Selfless Captain: Melo Delivers For Tigers In Tourney

Evan Melo
Taunton captain Evan Melo raises the trophy following the Tigers’ win in the D1 State Final. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
LOWELL, Mass. – Every championship team has a strong pitching staff with at least one ace, a handful of dangerous hitters, and a couple of defensive wizards in the field that will grab all of the headlines.

But every championship team needs a player like Evan Melo.

The Taunton senior captain wasn’t one of the team’s leaders offensively during the regular season and he doesn’t make any appearances on the mound, but the intangibles and leadership he brings to the table are irreplaceable.

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Those traits were on full display as Melo played a major role in Taunton winning six postseason games, the final one a 5-3 win over Shrewsbury at LeLacheur Park to win the MIAA D1 State Championship.

“We never give up, we went three and a half innings without a hit and then all of a sudden we just explode because we keep grinding,” Melo said. “We never give up one any pitch, any at-bat, any inning. This just brings to fruition everything we worked for. It’s unbelievable.

“I really can’t put it into words, it still hasn’t hit me that we’re state champions. I can’t believe it, especially after last year losing in the first round. That’s really where it started. We’ve been grinding since that day to make sure it didn’t happen.”

There were times when Taunton coach Blair Bourque toyed with the idea of replacing Melo in the lineup as the senior’s offensive numbers dipped throughout the year. But as a reliable center fielder and a true leader, Bourque couldn’t replace Melo.

“Evan is a great leader and he does whatever it takes for the team to win,” said fellow captain Jack Moynihan. “When it comes to sacrificing to move a guy over or get a guy in, everyone on the team can do it but Evan is 100% the type of guy you want there, he’s really important for us.”

Melo, who also captained the Tigers’ boys soccer team in the fall, rewarded his coach’s faith with a remarkable postseason. Not only did he provide the leadership as a captain, he delivered in the biggest moments on the field. He looked like a different player at the plate, hitting a team-best .429 in the postseason.

“Evan Melo, who struggled for most of the season offensively, has been phenomenal this postseason,” Bourque said. “The kid has been on fire, has been huge with bunting, base hits, stealing bases, great catches in the outfield. He almost lost his spot in the season but he worked his way back into the lineup and we’re really fortunate he did because he was big for us.

“He seemed to come up when guys are on and he knows what to do, he came up clutch,” Bourque said. “He battles, he fouls off a lot of tough pitches so he’s a tough out even though his batting average isn’t great. The little things, the intangibles that he brings to the table is off the charts. He plays a great center field, he’s usually the first one here and last one to leave, I’m extremely proud of here. This postseason he’s been nothing but phenomenal.”

He hit safely in five of the six playoff games and knocked in a run in five of the six tournament games as well. He scored five runs and walked three times, putting up a .529 on-base percentage.

When it mattered the most, under the bright lights on the biggest stage, Melo knocked in the game-winning run in the state final.

An inning after Shrewsbury scored three straight runs to tie the game, Melo came up and brought home the go-ahead score for the Tigers. Junior Jared Roderick reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a wild pitch, and advanced to third on an error that allowed Andrew Gomes to reach.

With a runner at third and Melo at the plate, Bourque didn’t need to give any instructions to Melo. In fact, he didn’t even need to send a sign. Even as the team’s leading hitter in the tournament, Melo was ready to sacrifice his at-bat for a run.

Melo laid down a squeeze bunt up the first base line that ended up going for a single that brought in Roderick to put the Tigers ahead 4-3.

“I just want to get that run in,” Melo said. “A lot of times [Bourque] doesn’t call it, I just give him a nod and we both know. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a single, as long as we get the win, that’s what matters.

“Our main goal this year was to keep everyone connected. We really do love each other like brothers. We just had to make sure that we took everything one step at a time…win a pitch, win an at-bat, win an inning. If you take it one step at a time, great things are going to happen like this.”

It was the second straight game that Melo brought in a run from third with a bunt. In the state semifinals with the Tigers trailing 5-4, Melo stepped up to the plate with runners on the corners with no outs.

While most players would want a chance to hit the ball and drive in the run, Melo said all that matters is that the team gets the run. Fellow senior captain Josh Lajoie said there’s no one better for that spot.

“We have all the faith in the world in him,” Lajoie said. “He’s the definition of a team player and he’s helped us out throughout the entire season, it was great to see him succeed in a big game.”

Of course, Evan Melo delivered in the semifinals as well, dropping down the sac bunt that also scored Roderick to tie the game. Taunton went on to win in nine innings to advance to the state final.

“That’s something we practice a lot on,” Bourque said of the bunting. Taunton scored another run on a squeeze earlier in the state final when Roderick brought in Nolan Melo. “We work on first and thirds, we work on our bunt defensively. We’re working on it offensively and defensively. We knew going into the postseason, if we had a chance to generate some offense, we would take advantage of it.”

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Melo was also responsible for another run earlier in the game. He led off the top of the fifth with a double and scored on the next at-bat on a single from Ty Cali that put Taunton up 3-0 at the time.

“Evan’s hard work and leadership that he’s exuded all year long has kept him in the lineup,” Bourque said. “He bought himself four or five extra starts, and he struggled at times, but he was a guy we looked to for leadership.”

