Similar to a boxing match, the Tigers countered any punch that the Dragons landed with a blow of their own. In the end, it was a unanimous decision, 11-7, in favor of the Tigers.
Oliver Ames advances to the D2 South Final to play Hockomock rival North Attleboro.
The Tigers opened the bout by landing a big shot away, scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth. But as big as the opening inning was, it was the other two innings in which Oliver Ames scored that mattered most.
Duxbury connected with a jab in the top of the third in the form of two runs, cutting OA’s four-run lead in half. In the bottom half, the Tigers landed a clean shot of their own with their second four-run inning, pushing the lead to 8-2.
And again, when Duxbury landed another attempt in the top of the fifth with two more runs, making it a four-run game with just a couple innings to go, the Tigers responded. The fifth-seeded Tigers quickly striking back for three runs, restoring a comfortable lead at 11-4.
“That’s something that we said is one of our team priorities offensively,” said Oliver Ames head coach Joe Abarr. “When we’re scored on, our goal is to answer back immediately. I know from being around the game that if you’re the team playing catchup, and every time you get on the board, and the other team comes right back, it’s a very uphill battle. I think that was something really positive about our offense today, they did a good job with that.
“We put ourselves in good counts to hit the ball when we needed to and we got a ton of walks that really helped us down the line.”
After Duxbury failed to cash in in the top of the first inning, stranding a runner at third, the Tigers took advantage of their chance in the bottom half.
Senior Matt Muir led off with a single while senior Michael Friel and junior Chris Pearsons followed with walks to load the bases with one out. Mitch Goulet brought in a run when he was hit by a pitch and Jake Erlich smacked a two-run single up the middle for a 3-0 advantage.
“That was huge and this time we didn’t take our foot off the gas,” Abarr said of the opening offense. “We were able to keep putting runs up there. The top of our order has guys that at any given at-bat can do big things. It’s nice to see them stringing them together consistently.”
OA starter Michael Mulrean (5.2 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 1 K) ran into a bit of trouble in the top of the third. Not only was he taking on a strong Duxbury lineup, an issue with the mound caused issues for both pitchers. North Attleboro starter Peter Cohen had a similar issue during the game prior.
John Roberts led off the third with a walk but was erased when Sam Reagan reached on a fielder’s choice. A soft line drive from Luke Eggers put runners on the corners and then the ump called a balk, bring a run in and moving Eggers to second. A passed by and a single from Charles Coon brought in another run, making it 4-2. Coon made it into scoring position at second but Mulrean got back-to-back outs on two pitches to escape further damage.
Arguably OA’s most important was the bottom of the third. After Duxbury made a move to get back into it, the Tigers landed a deflating shot in the form of four runs.
Goulet walked and took second on an errant pickoff attempt. Erlich drew a walk and Deveau, who tried to sacrifice them both over, ended up safe at first after his speed down the first base line forced a high throw.
Nick Zwerle delivered a one-run base hit through the left side and O’Brien brought a run home on a groundout. With runners on second and third, Muir roped a hard line drive to right center field for a two-run triple to give OA an 8-2 advantage.
Mulrean was picked up by some solid defense in the fourth inning. A hard hit high bouncing ground ball was picked up by Zwerle on the first base line for an out. After a walk, Muir nearly made a spectacular leaping grab at short. The ball fell down but the senior stuck with it and got the force at second. And Friel snagged a tailing line drive at second for the third out.
“This isn’t a knock on the facilities but that mound was tough, I saw it when I went out for warmups,” Abarr said. “I think both sides really had to deal with that adversity. You could see their guy slipping and sliding. And the way Mulrean pitches, he pushes himself down and really does land in a slide with his front foot. He was almost doing a little split at times. I have to hand it to him, he did a good job hanging in there and gave us a chance to win and that’s all we can ask for.”
A leadoff single from Reagan sparked another comeback attempt for Duxbury in the top of the fifth. Eggers and Coon both walked to load the bases with no outs. Pat Melampy singled in one run and Frank Tower’s sacrifice fly made it 8-4.
Duxbury loaded the bases again but Mulrean got a big ground out to third to prevent any further damage.
True to form, Oliver Ames responded to recreate a comfortable separation. Sophomore pinch hitter Jacob Levine crushed a ball to left center field for a one-out triple and scored on an RBI single from Pearsons. A single from Goulet pushed Pearsons to third after, after Goulet stole second, Erlich walked to load the bases.
It looked as though Duxbury had its second out when Deveau hit a slow roller up the first base line. But once again, his effort down the line forced a second of indecision by the fielder and he slid in safely at first and Pearsons came racing in to score.
“It’s stuff like that that you need in these games,” Abarr said of Deveau’s two hustle plays. “That was unbelievable, they were both great hustle plays. We said last night, it’s going to be tough for everyone, so don’t take anything granted, we have to run everything out. And I have to really hand it to these guys, I don’t think I’ve had to talk to anyone about not running a play out, which is awesome.
With O’Brien up, Goulet sprinted home on a wild pitch to make it 11-4.
Duxbury pushed back with three runs in the top of the sixth inning but reliever Tom Parker came in and eventually got the third out – a swinging strikeout – to strand runners at second and third.
OA’s Reid Latham inherited a runner at first when he came in to pitch in the top of the seventh. Latham got a strikeout, fly ball to center field, allowed a two-out walk, but closed the door on a groundout to second base.
“We were here last year, we got knocked out here [by a similar score],” Abarr said, the Tigers having lost 10-6 to Westwood at this point a season ago. “We battled back [in that game] but came up short. We’ve tried to work on specific things throughout the season. And these guys, from top to bottom, have done a tremendous job working on those things in order to get better.”
Oliver Ames baseball (16-7) will take on the Rocketeers in the D2 South Final on Saturday at 10:00AM at Campanelli Stadium.
The two teams opened the season against one another back on April 9th with Big Red prevailing 5-2. The Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh before North got the final out to secure the win.
“We faced [Nick] Sinacola, who is the real deal and their catcher [Zach DeMattio] is unbelievable, he crushes the ball, he’s one of the best high school hitters I’ve ever seen,” Abarr said. “Just thinking back, we had a couple of errors, we aren’t on time with our hitters. I’m hoping with two and a half months under our belt now, we’ll come in and give them a better game. I think we lost by three runs but they were just a step ahead. Hopefully we’re even now and have a good game on Saturday.”
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