“There’s no one better.”
Notarangelo, who has been the Tigers’ hottest hitter down the stretch, was 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, so Lawrence and Melo decided to deliver a vote of confidence right before he headed to the plate.
Notarangelo delivered, smacking a hard hit double to right field in the bottom of the ninth inning to score Ty Cali from second and the Tigers walked off with a 6-5 win in over Lincoln-Sudbury in a D1 State Semifinal, sending Taunton to its first ever state championship.
“Nic came into the lineup about midway through the season and since then, he hasn’t stopped,” Lawrence said. “He knew he had a rough couple of at-bats, but we just wanted to let him know that we believe in him. He didn’t need us to do that but we wanted to show him support.”
It was Taunton’s only lead of the game as the Tigers trailed 3-0 after just a half inning and had to erase a two-run deficit in the sixth inning.
“They were telling me there was no one better,” Notarangelo said of the on-deck conversation. “The fact that they have confidence in me gave me confidence in the box. It’s a team game and we’re the most passionate team that I know. Whenever we’re down, you can’t count us out. We fight to the last out, the last pitch, you can’t count us out.
“I had seen the pitcher before and he wasn’t throwing anything funny so I was just waiting for one that was in my zone and luckily I got it.”
Final: Taunton 6, Lincoln-Sudbury 5. Who else but Nic Notarangelo with the walk-off hit to drive in Ty Cali and the Tigers are headed to the D1 State Final, their first ever appearance. #hockomock pic.twitter.com/TzqQa2qA3g
— Ryan Lanigan (@R_Lanigan) June 20, 2019
Sophomore Ty Cali legged out a one-out double and sophomore pinch hitter Alyjah Marshall earned a walk to bring Notarangelo to the plate. Three pitches later, Notarangelo delivered the game-winning hit to bring Cali in, sending the Tigers into a frenzy.
“They don’t quit,” said Taunton head coach Blair Bourque. “It’s something that from early on, we’ve played some really tough games and faced a lot of adversity. It’s tough to beat a team that doesn’t quit, and these guys don’t quit, they have each others backs. They work hard, they play hard, and I’m really proud to manage them. I can’t say enough about the camaraderie, hard work, and determination…you name it. It’s been there all year.
“Nic has been our guy, I was hoping he’d get a chance to swing the bat in the last inning. He had a difficult game so far so it was huge for him. It was only a matter of time until he broke out and put the barrel on the ball.”
While Notarangelo delivered the winning hit, the Tigers might not have been in position to do so without the work of Lawrence. Not only did Lawrence club a two-run home run in the first inning the stemmed the tide, he came on in relief and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and escaping a bases-loaded situation in the sixth to earn the win.
“He saved us, he’s been great throughout the whole tournament, the whole year,” Notarangelo said of Lawrence. “I couldn’t be more proud of what he’s done this year.”
Lawrence came on after five innings of work for Tiger ace Jack Moynihan, who struck out six and allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and one walk.
“Jack [Moynihan] has picked us up all season long, he’s picked me up if I had a bad game,” Lawrence said. “You have to reciprocate that energy. He does good for me all the time so I’m going to do my best for him.”
L-S, who had lost just two games all season on its way to a North sectional title, jumped on the Tigers with three runs in the top of the first inning. Connor Lachman doubled, Jesse McCullough and James Dillon singled, and an RBI groundout from Andrew Cahill put the Warriors ahead 3-0.
But the lead was short lived as the Tigers offense answered immediately. Lucas Martins drew a one-out walk, stole second, and then scored after a single from Colby Lariviere. Lawrence smashed the fourth pitch he saw over the left field fence for a two-run home run, tying the game 3-3 after one.
“Our plan was to just chip away,” Obviously you don’t want to go down but we have faith in Jack being able to keep us in the game. [Lincoln-Sudbury] hit the ball really well, that’s a good team over there. We knew we were in for a dog fight and we were hoping to keep the damage to a minimum and Jack did a great job of doing that for us. Logan came in and pitched phenomenal, that was a gutsy effort from him. His home run got us back in the game and kind of took the edge off. That let us know we could compete with them.
Moynihan settled in, striking out the side in the second inning but the top half of L-S’ lineup struck again in the third inning. Lachman doubled again, advanced on a ground out, and Dillon walked to put runners on the corner. Dillon attempted to steal second, forcing a throw but it ended up in centerfield, allowing Lachman to score. But Taunton limited the damage as Dillon tried to go from second to home. Evan Melo fired to Martins and he fired to Andrew Gomes at home for the tag.
Lachman surprised the Tigers with a bunt to lead off the fifth, advanced to second on a passed ball, stole third, and scored when the throw from home on the pickoff attempt got past the third baseman.
Taunton had momentum in the third when Martins singled and advanced to second on an error. Lawrence walked and the Tigers executed a double steal but Martins was then called out for supposedly coming off the bag at third.
In the top of the sixth, Milind Lele reached on an error, advanced to second on a ground out, Matthew Ray was hit by a pitch, the Tigers intentionally walked Lachman to load the bases but Lawrence induced a grounder to first to prevent any damage.
Lawrence reached second on a two-base error to start the bottom of the sixth and took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a passed ball that was also ball four for Jared Roderick. Roderick stole second, Nolan Melo was hit by a pitch, Roderick stole third, and then scored on a squeeze bunt from Evan Melo up the first base line to make it 5-5.
“Execution has been huge for us all year, and those are the fundamentals we practice day in and day out. It’s one of those things, when it works its great because we spend a lot of time on it. For Evan to come through was huge, it’s still difficult to execute and he came through.
“What’s happened before doesn’t faze these guys. They cheer for each other. Even when I told Gavin [Leahy], a senior, that’d he be pinch hit for [by Marshall in the ninth], he said OK. It’s fun to be able to coach a team that isn’t selfish and cheer for each other, even if they lose their spot. The bottom of the order has been different each game and it’s been someone different game.”
L-S had its lone hit against Lawrence to leadoff the seventh inning, but Gomes erased him at second on a steal attempt.
Taunton baseball (20-7) will play Central sectional champion Shrewsbury in the D1 State Final. Currently, there is no date or time listed on the MIAA website but it’s scheduled to be played at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.
“We’ve got one to go, might as well win it,” Notarangelo said.