And that’s why every championship team needs an Evan Melo.

Total Team Effort Lifts Taunton to First State Title

Taunton baseball Evan Melo Josh Lajoie Jack Moynihan
Taunton captains (L-R) Evan Melo, Josh Lajoie, and Jack Moynihan celebrate with the D1 State Championship trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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LOWELL, Mass. – It was fitting that the final out bounced to sophomore shortstop Ty Cali. He jumped into the lineup in the playoffs after starter Danny MacDougall suffered an injury in the first game of the postseason. Cali had two hits and an RBI in Saturday night’s Div. 1 state championship game at Lowell’s LeLacheur Park and was an example of the way the whole Taunton program came together to send the Tigers on an improbable championship run.

That run came to a climax on Saturday, as Taunton (21-7) got four hits and a pair of RBI from the bottom three in its lineup, got four strong innings from senior Josh Lajoie, who was making his first start of the playoffs, and rallied with a pair of runs in the final two innings after seeing a 3-0 lead slip away.

The Tigers found a way to win, a common thread throughout the tournament, pulling out a 5-3 victory against Shrewsbury to secure the program’s first-ever state championship.

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“We knew it was going to be another tough game,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque. “That’s a great team over there and they gave us everything we could handle. We were able to put some at-bats together. It’s a team effort.”

Senior pitcher Logan Lawrence, who picked up the win with three innings of relief, said, “It almost feels too good. First time in history winning sectionals, never mind winning states.”

A state championship seemed farfetched in April. The Tigers stumbled out of the gates, going 4-4 in their opening eight games, but they stayed the course and eventually things turned around. Taunton finished the season by going 17-3 over its final 20 games. Its only losses in that span were to Super 8 participants Mansfield (twice) and Franklin.

“At the beginning of the year we all talked about it in the weight room about how nice it would be, but we also knew how difficult it would be and all the hard work it would take, and how much better we’d have to get throughout the year,” said senior Jack Moynihan.
“We knew we’d have to keep fighting and everyone in the program has busted their butts.”

Bourque said, “This season we had a lot of adversity early and I think that helped us down the road. Obviously, the Mansfields and the Franklins are the teams we want to compete with. This is a step in the right direction.”

On Saturday, the Tigers faced Shrewsbury ace John West. The 6-foot-8 junior has already committed to Boston College and he lived up to the billing the first time through the Taunton order. He struck out five, held the Tigers hitless, and allowed only one base runner over the first three innings.

West may have drawn the headlines prior to the game, but he was matched over the first three innings by Lajoie. The St. John’s University-commit got the ball for the final and allowed only two hits through four innings. An error and a walk gave Shrewsbury its only rally in that stretch, but Lajoie responded with a strikeout and induced a pop up to get out of the jam.

Taunton grabbed the lead in the fourth. Colby Lariviere drew a one-out walk and would come all the way around to score when Lawrence’s line drive skipped past the centerfielder and turned into a triple. Nolan Melo came in to run at third base and he would score on a perfectly placed safety squeeze by Jared Roderick.

The Tigers tacked on another run in the fifth. Evan Melo led off the inning by drilling a double into the corner in right and he was quickly brought home by a Cali single. Gavin Leahy drew a walk and Lucas Martins had an infield single to load the bases with one out but a double play ended the inning.

“It’s great because as a pitcher you look at the bottom of the order and you think just breeze through them,” said Lawrence about Taunton getting production from its full lineup. “When you know for a fact that other teams aren’t going to be able to breeze through the bottom of your lineup, that helps you a lot mentally. A lot of confidence comes from that.”

Shrewsbury did not go quietly. In the bottom of the fifth, the Colonials had three straight singles, including a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. Lajoie was pulled for Lawrence, who gave up an RBI-single on his first pitch.

The next batter hit a shot down the first base line but Lariviere made a diving stop and got the lead runner at home. The batter had slipped so a return throw to first turned into a double play. With a chance to get out of the inning with the lead, Lawrence gave up a single to West, which scored a pair and tied the game.

Rather than letting their heads drop, the Tigers got right back to the plate and promptly grabbed back the lead. Roderick reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a wild pitch, and then took third on an error that allowed Andrew Gomes to reach. For the second time in the game, Bourque called for a squeeze and this time it was Evan Melo who dropped it down, pushing it up the first base line for a single and an RBI.

“We have confidence in ourselves and our ability to generate a couple of runs here and there,” Bourque explained. “There was no panic, we’ve been down before. Last game, we were down twice, so we had the confidence in our ability to generate some offense.

Taunton loaded the bases with one out for the second straight inning but both times failed to score a run. Lawrence made sure that it wouldn’t hurt too much by throwing a perfect sixth inning.

In the seventh, Taunton added an important insurance run. Nic Notarangelo, who’s inclusion in the starting lineup coincided with the Tigers’ improvement, started the inning by drilling a triple to the wall in right. Two batters later, Lariviere made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly to left.

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As it turned out, the Tigers didn’t need the extra run. Lawrence got back to the mound for the seventh inning and threw another clean inning. He got a grounder to second, a strikeout, and then a grounder to short to seal the win and the championship.

