By Cameron Merritt, HockomockSports.com Contributor
TAUNTON, Mass. – For the 11th-seeded Durfee Hilltoppers, the third time was the charm.
The team from Fall River defeated #6 Taunton Tigers, 7-6, in the first round of the MIAA Division 1 South tournament on Thursday, after the Tigers had taken the two regular season meeting games against their non-league rivals this year.
“Today was one of those days where we tried to pick up each other, we came together as a team, we fought, but they were just the better team today,” said Taunton coach Blair Bourque. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We came to play and left everything on the field, [we] just came up a little short today.”
The Hilltoppers put up three runs in the third and four in the fourth to forge their path to victory. The visitors saw important offensive contributions from several players, including second baseman Nate Ladeira, who went 3-for-3 with three singles, two runs, a walk and an RBI. Right fielder Remy Dumont also impressed for the visitors, going 2-for-3 with a run, a walk and a stolen base.
On the mound, starter Tommy Lambert took the win, going 5.2 innings giving up nine hits, six runs, and two walks while striking out five. In relief, third baseman Ethan Ferreira moved over to the mound and tossed 1.1 innings giving up a hit and a walk while striking out two.
For the Tigers, a handful of players impressed at the plate, starting with the leadoff batter, center fielder Trevor Pietrzyk, who went 2-for-3 with two runs, a walk, and two stolen bases. Designated hitter turned pitcher Tyler Medeiros also went 2-for-3 with two runs, in addition to a double and two RBI while left fielder Logan Lawrence went 2-for-4 with a three RBIs, a run, and a home run.
For the Taunton pitchers, starter Jack Moynihan gave up three runs, four hits and a pair of walks while striking out three for the no decision. The loss was charged to reliever Josh Lajoie.
Medeiros finished the game for Taunton, giving up three hits, a run (unearned) and a walk while striking out three in 3.2 innings.
The game began fairly the same for both teams, as they both lead off the first with hits only to see themselves come out of the inning scoreless as the pitchers battled back.
Durfee put themselves on the board in the top of the third inning as Ladeira walked, Dumont singled and left fielder Lucas Sousa was hit by a pitch to load up the bases for the Hilltoppers. In that scenario, first baseman Curtis Perry delivered a double that scored the first two, and a wide throw to the plate by Lawrence that went out of bounds allowed Sousa to cross the plate and gave the visitors a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers, however, were quick to respond.
Right fielder Evan Melo and Pietrzyk hit back-to-back singles, and an overthrow on a steal attempt allowed Melo to come home, and Medeiros drove in Pietrzyk a batter later to make it 3-2.
On the next at-bat, a double deep to right by Lawrence some Medieros come home all the way from first, tying the game back up at 3-3 as the third inning came to a close.
Lajoie took over on the mound in the fourth inning but ran into some early trouble, hitting the first two batters he faced and gave up an RBI single to the third, Ladeira, to give Durfee a lead they would never relinquish.
A wild pitch advanced both designated hitter Brett Fonseca and Ladeira into scoring position, in time for Dumont to send them both home off a deep single to the left center gap, making it 6-3.
After the hit, Medeiros took the mound in relief. An infield single bunt by Lambert plated Dumont, and the Hilltoppers came out of the inning with a 7-3 lead over their hosts.
The Tigers still were hungry, and not ready to go down without a fight.
In the bottom of the fifth Pietrzyk drew a one-out walk and stole second to put himself in scoring position. A hard-hit double by Medeiros drove the outfielder in, and he himself would cross home as Lawrence sent a deep shot over the left field fence by the foul pole for a two-run home run, leaving the Tigers trailing the Hilltoppers by just a run.
That run, however, would never come for the hosts. After threatening with second baseman Griffin Tomaszycki on third, Durfee swapped their starter for Ferreira, who closed out the inning and kept the Taunton mostly at bay for the next couple of innings.
For the Tigers, Medeiros was able to get himself into a groove, including striking out three out of four batters he faced during one strand.
The Hilltoppers nearly added another run in the top of the seventh as Ferreira tried tagging up to home on a Fonseca pop out to left, but Lawrence had different plans as he sent a strong, accurate throw to catcher Andrew Gomes at the plate to beat the runner and turn a routine fly into a double play.
Durfee moves on now to the MIAA D1 South Quarter Finals, where the #11 Hilltoppers will be challenged with a trip to #3 Wellesley on Monday.