By Lance Reynolds, HockomockSports.com Contributor
BROCKTON, Mass. – Just win one game at a time.
That’s what the mindset of the Mansfield baseball team has been this past week while holding a slim chance of earning a ticket to the tournament. So far, the mindset has paid dividends as the Hornets have knocked off two straight wins including Wednesday night’s 2-1 walk-off victory against Attleboro at Campanelli Stadium.
“The last week we’ve came in knowing that we have to win out. We’re 5-10, and we’ve had to win our last five games,” Mansfield coach Joe Breen said. “We’re sitting here two down, three to go. We’ve got a very tough opponent in Lynn Classical tomorrow. The theme of the rest of the season has been: ‘Just go 1-0 every day,’ and we showed up today just trying to go 1-0.”
With the score tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh, it certainly appeared as if the Bombardiers and Hornets were heading to extra innings. However, it took just two batters for the outcome to result in Mansfield’s favor.
Junior shortstop Max Boen drew a leadoff walk and decided to risk the Hornets’ fate with a stolen base. The risk was well-worth the reward as Boen beat out the force attempt at second. Two pitches later, junior centerfielder Zach Peterson dropped down a bunt in front of the mound with Boen in motion.
On Tyler McGovern’s throw to first, Boen decided again to risk things and dash towards home. Bombardier first baseman Nate Tellier threw it to catcher Dakota Kirby, but Boen got in on time for the game-winning run and was swarmed by his Mansfield teammates.
“Well, Max needs to relearn the signs,” Breen chuckled. “But either way, he was in – I think he got under the tag. We planned on bunting him over for the other guys in the lineup to knock him in. As soon as he got on second, Zach Peterson and I had a quick little conversation about laying one down more so for a hit, and less so for a sacrifice to put a little more pressure on those guys. Luckily, it all worked out.”
In addition to delivering the walk-off bunt, Peterson scored the game’s opening run in the bottom of the first for the Hornets. Peterson reached base on a leadoff single to left field, wound up on second on a sacrifice bunt off Aidan Cahill’s bat, and eventually came around to score on a fielder’s choice.
Hits were hard to come by in a pitchers’ duel that offered two of the best pitchers in the Hockomock in the form of Attleboro’s Tyler McGovern and Mansfield’s Tyler Dalton. Both starters tossed complete games for their respective teams.
After giving up the run in the first, McGovern found his rhythm and allowed the Hornets to reach third base just once until the final inning. The right-hander retired the side in the second and sixth innings on his way to allowing four hits while striking out two.
“He pitched outstanding,” Attleboro coach Matt Bosh said of McGovern. “He did everything – he got ahead of hitters, he got out of jams. He had all of his pitches going for strikes, he had an outstanding game.”
Stymied by Dalton and not successfully placing a runner on base through the first three innings, Attleboro started the fourth inning with three consecutive singles. Jon Dunn and Tyler Stowe stroked singles to left field to put two runners on base, and then converted a double-steal putting runners on second and third with no outs. Dunn came across and tied the score at one on a Tellier single to right.
Dalton, who has been labeled as the Hornets’ “ace” this season, retired the side in the first, second, third, and seventh innings. The sophomore struck out five while issuing no walks on six hits.
“He just keeps showing up. We’re a different team with him on the mound right now,” Breen said of Dalton. “We’re just trying to live one day at a time and stay alive so we can give ourselves a chance to get in the tournament to put him on the mound and ride his coattails. He’s been phenomenal his last four outings. He’s been putting us on his back, that’s for sure.”
Dalton was backed up by a strong Mansfield defense which killed several Attleboro threats. In the second inning, Kirby drilled a liner into the right field corner, but was gunned down at second by Jake Tryder. With an opportunity to take the lead in the fourth, as there were runners on second and third, Matt Callahan was robbed by a leaping Tyrone Pascual. In the fifth, the Hornets turned a double play started by Boen at short to erase a leadoff single.
“I feel like on senior nights, these guys get a little bit added motivation,” Breen said. “Our seniors certainly showed up today; Tyrone with that great catch – that’s a run right there that he saves, Tryder – that’s a huge play early on in the game to keep the guy off second base. Again, seniors stepping up late in the season on this run right here.”
Mansfield (6-9 in league-play, 7-10 overall) looks to carry over their one-day-at-a-time momentum when they travel to take on Lynn Classical on Thursday night. Attleboro (7-7 in league-play, 7-9 overall) looks to get back into the win column on Friday when they travel to Dartmouth.