“Nothing, just strictly adrenaline,” said Lawrence about what was going through his mind in the seventh. “When it was a 3-2 [count] and everyone was screaming, oh my god…” Lawrence shook his head, chuckled, and smiled.

Lajoie added, “It’s a dream come true. You dream of this at the beginning of the season and then you go through the season with your team, battling, and you see the pieces falling together…It’s unbelievable; I’m speechless.”

Taunton Roars Past Attleboro For First Sectional Title

Taunton baseball Josh Lajoie Evan Melo Jack Moynihan
Taunton captains (L-R) Josh Lajoie, Evan Melo, and Jack Moynihan celebrate with the D1 South championship trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BROCKTON, Mass. – Taunton junior Nic Notarangelo joined the Tigers’ starting lineup on his birthday on May 16th in the City Championship against rival Coyle & Cassidy.

After going a perfect 3-for-3 that day, Notarangelo stuck in the lineup and hasn’t stopped doing damage since.

Notarangelo, patrolling left field for the Tigers since that game, had two hits and drove in three runs on Saturday, including the game-winner in the second inning with a triple, to pace fourth-seeded Taunton to a 6-1 win over #11 Attleboro in the D1 South Sectional Final at Campanelli Stadium.

It’s the first sectional title in program history for the Tigers.

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“This feels great, it’s all my team, my team is always there to back me up, I always hear them cheering,” Notarangelo said. “It gives me adrenaline, it gives me confidence at the plate. We were great in the field, our pitching was outstanding but we had some trouble getting the hitting going at the beginning of the year. But it’s all about practice, we all feed off each other. Every day, we’ve been in the cages whether we’ve had practice or not and now it’s all paid off.”

Notarangelo, who has hit safely in all but two games since joining the lineup (with eight multi-hit games), smoked a two-out triple to deep left centerfield to bring in Sean Quinlan (single) and Evan Melo (single) and put Taunton up 3-0, a lead it never relinquished.

One game that Notarangelo didn’t have a hit was the Tigers’ playoff win over Xaverian. But instead of a hit, he had arguably the biggest play of the game with a diving catch in the first inning, stranding two Hawks on base. Taunton went on to win 2-0.

“Nic had that diving catch against Xaverian that really changed the momentum even it was the first inning,” said Taunton head coach Blair Bourque. “And then he came up huge again this game. Those were huge runs for us to get. He’s a kid that is quiet, does the right things, works hard, stays after. I’m really proud of him, he’s come a long way this year. He started to get some at-bats later in the season and was doing some damage and hasn’t looked back since.”

Three runs was plenty for right-handed pitchers Logan Lawrence and Josh Lajoie. Lawrence, a junior, earned the win by allowing one unearned run in four innings of work, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out six.

Lajoie, a senior, allowed just three bases runners (one hit, two walks) in three innings of work while recording four strikeouts. None of the three Bombardiers advanced past first against Lajoie.

“Logan was great, he came up big and executed pitches when he needed to, which was important,” Bourque said. “He was scrapping and thew the ball well, his location was a little off today that got him in some trouble. Then Josh did a phenomenal job coming in and shutting the door, making sure they didn’t get too many guys on.

“Last year we lost to Durfee in a playoff game after beating them twice in the regular season. We knew it’d be tough coming in today, especially the second game against Attleboro when we were able to hit the ball pretty good but they had played five games in five days so we kind of threw that game away. We knew they are a good team, they are here for a reason. We knew the challenge that was ahead of us and we met that challenge and I’m really proud of these guys.”

Taunton’s Jared Roderick, Andrew Gomes, Quinlan, and Melo all clubbed consecutive singles to lead off the second inning, with Melo’s hit bringing Gomes home (Roderick was picked off at second by Attleboro starter Ryan Morry [5IP, 8H, 2BB, 6ER, 2K). After Morry got a ground out, Notarangelo smacked his third triple of the season to bring in two more runs.

“I think early on, we might have been pressing, I’m not sure what it was exactly,” Bourque said the offensive turnaround this season. “But as the weather warmed up, so did our bats. I think there were some games we needed the offense when the pitching wasn’t there and it came through. It’s a team game and I think we’ve proven that.”

Attleboro had a chance to respond right away as they loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the third. Both Troy Gamache and Nick McMahon singled and Tim Callahan reached on an error after a bunt. It looked like the Bombardiers would bring at least one run in on a bloop single to shallow left, but Taunton sophomore shortstop Ty Cali, who joined the starting lineup for the playoffs after the Tigers lost Danny MacDougall to injury, sprinted and made the catch on the run to hold the runners in place.

“That was the play of the day there,” Bourque said. “He played in the New Bedford game when Danny pitched so he had a couple of innings of varsity experience but not much. We were just asking for him to make the routine plays and he’s done a great job stepping in for us.”

After the first out, Lawrence came back with back-to-back strikeouts against the heart of the Bombardiers’ lineup to escape without any damage done.

Lawrence’s momentum carried to the plate as he clubbed a one-out triple in the bottom of the inning, and beat the throw on Roderick’s squeeze bunt to make it 4-0.

The Bombardiers had another chance to cut into the lead in the top of the fourth but only managed to put a dent into it. Troy Van Vliet reached on a one-out error, Gamache singled with two outs, and McMahon was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A wild pitch allowed Van Vliet to score but Lawrence induced a ground ball up the middle that Cali fielded and fired to first for the third out.

