Jon Hawthorne led things off with a single before advancing to third on a Derek Knight single. Stefan Knight then delivered a run scoring single before Dan Rivetts followed with a sacrifice fly. A wild pitch eventually allowed Stefan Knight to score, making it a 3-0 game.
In the home half of the frame, the Devens Grille answered back with three runs of their own. Bob West walked and Anton Daley followed by hitting a ground ball to third. The throw to second was mishandled, allowing West to score and Daley to take third. With one out, Jason Welch launched a two-run homer to left center to knot the game at 3-3.
After a scoreless second inning, Townsend retook the lead with a pair of runs in the third. With one out, Derek Knight singled and eventually went to third when Dan Rivetts reached on an error. Nate Doty came up with a big hit, driving in both runs with a two-out single to give the Pats a 5-3 advantage.
Townsend starter Pete Debreceni settled into a groove, allowing just two hits over the next three innings and his offense got him four more runs in the top of the fourth. The inning had a shade of controversy as with two outs, Hawthorne lifted a pop up that landed in the infield. It appeared a tag was applied, but neither umpire saw it. The Pats then got an RBI single by Derek Knight and two-run single by Stefan Knight to extend the lead to 9-3.
A two-run bottom of the fifth drew the Burgers within four, but Townsend seemingly put the game away with another four spot in the top of the sixth inning. Stefan Knight came up with the big hit once again, launching a three-run triple to centerfield with two outs, scoring Kevin O’Grady, Debreceni and Hawthorne to make it 13-5.
A pair of unearned runs for Devens Grille in the sixth made it a six-run game and set up the fireworks in the bottom of the seventh. Daley led off by reaching on an error and Derek Migrants launched a deep fly ball to right centerfield that was caught. The ball however hit a limb on a tree that was hanging over the fence, making it a ground rule double, much to the displeasure of the Pats.
With one out, Jamie Pinard launched a three-run homer that hit off the top of the fence before bouncing over. With two outs and a runner on second, Jason Labell reached on an error, allowing a run to score and make it 13-11. Blake Buxton then picked up an RBI single before John Koukias came up with a pinch hit RBI single that tied the game. Koukias alertly took second on the throw to the plate after his hit and that proved to be big as he scored the game-winning run on a West single as the Burgers came all the way back to claim the win.
Daley led the Devens Grille offense with two singles and three runs scored. Buxton finished with two singles, a run scored and two runs-batted-in. Migrants had a double, single, run scored and an RBI while Pinard added a homerun and four RBI.
Stefan Knight had a huge night for the Pats with a triple, two singles, a run scored and six RBI. Derek Knight added three singles, three runs scored and an RBI. Mike O’Grady chipped in a double, single and two runs scored. Hawthorne (three runs scored, RBI) and Doty (two RBI) each had two singles and a walk while Kevin O’Grady added a triple, run scored and RBI. Debreceni was the hard luck loser, allowing five earned runs on 12 hits while walking five and striking out one.