NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – With North Attleboro ace Dennis Colleran toeing the rubber, the Rocketeers know that they typically won’t need a lot of offense to pick up a victory. On Tuesday night under the lights at Community Field, North left no doubt as it racked up double-digit runs for the third straight game.
The Rocketeers scored four times in the first and nine runs through the opening three innings, while Colleran continued his dominant senior season on the mound, to beat Sharon 11-1 in six innings and move back into a first place tie with Oliver Ames atop the Davenport division.
“We’ve been swinging the bats well lately,” said North Attleboro coach Mike Hart. “I think we, like a lot of teams, are finally getting our timing down and getting better at the plate. It was good to be aggressive out there and get some hits early.”
North broke the game open in the bottom half. Jared Penta got things started off Sharon starter Dylan Labbe, drilling a double into the stands in left center. Danny Curran and Derek Maceda drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. A wild pitch scored Penta and then Gavin Wells belted a three-run homer into the stands, the first of his career, for a quick 4-0 lead.
Despite facing arguably the league’s best pitcher, Sharon wasn’t giving away at bats and nearly got a run back in the second. Justin Brown reached on an error to start the inning. He stole second and went to third on a passed ball. Wells came up with a big defensive play, grabbing Elliott Pototsky’s grounder and cutting down the runner at home. Pototsky made it to third but third baseman Aidan Weir laid out to grab a soft liner in foul territory to end the threat.
“We really didn’t give him any easy innings,” said first-year Sharon coach Andrew Poliferno. “We made hime work and obviously we knew who we were up against and we knew it was an uphill battle, he’s an excellent pitcher, and we just wanted to battle every inning and make it hard for him and for North. That was our goal and I think we accomplished that.”
After getting out a jam, North went back to work at the plate against Sharon reliever Daniel Fishman. Aidan Conrad singled and stole second, Justin Vecchiarelli walked, and Penta brought in one with a single to center. Curran followed with an RBI single of his own and then Maceda brought in one with a sac fly to left.
Colleran, a Northeastern-commit, seemed to be getting stronger as the game went along. He struck out the side in the third, narrowly missing out on an immaculate inning. The Rocketeers added two more in the bottom of the third, Conrad bringing in Tyler Bannon with a single and then came around to score on a groundout by Vecchiarelli.
JD Rittenberg got Sharon’s first hit of the game, as he dropped a single into right with one out. It ended Colleran’s no-hit streak at 10-1/3 innings over three starts.
North put itself in position to win the game with a run in the bottom of the inning. Bannon brought in Weir with a two-out single to right and it was 10-0. The Eagles could’ve closed up shop for the night, but instead took advantage of some North miscues to get on the board in the fifth. Ben Bouchard reached on an error and was replaced by a courtesy runner. Colby Lentell made it count with an RBI-groundout to extend the game.
“Our positive energy stayed with us,” Poliferno noted, “and I said to the guys that we didn’t dip as the game started to slip away early on. We stayed positive and we kept the energy up and we just kept battling every inning and I think that speaks volumes about the team.”
Rittenberg would get his second hit of the day, this time an infield single to deep short, but Colleran closed out the sixth with his second strikeout of the inning and 10th of the night.
“Dennis has really worked hard,” said Hart. “He’s put in a lot of work to get his velocity up there. It’s not every year that you have someone that’s throwing in the low- to mid-90s consistently. I thought they did a decent job, some of their guys were on the fastball too and ready to hit, but he does have a couple of pitches to complement the fastball and that can get some guys out.”
Joe Hartnett reached on an error to start the bottom of the inning and moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a Bannon grounder. With two down, Nik Kojoian crushed a line drive into the gap in right center for a walk-off win.
North Attleboro (8-5, 7-2) and Sharon (3-10, 2-7) will face off again on Wednesday afternoon at Community Field. North knows that a win will clinch at least a share of the league title and then the Rocketeers will wait for the result of OA’s game with Stoughton on Friday to determine if they it is a shared title or they win it outright.
“Any time you get the chance to play for the league title it’s great, regardless of what this season has been and what it is,” Hart explained. “We’re here to compete and we’ve got the opportunity, so we’re going to do that and take what comes with it.”