“They were definitely lacking,” Attleboro head coach Steve Dunlea said of timely hits. “Part of that is on us, part of it you tip your cap because they made some good pitches.

“That’s a talented pitching staff [Taunton] has, really talented. I was just saying to the kids how this is the farthest an Attleboro team has been in quite some time. I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished this year, this senior group. None of them had played in a tournament game before and made it all the way to here, that takes leadership. We started 0-2, kind of a tough 0-2, but we pulled together as a family and that’s how they played the rest of the season.”

Taunton canceled that run with one of its own in the bottom half. Evan Melo drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a chopper to second, and Lucas Martins brought the run in, slicing a single to right field just fair to make it 5-1.

The Tigers tacked on another insurance run in the sixth inning as Gomes led off with a walk, ending Morry’s day. Eoin Kelleher, the Bombardiers’ ace, came on in relief on just two days rest. Kelleher got a fly out to left before Evan Melo’s single put two on. A fielder’s choice advanced Gomes to third and Notarangelo singled to bring in pinch runner Nolan Melo in to make it 6-1.

Cali erased a leadoff single in the top of the seventh by turning a double play and Lajoie got the last out on called strikes to send the Tigers into a big celebration.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“I don’t think its hit home yet but it’s something I’m really proud of the kids and what they’ve accomplished so far,” Bourque said. “You couldn’t ask for a better group of guys, of hard workers. The camaraderie they’ve had all season. The offseason weight room, the captain’s practices, you name it. They deserve everything they get.”

Attleboro finishes the season at 14-10, concluding a terrific postseason run that saw the Bombardiers knock off Barnstable on the road, Bridgewater-Raynham, and second-seeded Durfee.

“I think they are starting to figure what they’ve accomplished and obviously it hurts right now,” Dunlea said. “You want to continue on but for me, it was just a great experience with an unbelievable group of seniors. They really cared about the program, they had goals for this team, and it was just really fun to be a part of that.”

Taunton baseball (19-7) advances to the D1 State Semifinal and will take on North sectional champion Lincoln-Sudbury (21-2), the top seed in that bracket. The Tigers will take on the Warriors on Tuesday at Alumni Field in Lowell at 7:00.

Moran, Mansfield Prevail in Extras Against Taunton

Mansfield baseball Kyle Moran
Mansfield’s Kyle Moran pitched all 10 innings and allowed just one unearned run to lead the Hornets to a win. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – It didn’t take long for those in attendance at Taunton High School to realize runs would be hard to come by in Saturday’s matinee game between the host Tigers and the visiting Mansfield Hornets.

Right from the start, both Hornet senior starter Kyle Moran and Taunton right-handed junior hurler Logan Lawrence were on the money.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise when the teams headed into extra innings knotted at 1-1.

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Mansfield finally broke the stalemate in the top of the 10th inning, getting a pair of runs against the Tiger’s bullpen to emerge with a 3-1 victory in a division clash.

Moran pitched all 10 innings, allowing just three hits, one walk, one hit batter, and struck out eight to earn the win. Lawrence was not involved in the decision, tossing nine innings with seven strikeouts, three hits, and two walks. Both starters allowed an unearned run.

“Kyle Moran was how we found a way to win that one,” said Mansfield skipper Joe Breen. “Obviously he pitched the whole game, he’s been a senior leader for us, he’s battled against some really good teams, including [Taunton]. We knew it was going to be a close, long game…I think Taunton only plays extra-inning games.

“We talked to Kyle about attacking hitters and keeping his pitch count down, which hasn’t been a strong suit of his but it definitely was today. He attacked guys and that allowed him to go the whole distance.”

After two scoreless extra innings pitched by Lawrence, the Tigers turned to the bullpen. Mansfield senior Mike Hargadon got things going with a hard ground ball through the left side for a one-out single. Senior Aidan Angland sliced a blooper that fell just fair down the right field line to put runners on the corners.

Breen elected to put the pressure on the defense with a suicide squeeze and Nick Dumouchel put the ball down perfectly. Taunton pitcher Justin Rollo tried to make a play at home but the throw was high and the Hargadon came in and both base runners moved up.

“Pushing one across with the safety squeeze, we had the perfect personnel out there at the time for that play,” Breen said. “We had Hargadon at third, and he’s a great baserunner…and Nick Dumouchel is a smart hitter and smart baseball player. It was the two perfect guys for that situation to put a little pressure on the defense and they executed.

“We’ve talked a lot in the last two weeks about mental toughness and how to be strong in tight games. We’re getting better with it but with a game like this, you have to be mentally engaged at all times because one play slip of focus can cost you the game. We have a lot of seniors on the field that have been here before and are battle tested and they are showing it.”

After an intentional walk, Taunton turned to sophomore Danny MacDougall on the mound. After hitting Sam Nugent to bring in one run, MacDougall got a strikeout and a fly ball to limit the bases loaded situation to just one run.

Moran closed the door with a 1-2-3 inning, the sixth time he retired the side in order in the game, to pick up the win.

