Despite being forced inside for practice the past two days, and a five-day break in-between games, 10th-seeded Oliver Ames showed no rust in a 5-2 win over second-seeded Dighton-Rehoboth, the defending Division 2 State Champions.
The Tigers connected for 10 hits — all singles —and had runners on base in all innings but two. Dighton-Rehoboth registered seven hits — also all singles — and put a runner on base in all but the final inning.
After pitching just 14 innings during the regular season, sophomore Matt McCormack earned the win for Oliver Ames. He allowed two runs in 5.1 innings of work, scattering seven hits with one strikeout.
Despite starting the season on JV, McCormack impressed in his appearances for the varsity squad and earned the trust of head coach Joe Abarr to get the start on the road against the defending state champs.
“I had a lot of faith in him after how he’s handled himself in big games against some good teams,” Abarr said. “He threw a great game against New Bedford late in the season so that gave us a lot of confidence in him.
“He’s only a sophomore and he started starting for us about halfway through the season. He shows a lot of good baseball IQ. He doesn’t have a lot of ego attached were he wants to blow it by everyone. He will strike guys out but he wants to get ground balls, he wants to get out of the inning. And our catcher [Alden Newman] is a very mature, smart guy that knows how to work counts and pick up tendencies so they worked well together.”
D-R’s offense got going early two with consecutive singles to start the game but McCormack got a key strikeout, a line drive out to center and an infield ground out to escape unscathed.
OA’s offense continued its aggressive ways in the second inning and it paid off. Matt Muir’s speed forced an errant throw, allowing the junior to take second with one out. A single from Chris Pearsons put runners on the corner, and Pearsons stole second to put two on. Newman laced one to center, forcing a diving catch, which allocated Muir enough time to tag up for a sac fly.
Kyle Gagliardi (2-for-4, RBI) ripped one into the right field to bring Pearsons home from second and give OA a 2-0 lead.
The Tigers had a lead off single in there third inning, but couldn’t do anything with it. The Falcons put a runner on third with one out in the bottom of the third but a shallow pop up to center and a grounder to short with Muir flipping to Mitch Goulet at second for a close force out got OA out of the jam.
Newman led off the top of the fourth with a walk and Gagliardi record his second hit of the day to put runners on first and second. Johnson laid down a perfect bunt to sacrifice the runners over but instead, the throw from the catcher eluded the first baseman. The ball stayed in play in foul territory, allowing both pinch runner Will Hogan and Gagliardi to score and Johnson to advance all the way to third.
Two batters later, Goulet delivered a one-out single to bring Johnson in and put Oliver Ames up 5-0.
“When we got that sac bunt down…when you do the fundamental things right, if you force their hand, mistakes can happen, it’s high school baseball,” Abarr said. “I thought our guys did a nice job of handling it.
“They were able to keep themselves composed. They looked very mature in a big situation. Since I’ve been apart of the program, the second round of the playoffs has kind of been our stumbling point. So it felt good to get it out of the way, especially after practicing inside the gym the last two days.”
The Falcons had an immediate response in the bottom half of the fourth inning. A lead off single from Dallas Noons, a one-out single from John Chrystie and a walk to Joseph Reed loaded the bases for D-R. OA tried to get the force out at home on a chopper up the first base line but the throw was off the mark and the run was safe.
Steven Silvia lifted one to center for a sacrifice fly but McCormack got a line out to center for the final out to limit the damage to two runs.
“Those guys [D-R] can play a heck of a game of baseball,” Abarr said. “I came and saw them Saturday and I knew they were a good team. If we showed up today and played the way I know we could, I knew we’d have a chance. And things went our way some today.”
Muir reached second in the fifth inning with one out but OA couldn’t cause any further damage. D-R earned a two-out walk in the bottom half but that was all.
D-R retired OA in order for the only time in the sixth inning and the Falcons nearly capitalized on that momentum in the bottom half of the inning,
Chrystie led off with a walk and took second on a wild pitch. A single put runners on the corners and forced Abarr to his bullpen, bringing in junior Michael Mulrean in relief.
Pearsons fielded a grounder to third cleanly and he fired home and Newman got the tag for the force out. Mulrean then induced a fly ball to left to get out of the inning.
Mulrean retired the Falcons in order in the bottom of the seventh inning to finish off the save.
“I was really proud of the way the guys handled themselves,” Abarr said. “Everyone had good at-bats, we didn’t try to do too much, I don’t think we had an extra base hit all day.”
Oliver Ames baseball (14-8) advances to the D2 South Semifinals and will take on 11th-seeded Westwood (13-8) on Thursday at 7:00 at Rockland High School.
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