LOWELL, Mass. – Zach DeMattio gave the Rocketeers the lead with his bat, and he made sure they didn’t relinquish it with his arm.
The North Attleboro senior captain put an exclamation point on a terrific senior season and impressive career with an MVP performance in the Division 2 State Championship, a 4-3 win for his Rocketeers over Beverly.
Offensively, DeMattio drove in all four of the Rocketeers’ runs. And on the defensive end, the senior catcher played a big role in erasing the tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“He is an unbelievable player,” said North Attleboro starting pitcher and fellow captain Nick Sinacola. “I think he’s the team MVP, the best player, and it shows. He drove in probably half our runs all season and he’s a beast behind the plate. He’s an incredible player and incredible leader, I give him all the credit. He works hard for everything.”
DeMattio and Sinacola worked to keep the Panthers off balance for the majority of the game. The latter allowing just five hits — three coming in the fifth inning resulting in three runs. Outside of that, the pair worked together as well as they usually do with Sinacola striking out nine batters and allowing just four base runners in the other six innings.
“We’ve been on their backs pretty much the whole season,” said North Attleboro head coach Mike Hart of DeMattio and Sinacola. “They are our leaders and there are a lot of guys that have stepped up big time. But tonight, stick with your strengths and those two guys are our strength right there.
North wasted little time to take a lead in the game and unsurprisingly, it was off of the bat of DeMattio. Sinacola singled with one out and stole second. On a full count, DeMattio hit a hard groaner through the right side to bring Sinacola home for a quick 1-0 lead.
“I trust my guys day in and day out,” DeMattio said. “I just did what I could do, I just looked for the pitches I could get. This is just insane right now.”
The senior was back at it again just two innings later, helping the Rocketeers extend their lead. Junior Brendan McHugh was hit by a pitch to lead off the top of the third, stole second, and went to third on an infield single from Sinacola.
“They deserve all the credit,” DeMattio said of the two players before him in the order. “I get all my RBIs because of them, they are such pure hitters. McHugh gets on and uses his speed, Sinacola is always getting base hits. It’s just a snowball effect from there.”
The next time DeMattio came to bat was the top of the fifth inning where he delivered his fourth, and what turned out to be, his most important RBI of the day.
McHugh was the catalyst again, opening the frame with a leadoff walk. He once again stole second, one of six stolen bases for the Big Red, and alertly tagged up on Sinacola’s deep hit to left to get to third with one out.
Although DeMattio didn’t come up with a hit, he drove the ball deep enough in shallow right field that McHugh had enough time to race home for the sacrifice fly and a 4-0 lead.
“He tells me before every game ‘Just get on and we’ll get you in’ and it almost always come true, he finds a way to get me in,” McHugh said.
“Going up to the plate I knew that anything outside of the infield in the air, [McHugh] had the speed to get home,” DeMattio said. “I was just looking to get a ball and drive it up. I got the right pitch and put it to right field. You have to give him all the credit, he hustled home.”
The fourth run driven in by DeMattio proved huge as the Panthers rallied for three runs in the bottom half. Sinacola stranded the tying run at third by getting a strikeout to end the inning.
Although DeMattio drove in all four of the Rocketeers’ runs, and the South champs led by just one run, the senior was saving his best play for last.
Sinacola breezed through the bottom of the sixth inning, needing to just pitches and a nice play from right fielder Jeff Gale to set the Panthers down. But Sinacola’s counterpart, Beverly starting pitcher Spencer Brown tried to get the momentum back for his side by retiring North Attleboro in order in the top of the seventh.
Beverly’s No. 8 hitter Ryan Munzing battled his way to a full count and eventually ball four, giving the North champions some hope with the tying run aboard with no outs.
The Panthers sent a pinch hitter to the plate with the idea of moving Munzing over with a bunt. The Rocketeers, however, were ready. Sinacola fired a curveball and the sac bunt missed.
DeMattio, alert to the situation, quickly threw a bullet down the first base line to Aidan Harding. Munzing was caught between bases and the Rocketeers got the out, getting the momentum back. Three batters later and Sincola induced a ground ball up the middle where Ryan Warren flipped to Shawn Watters at second, clinching the win.
“Me and Aidan always work on those after practice,” DeMattio said. “Being able to throw it down, especially in that situation where he’s looking to bunt and the runner is looking to go when it’s on the ground. We work on those all the time and give Aidan credit, he was ready for it and made the play.”
“The kid bit and Zach has a great arm and threw it down, and we played the pickle perfectly,” Sinacola said.
“I think that was just a good read by [Zach],” Hart said. “Zach has been catching for three years, he’s done it a lot, so he has a lot of confidence in his throwing ability. He’s an incredible player.”
It’s safe to say Wheaton College is getting a heck of a player next year.