“Logan pitched a great game, [Moran] pitched a great game too,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque. “They gave us [a run] and we gave them one right back, and I think it was a matter of who was going to be able to execute at the end and they were able to do a better job than we were. We just have to make sure we continue to practice hard now and hopefully, the adversity we’re facing now will help us in the long run.”

Taunton took the lead without getting a hit in the fifth inning. Junior Jared Roderick was hit by a pitch and used head’s up base running to sprint all the way to third on a sac bunt down the third base line from Joe Crawford. Moran got a strikeout for the second out but Roderick came home a couple of pitches later on a passed ball.

Mansfield tied the game in the next half inning, also pushing a run across without a hit. Dumouchel reached on an error and took second on the same throwing error. Pinch runner Michael DeBolt took third on a wild pitch and came home on a sacrifice fly from Nugent to make it 1-1.

Lawrence had a two-out single in the bottom of the first inning but the Tigers didn’t get another hit until the seventh inning. Moran got a fly ball to center in the first for the third out to erase that threat. Roderick had the second hit of the game with a one-out infield hit but Moran induced a line drive to left and got a strikeout looking for the third out.

Lawrence had his second hit of the day, a one-out bloop single to right but Morgan got back-to-back grounders with second baseman Connor Smith (four assists) and Hargadon (one put out, three assists), the shortstop, making the plays. Mansfield did not commit an error in the game while the Tigers had three.

“Going into today, we knew it’d be a close one…with all of our pieces back, we had what we felt was our best defensive line up out there and then we were able to bring some bats off the bench to do some things,” Breen said. “The guys up the middle, Hargadon and Smith, are stellar and Dumouchel is one of the best high school defensive first basemen I’ve ever coached. Just having those guys in the infield gives a pitcher confidence to go out there and throw strikes and not feel like they have to strike everyone out.”

Mansfield’s Eric Longley had a two-out single in the second but was erased trying to steal second on a nice throw from Taunton catcher Andrew Gomes. Dumouchel had a two-out single in the third but Lawrence induced a fly ball to center, and after John Carney walked with two outs in the fourth, the Taunton junior got an infield grounder to get out of the inning.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Hornets threatened when Hargadon walked in the fifth but MacDougall turned a double play to cancel that threat.

“We’ve faced some adversity so far this year,” Bourque said. “I wouldn’t say we’re comfortable playing in this type of game but we’re used to it. Any mishandle, any errors can cost you the game. We’re battle-tested, it’s just a matter of putting some hits together and helping our pitchers a little bit.”

Mansfield baseball (8-2 Hockomock, 9-2 overall) is back in action on Monday when it hosts North Attleboro. Taunton (5-4, 7-5) will host Stoughton on the same day.

Taunton’s Comeback Comes Up Short Against Durfee

Taunton Tyler Medeiros delivers a pitch against Durfee. (Cameron Merritt/HockomockSports.com)
By Cameron Merritt, HockomockSports.com Contributor

TAUNTON, Mass. – For the 11th-seeded Durfee Hilltoppers, the third time was the charm.

The team from Fall River defeated #6 Taunton Tigers, 7-6, in the first round of the MIAA Division 1 South tournament on Thursday, after the Tigers had taken the two regular season meeting games against their non-league rivals this year.

“Today was one of those days where we tried to pick up each other, we came together as a team, we fought, but they were just the better team today,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We came to play and left everything on the field, [we] just came up a little short today.”

The Hilltoppers put up three runs in the third and four in the fourth to forge their path to victory. The visitors saw important offensive contributions from several players, including second baseman Nate Ladeira, who went 3-for-3 with three singles, two runs, a walk and an RBI. Right fielder Remy Dumont also impressed for the visitors, going 2-for-3 with a run, a walk and a stolen base.

On the mound, starter Tommy Lambert took the win, going 5.2 innings giving up nine hits, six runs, and two walks while striking out five. In relief, third baseman Ethan Ferreira moved over to the mound and tossed 1.1 innings giving up a hit and a walk while striking out two.

For the Tigers, a handful of players impressed at the plate, starting with the leadoff batter, center fielder Trevor Pietrzyk, who went 2-for-3 with two runs, a walk, and two stolen bases. Designated hitter turned pitcher Tyler Medeiros also went 2-for-3 with two runs, in addition to a double and two RBI while left fielder Logan Lawrence went 2-for-4 with a three RBIs, a run, and a home run.

For the Taunton pitchers, starter Jack Moynihan gave up three runs, four hits and a pair of walks while striking out three for the no decision. The loss was charged to reliever Josh Lajoie.

Medeiros finished the game for Taunton, giving up three hits, a run (unearned) and a walk while striking out three in 3.2 innings.

The game began fairly the same for both teams, as they both lead off the first with hits only to see themselves come out of the inning scoreless as the pitchers battled back.

Durfee put themselves on the board in the top of the third inning as Ladeira walked, Dumont singled and left fielder Lucas Sousa was hit by a pitch to load up the bases for the Hilltoppers. In that scenario, first baseman Curtis Perry delivered a double that scored the first two, and a wide throw to the plate by Lawrence that went out of bounds allowed Sousa to cross the plate and gave the visitors a 3-0 lead.

The Tigers, however, were quick to respond.

