LUNENBURG — For the Lunenburg Phillies, the fact that they have “been there and done that” did nothing to extinguish the joy they felt when they won another Central New England Baseball Association title.
The players jumped into a celebratory “pig pile” after the final out of their 3-1 victory over the Clinton 76ers as the victory gave Lunenburg the league title in the best-of-5 championship series, three games to two.
The day before, Lunenburg had stayed alive by posting a 4-3 triumph in Game 4 in Clinton to even the series at two games apiece and set up the dramatic final day.
Matt Morissette tossed a complete-game three-hitter for the Phillies at Marshall Park. It was the Phillies’ third title in the past six seasons and sixth in franchise history.
The team features several players from the Nashoba Valley Voice region on its roster, including:
Matt Russell, Joe Balboni, Pat Aubuchon, Joe Ruth and Jim Balboni of Townsend; Justin Watt of Groton; Aidan Ward of Dunstable; and Shawn O’Donnell of Pepperell.
“(Matt) pitched great. He’s a gamer,” said Lunenburg manager Joe Ruth. “I’m happy for him. I had Nate (Ginsburg) warmed up and if Clinton got a couple of baserunners in the 7th I would have brought him in, but I was glad Matt was able to finish the game.”
Morissette was brilliant, retiring the first 10 batters he faced, before getting touched up for two hits and a run in the 4th inning. He allowed just one other hit (in the 6th), didn’t walk a batter and closed out the game with his seventh strikeout.
The 27-year-old southpaw, whose only other start of the post-season ended after two innings and five runs allowed in Game 2 of the semifinals against Ronnie’s, said he got a solid scouting report on how to pitch against the Sixers from watching Kevin O’Connor’s complete game win (4-3) in Game 4.
“It was pretty good watching O.C. the other day. He was phenomenal. I couldn’t ask for a better game to watch than to watch O.C. throw. And then to come here today and do this, it was awesome,” said Morissette. “They’ve got great guys in that (Clinton) lineup that can hit the ball. It was great to keep them off balance with the off-speed stuff, then working away with the fastball.”
Second baseman Ryan Lever continued his post-season power surge with a solo home run to spark the Lunenburg offense. It was his third homer of the playoffs, after just one during the regular season.
But before Lever showed off his power, he showed off his speed. After drawing a one-out walk from Clinton starter Joe Latino, Lever scored all the way from first on a double by Jon Belliard (2-for-3, RBI, run).
Lever’s homer in the bottom of the third put the Phillies up 2-0 before Clinton was finally able to break through against Morissette in the top of the 4th.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Lunenburg got Morissette an insurance run in the bottom of the 6th. Belliard led off with a single and was lifted for pinch-runner Drew Curran. Two batters later, Pat Gilman (2-for-3) roped a double to the gap in left-center, scoring Curran.
Morissette finished off the Sixers in style, with a 1-2-3 7th. It was the third time Morissette closed out a win for the Phillies in the playoffs. He worked two perfect innings of relief in Game 3 against Ronnie’s and two more perfect innings to close out the Game 1 win vs. Clinton.
“Joe likes me coming out of the bullpen, so I just do whatever he asks me to do. He’s a good coach and does things the right way,” said Morissette.