By Ed Niser
WORCESTER — For the first time in program history, the Groton-Dunstable baseball team is heading to Saturday’s state final at Fitton Field in Worcester to be played at a time yet to be determined. The Crusaders will face the winner of Wednesday’s North/South semifinal between North Reading and East Bridgewater in Saturday’s state final at Holy Cross, 3 p.m.
The Crusaders romped to an 8-1 victory over Western Mass champion Wahconah in Tuesday’s state semifinal at Tivnan Field for its 22nd consecutive win. Groton-Dunstable chased Wahconah starter Gage Frazier after 4 1-3 innings.
The Crusaders put the game out of reach in the seventh with three insurance runs on four hits.
Senior designated hitter Justin Watt led the Crusaders at the plate with a two-run triple in the fourth inning, while senior first baseman Patrick Keating was 2 for 3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Groton-Dunstable out-hit Wahconah 9-4.
“I knew we had talent coming into this season,” said Watt. “You could tell that we had something special with the group of guys we have. It’s just an awesome feeling.”
Groton-Dunstable’s pitching staff continues to show the dominance it had in the regular season throughout the playoffs.
Through four games this postseason, the Crusaders have allowed an average of one run.
“We definitely wanted to score first, and obviously playing from ahead is a lot more fun than chasing runs.,” said Groton-Dunstable head coach Matt LeBlanc. “I think that when you get that run, guys realize, ‘hey, we are here — we can do this.’ They’ve never wavered — undefeated. This team (Wahconah) was coming here to end our season — we weren’t having it.”
Junior fire-baller Joe Simeone struck out 10 batters over six innings, allowing five hits and walking three.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play and squeak through,” said Simeone. “We are one away from it (state title) and it feels pretty good. We have had a little bit of pressure all year with no losses, but we’re hoping to keep it going for one more game.”
Groton-Dunstable knocked home a pair of runs in the second inning on an RBI single to left by Aidan Ward (1 for 3, 1 RBI) that scored Joe Simeone, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Ward scored from second as Justin Watt reached on an error by Wahconah third baseman Andrew Beaudoin to extend the Crusaders’ lead to 2-0.
Groton-Dunstable grew its lead to three, when Chris Lattini advanced to second on a passed ball and later scored as the throw down to third scooted into left.
Simeone made quick work of the Warriors’ line-up in the second with back-to-back strikeouts via the fastball. After issuing a 3-1 walk to Cam Taylor, Simeone received a little defensive help from his senior catcher Jacob Barnes. Taylor took off for second on the next pitch and Barnes fired down to senior shortstop Kyle Priest (1 for 3, 2B, run), who applied the tag five steps ahead of the bag for the final out of the inning.
Wahconah got one run back in the third on a single to left-center field by Ty Cowdrey that scored Ben Schmidt from second.
Watt broke the game wide-open in the third inning with a two-run triple to the gap in left that one hopped the 378′ fence and scored Priest and Keating to extend the Crusaders’ lead to 5-1.
“It definitely felt like a good at-bat,” said Watt, on his triple. “I was kind of looking at coach for the waive and I saw it.”
Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout:@EdNiser