Right fielder Evan Melo and Pietrzyk hit back-to-back singles, and an overthrow on a steal attempt allowed Melo to come home, and Medeiros drove in Pietrzyk a batter later to make it 3-2.

On the next at-bat, a double deep to right by Lawrence some Medieros come home all the way from first, tying the game back up at 3-3 as the third inning came to a close.

Lajoie took over on the mound in the fourth inning but ran into some early trouble, hitting the first two batters he faced and gave up an RBI single to the third, Ladeira, to give Durfee a lead they would never relinquish.

A wild pitch advanced both designated hitter Brett Fonseca and Ladeira into scoring position, in time for Dumont to send them both home off a deep single to the left center gap, making it 6-3.

After the hit, Medeiros took the mound in relief. An infield single bunt by Lambert plated Dumont, and the Hilltoppers came out of the inning with a 7-3 lead over their hosts.

The Tigers still were hungry, and not ready to go down without a fight.

In the bottom of the fifth Pietrzyk drew a one-out walk and stole second to put himself in scoring position. A hard-hit double by Medeiros drove the outfielder in, and he himself would cross home as Lawrence sent a deep shot over the left field fence by the foul pole for a two-run home run, leaving the Tigers trailing the Hilltoppers by just a run.

That run, however, would never come for the hosts. After threatening with second baseman Griffin Tomaszycki on third, Durfee swapped their starter for Ferreira, who closed out the inning and kept the Taunton mostly at bay for the next couple of innings.

For the Tigers, Medeiros was able to get himself into a groove, including striking out three out of four batters he faced during one strand.

The Hilltoppers nearly added another run in the top of the seventh as Ferreira tried tagging up to home on a Fonseca pop out to left, but Lawrence had different plans as he sent a strong, accurate throw to catcher Andrew Gomes at the plate to beat the runner and turn a routine fly into a double play.

Durfee moves on now to the MIAA D1 South Quarter Finals, where the #11 Hilltoppers will be challenged with a trip to #3 Wellesley on Monday.

Taunton’s Lajoie, Bignar Silence Bombardiers’ Bats

Taunton baseball
Taunton junior Josh Lajoie (12 strikeouts) delivers a pitch in the first inning against Attleboro. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
By Brian Hines, HockomockSports.com Contributor

ATTLEBORO, Mass. – When Attleboro loaded the bases in the fifth inning, Taunton head coach Blair Bourque decided to make a call to the bullpen to try and keep the score even.

The decision to bring in senior right-hander Brendan Bignar proved fruitful as he struck out the next two batters to escape the jam.

“It was huge, you know he comes in throwing strikes,” said Taunton head coach Blair Bourque. “We did that to ourselves, he was able to pick up Josh [Lajoie]. It was a great effort, good leader, came in throwing strikes and that’s what we needed him to do and that’s what he did.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Along with Bignar, Taunton’s starter Josh Lajoie had success silencing the Bombardiers’ bats en route to a 1-0 victory.

Lajoie pitched 5.1 innings, striking out 12 batters while allowing just one hit. The two combined to toss a seven-inning shutout, combining for 18 total strikeouts.

“[Josh] is a good pitcher,” Bourque said. “If he can locate that fastball and pitch to contact more, keep the pitch count low and try to extend them a little bit, he’s going to be big for us.”

As effective as Taunton’s pitching staff was, Attleboro’s starter and senior captain Jon Candiales was just as brilliant. The right-hander struck out seven batters while pitching all seven innings for the Bombardiers’, allowing just two hits and one run.

Taunton’s eventual game-winning run came in the top of the sixth, when Trevor Pietrzyk was able to score after Attleboro tried to throw out Tyler Medeiros stealing second.

Pietrzyk started the inning with a leadoff single and was able to steal second to be put in scoring position. He moved to third after a sacrifice bunt from Bignar.

“This was definitely a pitcher’s duel, lot of strikeouts. We got to get guys in motion and try to make things happen,” Bourque said. “It’s tough for [Attleboro] to lose that way and it’s something we got to work on, kind of put the ball in play and making things happen and actually getting those balls to drop.”

Attleboro had plenty of opportunities throughout the game to put runs on the board, but failed to capitalize. The Bombardiers’ drew eight walks, led by Tim Callahan with three, which is something Taunton has struggled with all season.

“We kill ourselves, we are our own worst enemy, walking guys, errors, big innings…you know you got to limit the damage,” Bourque said. “That’s been all year, the games you look back at you have a lot of regrets.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Attleboro’s best opportunity outside of their bases-loaded situation in the fifth came the inning earlier. After Sam Larkin was hit by a pitch and Dakota Kirby drew a walk, a double steal put both runners in scoring position with no outs.

But three strong stops by Taunton catcher Ben Joyce left the runners where they were and Lajoie recorded three consecutive strikeouts to end the Bombardiers’ threat.

“We’ll take that, we’ll take it anyway them come right now, that was a tough game,” Bourque said.

Taunton baseball (8-5 Hockomock, 11-5 overall) returns to the diamond on Friday for a matchup with Sharon. Attleboro (5-9 Hockomock, 6-10 overall) is back in action on Sunday, as they welcome Lowell to town.

