FOXBORO, Mass. – The rain had picked up on Friday afternoon, as Foxboro took the field for the top of the seventh inning trying to hold onto a three-run lead against Dedham, which was ranked No. 15 in the state by one publication.
Warriors starter Aaron Wentling was back on the hill to try and finish off a complete game. The first batter lined out to center, but the second hitter’s line drive to short was dropped and then stole second. Matt Dunn singled to center to plate the Marauders’ fifth run.
Dunn moved to second on a wild pitch but with the tying run at the plate, Wentling reared back and picked up his eighth strikeout to put the Warriors one out from the postseason. He walked Dedham lead-off hitter Jack Powers, but came right back with his final strikeout of the night to end it and give the Foxboro program a moment of celebration.
“You kind of wait for that day in the season when your team puts it together,” said Foxboro coach Chris Sullivan, who had to pause in his interview to be doused with water by his players.
“A lot of these guys have worked for years, a lot of the guys have been on the varsity team since they were freshmen and sophomores…this is the culmination of all that work to beat a really good team and get into the playoffs at the same time.”
Wentling has been the team’s ace since an early season injury to Justin Garcia. In fact, Foxboro is dealing with injuries to a number of its starters, but in the pressure moment Sullivan knew that he could count on the junior.
“He’s made some, 15-20, big, big pitches in big spots this year,” said Sullivan. “I think he’s got four of our six wins this year.
“That last pitch – that kid is hitting. 500 and is one of the best hitters in the Bay State Conference and he throws one of his best splitters of the day.”
He struck out the side in the second inning, during a stretch of four strikeouts in five hitters, but the Marauders jumped in front in the third with an unearned run. Foxboro responded in the bottom of the inning and took control.
Ethan Butt led-off with a single to left off Dedham starter Jason Leonard. A.J. Bubencik followed with a grounder to second and the attempt to get the lead runner was late to put two on with no outs. Lead-off hitter Nick Wright singled in the tying run with a shot to right, starting a string of three straight hitters with an RBI.
Jesse Galanti lined out to right and Bubencik came in to score on the sac fly when the ball skipped through the catcher’s legs. Darren Kelly drove in his first run of the night with another sac fly to empty the bases and make it 3-1.
A.J. Cavossa continued the inning with a two-out triple to center and Wentling helped his own cause with an RBI double (after the centerfielder slipped on the wet turf). Chad Bearce made it two doubles in a row with a shot to the gap, scoring pinch runner Alex DuBrow and giving Foxboro a 5-1 advantage.
Wentling allowed a single and hit a batter to start the fourth, but his defense helped him keep away from a big inning. First Cam Feldman made a sliding catch in the right-center gap for the first out and, after a single by Jack Powers brought in one run and a pop up to second brought the second out, Bubencik ended the inning with a great diving catch down the leftfield line.
“Those are two of the hardest workers on the team and it shows,” said Sullivan. “Those are, I call them the 50-50 plays, where a good player makes them and an average player doesn’t. We weren’t making those in the beginning of the season.”
Dedham got one back in the fourth, but Foxboro tacked on two insurance runs in the bottom half. With two outs Wright had an infield single to the second baseman and stole second. Galanti walked and then Kelly lined a double just out of the reach of the centerfielder to bring in both runners and provide the eventual winning runs.
“I still can’t figure out how he hits like he does,” said Sullivan with a laugh about Kelly, who is one of the team leaders at the plate. “That’s what we’ve not done in years past is get that extra little insurance run and we’re starting to get that now.”
The Marauders got one in the fifth and one in the sixth to cut the lead to three heading to the seventh. Wentling stuck with it, despite another unearned run, and was able to pull out the win for the Warriors and, with a game against Carver to spare, clinched Foxboro’s spot in the playoffs.
“Now we can spend the next two weeks getting healthy and getting lined up for the tournament,” said Sullivan, who joked that the Warriors had not won two games in a row in a couple of seasons.
“These guys deserve all the credit in the world. They’ve worked hard everyday, met challenges every day. We’re at that point where we’re playing with that confidence and we know we can go out and take a game now.”
Foxboro (6-8, 4-7) will travel to Stoughton on Monday afternoon.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.