The North Attleboro lineup continued its torrid streak this postseason, belting out 18 hits on its way to a 17-2 win over Hockomock rival Oliver Ames in the D2 South Sectional Final.
It was the second straight game the Red Rocketeers have had double-digit hits and double-digit runs. In its three postseason games, North Attleboro has outscored opponents 42-2.
“They are swinging the bat well, we’re just trying to keep the same approach regardless of what the pitcher is doing out there,” said first-year North Attleboro head coach Mike Hart. “We’re taking it one pitch at a time, one batter at a time. We feel if we take care of ourselves, we can be successful.”
And if the offense wasn’t hot enough, North Attleboro ace Nick Sinacola allowed just two hits and two unearned runs in six innings of work while striking out seven to earn the win.
“I’ll give it to that North Attleboro lineup, they crush the ball,” said Oliver Ames coach Joe Barr. “I’ve never seen a team like that, top to bottom, just go through and square it up. Our guy [Reid Latham] was throwing strikes but I don’t know if the air was a little thin or what but those balls got in the air and kept traveling.”
Once Sinacola set the Tigers down in order in the first inning, North Attleboro’s offense went right to work. Brendan McHugh led off with a double, Zach DeMattio had a one-out walk, and Nate Pearce roped a ground-rule double over the fence for a quick 1-0 lead.
Nick Raneri scored on a fielder’s choice as DeMattio was able to get home before OA’s throw did, and Jeff Gale hit one deep enough that brought Pearce, who was ruled to have tagged up after Mitch Goulet’s spectacular catch in center, home for a 3-0 lead after an inning.
Big Red tacked on four more runs — all with two outs — when it returned to the plate in the bottom of the second inning. McHugh started the rally with a single and moved to third when Sinacola picked up his first hit of the day. DeMattio brought both runners home with a hard hit triple, Pearce knocked a run in with a single, and Raneri drove a run in with a single as well to make it 7-0.
“We’ve all been working together through the winter and the spring and it really just shows how much hard work and coming together as a group can accomplish when you execute,” DeMattio said.
Nick Zwerle reached after forcing an error on his bunt and Sean O’Brien walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Sinacola got the second out but Michael Friel hit a line drive double into the gap in left center to bring both runs in to give the Tigers some life, cutting the deficit to 7-2.
But North Attleboro landed a big counter punch in the form of four runs in the bottom of the third to extend its lead. Aidan Harding walked and pinch runner Kyle Briere took second on a wild pitch and third on a single from McHugh. Briere beat out a throw home on Sinacola’s grounder, DeMattio scored McHugh with a single, Sinacola scored after DeMattio stole second and OA attempted to pick him off, and Pearce doubled in DeMattio for an 11-2 advantage.
“Subconsciously that’s the type of stuff that just creeps into your mind,” Abarr said. “You think you’re back in it — and I think we were in it more most of the game — but that was a deflating experience. I’ve been on that end as a player and a coach, and it’s tough. I tip my cap to North for that, they didn’t let up. They played hard right to the end.”
Sinacola retired the side in order in each of the first and second innings, and after allowing two runs in the third, only allowed one base runner to reach third base (an error and a wild pitch). It was Sinacola’s second win against OA this year after beating them in his first appearance back in early April.
“I think early in the year, a lot of hitters struggle with the fastball,” Sinacola said. “Once you get to this point in the season, they are a lot better and they have their timing down. So I think we had to change it up and throw a little bit more offspeed then I did the first time and I think it worked.”
Raneri scored on a passed ball and Gale came home on a hard hit ball from Nolan Buckley that was ruled an infield error for the Tigers in the fifth inning.
In the bottom fo the sixth, Sinacola got his second RBI with a single to score McHugh, DeMattio picked up his fourth RBI of the day with a base hit to score Sinacola and at the next at-bat, Pearce launched a two-run home run to cap the scoring.
“We had to pretty much show up and play perfect against that lineup and that pitcher in order to walk out with a win,” Abarr said. “We knew they’d be relentless. But it was an unreal run for us here at the end, with a team that didn’t quite expect to be here. We don’t set hard and fast goals about where a team can get to, we have just shown up and worked on specific things to get better each day. And these guys did a great job doing that.”
North Attleboro’s top four hitters — McHugh, Sinacola, DeMattio, and Pearce — combined for 13 hits, 11 RBI, and 14 runs scored.
For Oliver Ames (16-8), Friel had two hits and two RBI, Matt McCormack and Nick Bloumbas each had a base hit, and O’Brien and Zwerle each scored once. On the mound, Jay Fruci pitched a scoreless inning with a strikeout.
“This is definitely the best group I’ve ever coached,” Abarr said of his team. “From top to bottom, the first guy in the lineup to the last guy on the bench to the team manager…they were tight, always behind each other, and regardless who was in the lineup each day, they were ready to play. It was the most reliable, hard-working, and unified group that I’ve coached and those are the three qualities you look for in a high school team.”
North Attleboro (21-2) advances to the D2 State Final to play North champ Beverly (20-4) on Thursday night at 6:30 at LaLacheur Park in Lowell.