NORTHBRDGE, Mass. - Things didn’t go as planned on Saturday, Aug. 4 when members of the Northbridge American Legion Baseball Club – Post 343 competed in the Massachusetts American Legion State Tournament at Paul Walsh field in New Bedford.
After losing the first game, however, the team pulled it together and won the next two.
Northbridge is now 2-1 in the State Tournament and will play the winner of the Milford and Billerica game at a time to be determined.
The state tournament winner goes on to the Northeast Regional’s which begin next week at Old Orchard Beach in Maine.
In the Saturday game, Northbridge players came out flat in the hitting department against their opponents from the Billerica American
Legion baseball team which had a record of 22-3 over the season.
In that game, Matt Abrain of Northbridge took to the mound for and
Matt Phelan of Whitinsville called the game from behind the plate. Billerica countered with Walker O’Connor and Pat Bradanese.
Abrain, who hadn’t pitched in over a week, gave up 14 hits and nine runs while striking out three and allowing three batters to walk to first base. Billerica’s pitcher had complete control of the game. He gave up four hits with one walk and struck out eight Northbridge batter.
Billerica beat Northbridge by a score of 9-0 and the Northbridge team dropped into the losers bracket in this double elimination tournament.
Another loss would have dropped them out of the tournament.
On Sunday, Aug. 5, with the team facing elimination, they took on the Milton American Legion team.
Jacob Byrne of Grafton took over the pitching duties and pitched a six-hit shutout, striking out eight and winning game two by a score of 8-0. Northbridge’s Greg O’Donnell delivered three hits, scored twice and hit a double in helping Northbridge win.
Jordan Smith of Webster came up with the big hit of the game when he hit a two run single with two outs in the third inning that allowed Northbridge to score five runs in the inning.
On Monday, Aug. 06 the team went back in New Bedford to face the Hyde Park American Legion Baseball team in their third game of
Both teams had identical records of 1-1 and a loss would eliminate either one of them.
Northbridge Manager John Demagian gave the start to Matt Phelan of Whitinsville and Jacob Byrne of Grafton took over the catching duties in the absence of Tom Paine of Upton.
Byrne has been the surprise player and pitcher for this Northbridge team and has improved as the season progressed.
Both teams went quickly in the first inning.
Northbridge’s Ben O’Donnell handled all three grounders hit to him to quickly dispatch the Hyde Park batters at first base. In the bottom of
the second inning, Phelan ran into control issues and allowed six runs with five hits, a walk and a hit batsman and Hyde Park took the lead over Northbridge.
In the top half of the fourth inning, Nate Pajka of Douglas hit a long double and was able to score Northbridge’s first run on another double by Greg O’Donnell of Northbridge two batters later.
Hyde Park came back in the bottom half of that inning to add another run to go up 7-1 after four.
Northbridge came up with four more runs in the top half of the fifth inning as Jacob Byrne hit a three run home run scoring Tim Beaudette of Uxbridge who reached on a walk and Nate Pajka who reached base with a base hit, his second of the game.
Northbridge later scored Matt Phelan on a single by Jake Foynes of Douglas.
Kyle Stanley of Whitinsville came on in relief of Matt Phelan in the fifth inning and held Hyde Park scoreless and again in the sixth inning.
In the top half of the sixth inning, Nate Pajka connected for his third straight hit as he put one over the right center field fence to bring the score to 7-6.
The seventh inning saw the Northbridge batters come alive again, crossing the plate six more times to take the lead.
Back to back doubles by Ben O’Donnell and Jacob Foynes, a walk by pinch hitter Matt Niejadlik of Douglas and a perfectly placed squeeze bunt by Jordan Smith on a 1-0 pitch scored O’Donnell to keep the inning alive.
A triple by Tim Beaudette of Uxbridge brought in two more runs, and another home run by Nate Pajka, scoring two more runs, brought the total to six runs in the top half of the seventh inning for the 12-7 lead.
In the bottom half of the seventh, Matt Niejadlik took to the mound and promptly gave up two back to back doubles, a walk and another single allowing Hyde Park to plate three runs.
Demagian brought Phelan back to the mound with the hope of
securing the win for Northbridge and he delivered. Phelan gave up a fielder’s choice for a force out at second base, a fly ball to the centerfielder and finally a fly ball to the shortstop to end the rally, giving Northbridge a big come-from-behind win to advance to the next day.
Pajka had the big day at the plate, going four for four with four runs scored, three RBI’s and had two homeruns to go along with a single, a double and a walk.
Northbridge is now 2-1 in the State Tournament and Hyde Park is eliminated. Northbridge will play the winner of the Milford and Billerica game at a time to be determined.