CANTON, Mass. – The tournament has started early for Milford. The Hawks entered Monday afternoon’s game with Davenport rival Canton sitting on 10 losses and needing six wins in a row to try and qualify for the postseason.
Milford got a little help from the Bulldogs to keep its playoff hopes alive, as seven Canton errors led to 10 unearned runs for the Hawks in a 14-6 victory. The Hawks lost a 5-0 lead and fell behind 6-5 in the fourth, but used a seven-run sixth inning (fueled in part by three errors) to break the game open.
“I think the important thing was we put the bat on the ball and put the ball in play and we took advantage of some miscues,” said Milford coach Paul Pellegrini. “If this was the fifth game of the year this might not have happened but the kids are starting to get it a little bit more as the year goes on.”
The visitors jumped out to a lead in the top of the first against Canton starter Sean Doyle. Alex Coady drew a one-out walk and scored on Aidan Wilde’s double to left center. Wilde was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. Blake Hill singled to continue the inning and after a walk, a fly ball to left off the bat of Anthony Arcudi was dropped allowing the Hawks to take a 2-0 lead and setting the tone for a tough day in the field for the Bulldogs.
In the second, Milford added two more runs. Brian Ireland started the inning with a homer to right and a two-out walk to Coady would lead to another. Wilde was up next and was hit by a pitch and Hill drew a walk to load the bases. Zack Tamagni drew the inning’s third walk to earn an RBI.
Coady would make it 5-0 in the third with a two-out fielder’s choice that scored Ireland, but Canton rallied in the bottom half of the inning. Joe Peccia drilled a two-run homer to right to get the Bulldogs on the board.
In the fourth inning, Canton took its first lead. Kevin Monagle led off with a walk and Doyle followed with a single to right. After a wild pitch, Daniel Harnett hit into a fielder’s choice that scored one run, but Doyle got caught in a run down for the first out.
Matt Cassamento and Mike McMahon both singled to load the bases and a wild pitch brought in the second run of the inning. Peccia added his third RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game at 5-5 and when Griffin Jerrier’s grounder was not fielded cleanly, Canton took the lead.
Another error led to another unearned run for Milford in the fifth and tied the game again.
“Of the 14 runs they scored, I think four or five were earned runs,” said Canton coach J.P. Scott. “We seemed to struggle to make the defensive plays. I think we’re a team that has to make all the defensive plays, we can’t make mistakes, to win in this league.”
Canton had a chance to regain the lead in the bottom of the fifth after Hill walked Jim Jenkins and Monagle with no outs. Milford turned to junior Nate Irwin, who induced a 6-3 double play from Doyle and a pop up into shallow left for Wilde to track down and end the threat. Irwin would allow only one hit and two base runners in three scoreless innings of relief to pick up the win.
“Nothing bothers him, just came out and he did his job,” said Pellegrini. “He doesn’t get upset, doesn’t bother him; he just comes out and does his job.”
The game was won in the sixth. Milford scored seven runs on three hits off Peccia, who took the mound in the fourth inning in relief of Doyle. Canton also made three errors in the inning, extending the at-bat for Milford and leading to 11 hitters coming to the plate in the frame.
With one out, back-to-back errors and a hit batter loaded the bases. Irwin hit a grounder towards third, but the attempt to get the lead runner was bobbled allowing everyone to reach safely. Chris Speroni’s grounder also got away from a fielder to bring in a second run. Coady singled to left and it was 9-6 for the Hawks with the bases still loaded.
Peccia struck out Wilde to get the second out, but he could not limit the damage, as Hill drilled a line drive double to right center that if not for the fence could still be traveling. The hit cleared the bases and Hill came home one batter later on a single by Tamagni.
“He’s been really killing the ball this year,” said Pellegrini of Hill. “I haven’t seen someone who hits the ball as hard as him in a long time.
“He hit a ball against Franklin that I still haven’t seen a ball hit that far at Fino. It hit the branches halfway up the tree at the ‘432’ sign and came down and hit the fence. It was a triple.”
Alex Macek doubled to start the seventh and would eventually score on a wild pitch to wrap ip the scoring for the Hawks (5-10, 5-9), who will need to win all five of their remaining games to earn a spot in the tournament.
“We’ve got some work ahead,” said Pellegrini. “We’re not giving up and we’ve got some tough games coming up, but if we hit the ball like that we’ll be okay.”
The loss could prove pivotal for the Bulldogs as well. Canton (6-9, 5-9) now needs to win four of its last five games to return to the postseason. Scott said, “It’s a question of desire and how much fight do we have.”
He continued, “I think we have the talent, just have to make sure everyone shows up ready to play… We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.