NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. - The Northbridge American Legion Baseball Club Post 343 played their way into the state finals Tuesday night, beating the Springfield Legion team 15-0.
With the win, Northbridge advances to the state finals in Brockton on Saturday against seven other teams from around the state for a chance to represent Massachusetts at the Eastern Regional’s in two weeks.
During batting practice Tuesday afternoon, prior to leaving for Tivnan Field at Lake Park in Worcester, one could sense the relaxed atmosphere of everyone on the Northbridge team as the players laughed and kidded, swapped stories and just enjoyed the reason they were there.
It was the second time in two nights they were headed away from their home field in Northbridge to face their third opponent in as many days in the Central-West State Sectionals hoping to earn a berth in the state finals that begin Saturday, August 4.
At the Tuesday practice, Northbridge had no idea which team they would face later in the night. Their opponent would be the winner in an elimination game taking place at Tivnan Field between North Adams and Springfield.
The Springfield Post went on to beat North Adams 7-5 and earned the right to face the Northbridge team. Springfield needed to beat Northbridge in order to earn a trip back tonight in the final elimination game of Bracket A in these sectionals.
Having the best record in these sectionals, Northbridge was the home team and took to the field with Springfield coming to bat. Jacob Byrne of Grafton got the nod from Northbridge Manager John Demagian to start the game and Tom Paine of Upton worked the plate. Michael Melendez and Angel Guzman did the the same for Springfield.
Byrne gave up a base hit to Adam Gutierrez to start the game and a fielder’s choice to Juga Williams and shortstop Ben O’Donnell threw Gutierrez out going to second base. Byrne settled down and induced a pop fly from the Springfield catcher Guzman to second baseman Gregg O’Donnell and then got Eddie Acevedo to fly out to Jake Foynes in right field.
Northbridge then took over at the plate, and after a base hit by Tim Beaudette of Uxbridge, the Springfield pitcher couldn’t find the strike zone and walked the next two batters, an error by the Springfield third baseman, followed by a hit batsman, a single and two more walks before giving up a fielder’s choice by Jordan Smith of Webster.
The next two batters would fly out to the centerfielder and then the right fielder, but the damage was done as Northbridge crossed the plate six times to take a 6-0 lead after one complete inning.
In the top half of the second, Byrne gave up two successive singles, but his defense was there to back him up to get the next two batters out, along with a Springfield batter getting caught off of second base on a line drive to Gregg O’Donnell.
In the bottom half it was much of the same as Northbridge player after player came to the plate. Northbridge scored nine more runs to take a 15-0 lead after two.
Byrne pitched one more inning, followed by Evan Bertone of Douglas in the fourth and then Kyle Stanley of Whitinsville in the fifth to end the game by the 10 run mercy rule after Springfield had batted in the fifth and remained scoreless.
Matt Phelan was the bit hitter, as he was the night before, with 2 for 2 with two singles, 2 runs scored and three RBI’s with a walk mixed in. Jacob Byrne went 1 for 4 but came up with a big double as he knocked in two RBI’s and scored two runs. Nate Pajka of Douglas was hitless at the plate but walked three times and scored three runs with one RBI as he reached first base on an error by the Springfield centerfielder who dropped his fly ball.
Three Springfield players each were 1 for 2 but were stranded on the bases with no runs or RBI’s.
Springfield (2-2) / 0 / 3 / 3 /
Northbridge (3-0) / 15 / 7 / 0 /
Inning By Inning: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 /
0/ 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 /
6 / 9/ 0 / 0 / - /