(Groveland MA) Nothing surprising here.
You knew it would be tight and you knew it would be decided at the end.
With eleven days off, you knew that the aces, Peter Cleary and Casey McLaren, would be doing the pitching.
You also knew that at the end there would be significant celebrating and dejection.
And that was how it was as Pentucket edged Newburyport, 2-1, in eight innings on Thursday afternoon at Groveland Pines in First Round action.
The Sachems (14-7) now move on in the D3 North tournament to the next round.
The Clippers (11-10) end their season on a five-game losing streak.
“This game went exactly how we thought it would,” said Newburyport coach Mark Rowe afterwards. “More great performances by Casey and Peter. We had our opportunities and they did too.”
The score was tied, 1-1, after four innings.
The Clippers had a runner in scoring position in the fifth, seventh, and eighth but couldn’t break through. The key for the Sachems was that in each of those innings was that although the Clippers put the ball in play they hit it in the direction of CAL All-Star shortstop Gus Flaherty. Gus handled a popup and two grounders flawlessly to get Pentucket off the field unscored on in those threatening innings.
The end came for Newburyport in the 8th inning. A popup by Owen Kamuda fell for a single into short center to start the inning. After Andrew Melone struck out, Gus Flaherty reached on a walk. Two on, one out. A grounder to shortstop Ryan Archie. Might have been two but at least would be a force out. Instead, Ryan bobbled the ball and hurried the feed to 2B Tyler Koglin. Runner Gus Flaherty slide into Tyler as he reached for the throw and the throw went by Tyler into right field. Owen Kamuda, who was heading for 3B when the grounder was hit, raced home with the winning run.
“The ending was tough for Newburyport,” said Pentucket coach Mike Wendt. “However, in a game like this, that was so well played, that’s what you get at the end.”
The Sachems celebrated their First Round win in a big way and it was understandable. Pentucket was 2-18 last year!
1B Jordan Case was with St. Mary’s last season. The Spartans make the state tournament with regularity. “I told this team that there’s something special about playoff baseball.”
Jordan drove in Pentucket’s first run in the first inning. Andrew Melone led off with a double to left and went to 3B on Jake Etter’s fielder’s choice. Jordan then singled up the middle with two outs to score Andrew.
“I was thinking middle away, but he grooved a fastball down the middle and I had good contact,” said Jordan.
The Clippers tied things in the fourth. Parker McLaren doubled leading that inning off. After two outs, Walker Bartkiewicz singled Parker home.
Newburyport finished with six hits but only Walker’s drove in a run. “We certainly would have liked some more timely hits,” said Casey.
Winning pitcher Peter Cleary credited his defense: “It was good. I was pitching to contact.”
Coach Wendt: “Peter (Cleary) is unflappable. When I give him the ball in any game, especially a big game, he is always poised and always in control.”
Coach Wendt: “Peter’s pitch count was low because Newburyport was first-pitch, fastball aggressive knowing he would pound the zone early in the count.”
Jordan Cane: “Newburyport is so athletic. I have great respect for them after playing against them in hockey and baseball.”
Casey McLaren finishes a remarkable basketball/baseball career at Newburyport. I again asked him about possibly playing baseball at Tufts along with basketball. “I am not opposed to it. I may have to get in touch with them over that.” He added that he thinks that he will study economics and finance at Tufts.
Nice crowd took in the action on a sunny late afternoon.
2B Trevor Blanchard went backwards to make a nice catch to end the Newburyport sixth.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)