GROTON — While a District berth may not have been on the line, Monday’s match-up did have meaning for both the North Middlesex and Groton-Dunstable baseball teams. For the Patriots, a chance to claim third place outright, along with the right to claim a season sweep with their neighboring school was the reward. On the other side, the Crusaders celebrated Senior Day and looked to send their graduating players out in style.
What started off as a pitching duel came down to which team could capitalize on the other’s mistakes. Trailing 3-1 in the sixth, North Middlesex strung together a three-run rally courtesy of three hits and three errors to grab a 4-3 lead. And thanks to the effort of Kevin Powell, the Patriots never let it go. The senior captain went the distance, allowing an earned run on five hits, while walking two and striking out seven to lead the Pats past Groton-Dunstable 4-3.
Kevin did a solid job today on the mound and overcame the one bad inning we had behind him,” said North Middlesex coach Tom Bartelson, whose team finished 9-11 and 6-4 in league. “This game is bitter sweet because it means we ended up one win short of our goal of making the Districts, but we clinched third place out right and swept the season series, which is a nice way to end our year.”
On the other side, Crusaders coach Matt LeBlanc was pleased with the effort, but wished the outcome was a little different. “We played pretty well for most of the game, but we had that one bad inning which has hurt us throughout the season,” said LeBlanc, whose squad finished 7-13 and 4-6 in the league. “Brady McEvoy did a great job of throwing strikes during his outing, but we couldn’t get the timely hit and that was the difference.”
Early on neither team could get anything going, as Powell and McEvoy dominated. Powell worked four hitless innings to start things off, surrendering only one walk. McEvoy had things rolling early on, hurling three hitless innings before the Patriots eventually broke through in the fourth frame.
Shawn Pinney led-off with a single before advancing to second on a walk to Joe Smith. Powell loaded the bases with a no-out single to left. Andrew Jena then hit a sharp ground ball up the middle, that McEvoy knocked down and fielded in time to get the out at first, as Pinney scored to make it 1-0 North Middlesex. McEvoy then beared down, recording a strike out and fly out to center to escape the jam and left a pair of runners stranded in scoring position.
In the top of the fifth, the Patriots had a golden scoring chance go by the boards. John Boutwell led-off with a double down the left field line, before taking third on an errant throw. North Middlesex tried to squeeze home the run, but the bunt was popped up to Crusaders first baseman Dan Roper, who made the catch and threw to Allan Haynes at third to complete the double play.
Groton-Dunstable used the momentum of the big defensive play and turned it into three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Michael Ierardi broke up the no-no to start the inning with a single, before stealing second and scoring on a one-out single by Haynes. Haynes took second on a bobble in the outfield, before scoring when Patrick Stevens reached on an error. Adam Kmetz then lined a single to right, which was bobbled, allowing Stevens to score and give the Crusaders a 3-1 advantage.
The lead was short lived as North Middlesex answered back with three runs of their own in the sixth. With one out, Powell and Jena produced back-to-back singles to end McEvoy’s day. Josh Acaba came on in relief and was greeted by an RBI single from Tony Sylvester. Consecutive errors allowed Jena and Sylvester to come around and score to put the Patriots back in front 4-3.
Powell did the rest. The senior made his last start a memorable one, getting out of a jam in the sixth with a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play. In the seventh, Michael Ierardi singled, took second on an Alec Ierardi walk and went to third, when Stevens reached on a fielder’s choice. With the tying run 90 feet from the plate, Powell induced a game-ending fly out to center to end the game.
“I thought we got a solid game out of Jena at short and at the plate, and Ben Wright had a nice game at catcher,” said Bartelson. “The seniors came together today and played hard. The game didn’t really much in the record books, but it was a nice way for this group to end their run here.”