OA had an answer for both times that Taunton scored and added two late insurance runs to pick up a 7-4 win at Frothingham Park.
Taunton had an idea start with junior Matt Machado battling through a 10 pitch at-bat to earn a leadoff walk and senior Kevin Griffin followed suit with a walk. Sophomore Christian Simoes hammered a one-out double to score both Machado and Luke Figueira, who had reached on a fielder’s choice. It looked like the Tigers would add some more but a nice catch in right field by Matt Mancini turned into a double play to end the inning.
It didn’t take long for Oliver Ames to answer, rallying to tie the game and then take the lead in the bottom of the first. Chris Romero and Matt Muir started off with back to back doubles. Josh Minuskin flew out to right but an errant throw to third trying to catch Romero on the tag sailed out of play allowing a run to come home. Ryan Adams walked and with runners on the corners, Kyle Gagliardi connected for an RBI double. Mitch Goulet followed up at the next at-bat with an RBI single to plate Adams and senior Kevin Geary hit a two-out RBI single up the middle to make it 4-2.
“Offensively, we executed pretty well today,” Oliver Ames head coach Leo Duggan said. “That first inning was big for us to come back. Then we went into a little funk for a bit. We told them it wasn’t going to end a 4-2 game. It took us three innings until we got it going again. We had a chance in the fourth but we couldn’t anything. These remaining three games are going to be like tournament games and we have to act like they are.”
Both starters settled down after the opening inning. OA’s Matt Muir needed just 10 pitches to retire the side in order in the top half of the second and punctuated a 1-2-3 inning in the third with a strikeout for the third out. Taunton’s Charles Hearrold III induced three straight pop ups to get through the bottom of the second and got a strikeout in 1-2-3 bottom half of the third.
“That first at bat, that was a great at bat, and I think [Muir] was a little rattled after that because he walked the next guy,” Duggan said. “But after that, he was dominating. We tried to stay away from Figueira, we didn’t want him to get going. And then Mancini made a nice catch in the first inning, a really good catch and we might have been down more if he didn’t.”
Oliver Ames threatened in the bottom of the fourth inning when Chris Pearsons singled and Geary walked. Taunton’s Danny Keogh came in to pitch in relief and induced two straight pop ups to get out of the inning.
After Muir got the bottom of Taunton’s lineup in order on three straight groundouts, OA was able to tack on another run in the bottom of the fifth. Adams launched a one-out shot into deep center field for a triple and scored on a wild pitch with Gagliardi up at bat to make it 5-2.
Taunton’s offense was able to roar back to life in the top of the sixth. Machado was the catalyst, leading off by getting hit by a pitch and Griffin followed with a walk. Simoes picked up his third RBI of the game, a ground out to short to bring Machado in from third. Max Bowden followed with an RBI single to score Griffin from second and the Tigers cut into the deficit, making it 5-4.
But once again, Oliver Ames had an answer. Travis Campbell drew a lead off walk against new Taunton pitcher Tyler Medeiros. A single from Matt Muir put runners on first and second but Medeiros got the second out with a strikeout. Adams came through with two outs though with an RBI single to score Campbell and then on a hit and run, Gagliardi’s grounder got through on the left side and brought Muir home to make it 7-4. Taunton’s Owen O’Gara came in with the bases loaded to get the final out.
“Ryan came up with that big, big triple and then the RBI single the next inning,” Duggan said. “Gagliardi continues to get better. He was in a slump but he’s doing much better now. Give Taunton credit, they came back. After our start of 1-6, I think we’re playing pretty good baseball. It’s been much better, the kids are much more together.”
Taunton tried to rally again in the top of the seventh inning against OA reliever Zach Sato with sophomore Jacob Crawford reaching on a one out single and Machado walking again. But Sato was able to induce a ground ball to third and Pearsons tagged the bag and fired to first for the game ending double play.
“Credit goes to OA, every time we scored they seemed to respond very well,” Taunton head coach Jeff Sylvia said. “We came out flat, I don’t think we were prepared well for today.”
Oliver Ames (9-9, 9-5), which is postseason bound regardless of the results of the last two games due to a second place finish in the Davenport, will close out league play at home against Foxboro on Monday and Attleboro on Tuesday. Taunton (13-4, 11-4) will wrap up league play on Monday against Mansfield. A win against the Hornets will clinch at least a share of the Kelley-Rex title.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.