Dalton, Mansfield Earn Revenge Against Taunton

Mansfield baseball
Mansfield’s Tyler Dalton (right) slides under Taunton catcher Andrew Gomes for a run. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – Mansfield senior Tyler Dalton found himself in an unusual spot on Monday afternoon, looking to bounce back after a tough outing in his last start.

Dalton allowed nine runs – six earned – in his previous start on the road at Oliver Ames. But with a chance to bounce back, Dalton was at his best. The senior right-hander allowed just two hits — only one out of the infield — while striking out 10 and walking just one in a complete game effort, helping the Hornets pull out a 7-2 win over Taunton.

“After his bullpen, the only thing he said to me was ‘We’re not losing today,’ and I could see the look on his face, you just knew he was going to go out and deal,” said Mansfield head coach Joe Breen. “He knew what he was up against with Taunton being a good team and [Jack] Moynihan being one of best pitchers in the league. He had his work cut out for him, but he certainly met the challenge, that’s for sure.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Dalton limited Taunton to one hit in the third and one in the fourth, the two innings the Tigers scored single runs. Beyond that, he faced the minimum in the first, second, fifth, sixth, and seventh. Taunton had a runner in the second (HBP), but he was erased by catcher Cullin Anastasia trying to steal second.

He also recorded at least one strike out in every inning, getting a pair of Ks in each the second, third, and sixth innings.

After a pair of scoreless innings, Taunton finally broke through in the bottom of the third. Griffin Tomaszycki battled back from down 0-2 in the count to lead off with a walk. He then took second on a ground out from Andrew Gomes and came around on a sharp grounder down the first base line from Josh Lajoie to make it 1-0.

Mansfield got its first two hits of the game in the top of the fourth with Dan Saraceno and Dalton both singling. Dalton and Kevin Dow (reached on fielder’s choice) got to second and third with two outs but Taunton starter Jack Moynihan got the final out to prevent any damage.

Taunton added to its lead in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Jacob Crawford reached after an infield error and took second when he beat the throw on Tyler Medeiros’ ground ball. With two outs, Tomaszycki hit a hard ball to the left side of the infield for a single, but the throw was off which allowed Crawford to come home from third to make it 2-0.


But the lead didn’t last too long as Mansfield responded in the top of the fifth, with a little help from the Tigers’ defense. Justin Pena’s single was followed by Chris Jenkins’ grounder, which resulted in a fielding error and then a throwing error. Pena moved all the way to third and Jenkins to second.

Mike Hargadon drove Pena in with an RBI ground out, and a couple of pitches later Jenkins took third on a passed ball and scored on a two-out single from Sam Nugent to make it 2-2.

“I think the first few games of the season, once we got to two strikes in the count, we were pretty much an automatic ‘K,’” Breen said. “We’ve really changed our approach with two strikes over the last month and the guys are really taking to it. Everyone is up there battling with two strikes, and once we get two strikes, we’re not an easy out anymore. I think that pesky attitude paid off and we put some balls in play.”

Mansfield’s offense continued in the top of the sixth inning. Dalton drew a one-out walk, ending Moynihan’s day on the mound. Dalton took second on a passed ball and scored on a hard hit ball by Anastasia, who took second on the throw to home. With Anastasia taking off, he came around to score on another infield error to make it 4-2.

“You can’t do it, we’re hurting ourselves,” said Taunton head coach Blair Bourque of his team’s six errors. ”We didn’t leave guys on base too much today, obviously [Dalton] pitched an outstanding game today. But we have to eliminate the mistakes and have to play sound baseball because we’re not that great of an offensive team. Any extra bags or extra outs, they come back to haunt you and it’s killing us right now.”

The Hornets put the game out of reach with three insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning. Saraceno was hit by a pitch with one out and moved all the way to third on an errant pick off attempt. Dow drove Saraceno in with an RBI single. Another error proved costly for Taunton as Anastasia was able to reach and Dow came all the way around make it 6-2.

Anastasia took third on that error and came home on a line drive single from Pena.

“If you told me we were going to get seven runs today, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Breen said. “I knew we’d have a few baserunners and that we’d have to maximize those guys as much as possible. We knew getting an extra 90 here or there, with a steal or something, would be huge. We have a lot of good athletes with some wheels, so we definitely want to use that as much as possible.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Despite suffering the loss, Moynihan pitched well, allowing just one earned run in 5.1 innings of work, four hits, one walk, and three strikeouts.

“I don’t think he had much on his fastball today, so he did really well for himself to work the off-speed pitch and do as well as he did without necessarily his best fastball,” Bourque said of Moynihan. “He’s learning how to be a pitcher, not just a thrower. In games when you don’t have your best stuff and can still get guys out is something he can be commended for. But we have to help him out and make sure we’re making those plays.”

Mansfield baseball (6-3 Hockomock, 8-3 overall) will try to extend its win streak to five when it hosts Attleboro on Wednesday afternoon. Taunton (5-4, 8-4) will try to bounce back the same day when it hosts Franklin.

“At this point, every game you win is the biggest of the season,” Breen said. “Being able to come on the road and beat a good team, especially with a good pitcher like that…we’ve had this one marked on the calendar for a while especially after the first game and the boys were certainly up for the challenge.”

