NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Going into its final three games of the season, Attleboro needed two wins to clinch a spot in the state tournament. On Monday night, under the lights at Community Field, the Bombardiers threw their ace, senior Nate Tellier, against North Attleboro in the annual Blue and Red Cup game.
Attleboro needed a solid start from its top pitcher. Tellier went way beyond solid; he gave the Bombardiers historic.
The UMass Dartmouth-commit tossed a no hitter against the Rocketeers, striking out 16 over eight innings, including a stretch beginning in the second inning in which he fanned 11 of 12 batters that he faced. With a dominating fastball and a curve that he could throw for strikes, Tellier limited North to four base runners: lead-off walks in the first and second, a fielder’s choice in the first, and an error on a bunt in the sixth.
North Attleboro coach Paul Tobin summed it up succinctly, “That’s the best pitching performance I’ve seen in seven years of coaching in the Hockomock League…Tellier was untouchable.”
Tellier’s effort was matched almost pitch by pitch by North starter Andy Katch, who threw seven shutout innings of his own before allowing an eighth inning rally that would produce the winning runs for the Bombardiers, as Attleboro claimed the cup with a 2-0 extra innings victory.
“It was a shame someone had to lose that game,” said Attleboro coach Matt Bosh, praising Katch for the way he kept the Bombardiers off-balance. “It was just a great pitcher’s duel.”
North had its best chance in the bottom of the sixth. Tobin called for a bunt from nine-hitter Zach Rofno and he placed it down the third base line. If Tellier’s throw had been on line it would have been an out, so it went down as an error on the pitcher.
Rofno stole second and moved to third with two outs on a grounder, but he was stranded when Tellier got Zach DeMattio to bounce back to the mound.
Tobin said, “If we could have gotten that one hit I felt really good that he was going to shut them out in the seventh. We just couldn’t get that two-out hit, which has been a pattern for us.”
Will Carter lined a two-out double to left center, bouncing it into the stands that line the warning track, but Katch got Robbie Araujo to ground out to end the inning. In the bottom half, Tellier made quick work of the Rocketeers with two strikeouts and a grounder to first.
The game was scoreless into the eighth, but finally Attleboro got something going. Pinch hitter Nolan Kane worked a lead-off walk and after Katch struck out Brent Cook, No. 9 hitter Cam Hochwarter smashed a ground-rule double to left to put two in scoring position.
Bosh joked, “[Cam’s] been using a 33-inch bat for two years. Yesterday at practice, out of nowhere, he used a 32 and he’s hitting lasers…and I was like why didn’t you think of that sooner?”
Jon Dunn followed with a clutch single to left that scored both runners. An error and hit by Tellier would load the bases but John O’Donnell came in to relieve Katch and got a line drive and a fly ball to center that Kyle McCarthy made an excellent play on despite barely being able to see it in the limited Community Field lighting.
Tellier did not need any more than two runs. He got a comebacker for the first out and then, facing a pair of pinch hitters, he overwhelmed the final two batters with his fastball that during the game the North coaches labeled the fastest they have seen this year.
“To me he’s the best player in the league all-around,” said Bosh about Tellier. “He’s had his fastball working all year; he had his deuce working and he kept his pitch count down…He was just lights out tonight. He was awesome.”
In his last outing he threw 136 pitches and Tellier admitted that his arm was still sore from that last start. He took some Advil on Monday morning and that seemed to help a little. Then he went and threw the best game of his career.
“It helped that I was getting ahead of batters and not getting deep into counts,” said Tellier. “That really drove my pitch count down.”
When asked if there was any consideration of him being done after the seventh, Tellier insisted, “No question, I was going. There was no way I was not finishing this game.”
In the midst of the pitcher’s duel and the drama of the scoreless game, many people were unaware that Tellier was working on a no hitter as the final inning began (this reporter included). In fact it was not until he was about to take the mound for the eighth inning that Tellier even became aware of what he was working on.
“I was just focused on getting outs up until the eighth inning and then when it came around I was like wait,” he said with smile, still soaked from the water his teammates dumped on him in the postgame celebration.
Tobin was proud of the way his team competed on Monday with nothing more to play for than the trophy and a chance to beat its rival. He praised Katch for giving his all and felt bad that the senior could not have been rewarded for his great start.
“I thought Andy Katch pitched a tremendous game,” he said. “Seven shutout innings, what more can you ask of a kid? Any other game and that’s a win and it’s heartbreaking for Andy to not get the win with that kind of effort.”
Attleboro rode a historic start to a win on Monday and will go into its final two games needing one more win to clinch a postseason berth.
Bosh said, “These are games all year that we’ve lost where it’s close late and there’s a bad break or an error or a base hit…That’s the kind of win we haven’t gotten all year.
“Things seem to be coming together and hopefully we can get tomorrow out of the way, so we don’t have all that pressure for Wednesday.”
Attleboro (9-9, 8-7) will travel to Frothingham Park on Tuesday to face Oliver Ames. North Attleboro (6-12, 5-10) will face Foxboro.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.