Tigers Ride Moynihan Gem to Win at Franklin

Taunton baseball
Taunton starter Jack Moynihan (21) tossed a complete game shutout, striking out 15 batters, as Taunton beat Franklin 2-0.

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


FRANKLIN, Mass. – The temperatures may have been hovering around 40 degrees and fans and players alike were bundled up as though it were mid-February rather than the middle of April, but Taunton starting pitcher Jack Moynihan was not bothered by the cold. He came out throwing heat and dominated from the opening pitch of Friday’s early season night game at Franklin.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Moynihan struck out the first five batters he faced and closed the game by striking out five Panthers over the last two innings. He finished with 15 strikeouts on the evening, allowed only three hits, and tossed a complete game shutout, as Taunton walked away with a 2-0 victory to remain unbeaten.

“Phenomenal,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque of Moynihan’s night. “Getting ahead with his fastball first time around and then mixing it up but getting ahead. He did a great job.”

While striking out the side in the first, Moynihan threw strikes on 10-of-11 pitches. He also retired the first two batters in the second on punch outs before Stephen Luttazi became the first Panther to put the ball in play with a grounder to second. Luttazi injured himself coming out of the batter’s box and was forced to leave the game.

In the third inning, Moynihan struck out a pair before Franklin finally made solid contact, as nine-hole hitter Colby Fitzgibbons broke up the no-hitter with a double to left center. Moynihan came right back with a strikeout of Jack Nally to end the inning.

“We faced him last year and we knew we were in for a really tough test,” said Franklin coach Zach Brown of Moynihan. “He certainly was on, pounding it, and he really threw his breaking ball well for strikes.”

Franklin, which has been struggling at the plate this season with only 10 runs scored in five games, put together its lone rally in the fourth. Scott Elliott took the first pitch to center for a single and Alex Haba lined a twisting drive down the right field line that Griffin Tomaszycki went full stretch to get a glove to but couldn’t haul in. Elliott had to pause in case it was caught and ended up at third on the single.

Haba stole second to put two runners in scoring position and Brown turned to a suicide squeeze with catcher Jake Macchi at the plate. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the sophomore couldn’t get a bunt down and Elliott was easily tagged out by Taunton catcher Ben Joyce. Moynihan ended the threat with a strikeout and a comebacker.

Brown explained, “Today wasn’t going to be the day that we were going to roll out and put up crooked numbers or anything like that, so opportunities to execute and push a run across we knew was going to be big and whoever got that first one was going to be in a good position. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done.”

The Tigers were not able to turn Moynihan’s dominance into a lead thanks to a strong performance from Franklin starter Bryan Woelfel. Using a repertoire of off-speed pitches, he kept the Tigers off-balance and managed to bear down and work himself out of several early jams. He allowed no earned runs and struck out seven in six innings.

“He had that slider going and he was filthy,” said Bourque of Woelfel. “He mixed it up and had our hitters off-balance and he made us look silly sometimes. Just a great game.”

Jacob Crawford drew a walk in the first and advanced all the way to third after a single by Christian Simoes (3-for-4, reached base all four plate appearances) and a stolen base, but Woelfel induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Tyler Medeiros to emerge unscathed. Taunton put two runners in scoring position in the third but again Woelfel escaped, this time with a strikeout.

Brown said, “I don’t necessarily know if Bryan had his best stuff today but one thing we don’t have to worry about is whether or not he’ll be ultra-competitive and he certainly was today. Very different styles, very different pitchers, but both competing hard and it was certainly a pitcher’s duel.”

A breakthrough finally came in the sixth inning. Simoes lined a double to center to leadoff the inning and, after Woelfel fell behind 3-0 in the count, Medeiros was intentionally walked. A wild pitch allowed both runners to move into scoring position, but Woelfel came back with a pair of strikeouts to get on the verge of another big escape.

Tomaszycki hit a slow, bouncing ball on the infield grass that couldn’t be fielded cleanly and allowed the game’s first run to come home. Woelfel limited the damage with another strikeout to end the threat.

The Tigers tacked on an important insurance run in the seventh against Franklin reliever Will Pacheco. With one out, leadoff hitter Trevor Pietrzyk dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line to get on base. After a strikeout and a stolen base, he stood on second with two down. Simoes came through in the clutch with his third hit of the night, driving an RBI-double to right center.

“Christian Simoes, a senior, came up big,” Bourque said. “He’s in that spot for a reason. That insurance run puts a lot less pressure on in the seventh. You get a runner on and your down just one that’s a lot different. Having that cushion allows us to take a breathe and go get the next guy.”

Two runs was more than enough for Moynihan. He struck out the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh, his 14th and 15th of the night, and got a slow roller to third that looked like it might end the game, but instead the throw skipped away to bring the tying run to the plate. Moynihan got slow bouncing ball to Josh Lajoie at second to end the game.

“From start to finish, he pitched so well and I think getting ahead sets the table for his off-speed pitches and he was able to spot and hit corners,” said Bourque of his pitcher. “Hats off to him.”

He added, “Every team in the Hock is really good and Franklin is up there, so we’ll take them when we can get them.”

Taunton (6-0, 3-0) will stay in the division on Monday when it hosts King Philip, while Franklin (3-2, 2-2) will be right back on the field on Saturday with a trip to Bishop Feehan.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.