(Lowell) #1 Austin Prep belonged here.
#10 Newburyport? Not so much.
But the Clippers found a way to reach the Division 3 state finals.
Unfortunately, reaching the finals was the best Newburyport could do, as Austin Prep took the D3 title this afternoon, 2-1, at LeLacheur Park.
The Cougars finish 25-0 in a season in which their notoriety went from local to state to national.
“We have had all kinds of pressure on us this season because of how well we’ve done,” said Austin Prep coach AP Pollard afterwards. “The expectations got higher as the season went along.”
Today’s game was tied at 1-1 with two outs in Austin Prep half of the fourth inning.
At that point, Brenden Walsh, who had struck out his first at bat, got into a Jack Fehlner curve.
Brenden’s line drive to center went over CF Owen Roberts’ head and rolled to the 400-foot sign.
“I thought I had lined out,” said Brenden post-game. “When I reached second and the outfielder still didn’t have the ball, I knew that I could score.”
And score he did. That inside-the-park homer turned out to be the game winner.
“Credit the pitcher,” added Brenden, “he knew how to work inside. That’s how he beat Medfield which is a very good hitting team. I was sitting on the curve because he beat me a few times inside with it in my first at-bat.”
Senior Jack Iannibelli was the complete-game winner for the Cougars.
Jack gave up three hits but none after the third inning. He registered nine strikeouts including the last two outs of the game.
“Jack did what he’s done his whole career today,” said Coach Pollard. “He only had one loss the whole time.”
The Cougars scored in the first inning. Jake Zawatsky singled, reached second on an infield error, and took third on a wild pitch. Matt Chatelle’s sacrifice fly drove in the run.
Newburyport responded with a run in the second inning. Jack Fehlner tripled and scored on Max Puleo’s infield out.
The Clippers threatened to take the lead in the third inning. After one-out singles by Jack Sullivan and Connor Stick, Jack Iannibelli, however, got Luke Stallard to fly out and Jack Fehlner to strike out to keep the game tied.
AP put runners in scoring position in the second, third, and fifth but Jack Fehlner pitched his way out of each dangerous situation.
“Jack Fehlner is a tremendous competitor,” said Austin Prep coach AP Pollard. “He challenged us and wasn’t afraid of anybody.” Jack will pitch for Roanoke College (Virginia) next year.
Newburyport coach Mark Rowe was disappointed with the loss but added, “How can I be anything but proud to have been here and played the way we did?”
The Clippers (18-7) lost three straight games near the end of the regular season and looked to be heading for an early exit in the tournament ahead. However, they caught fire and won four straight tournament games including a last inning upset of #2 Medfield.
“We made a couple of mistakes out there today which you can’t do against a team like Austin Prep,” said Coach Rowe.
Austin Prep finished their 25-0 season with thirteen shutouts and only sixteen runs allowed.
The Cougars are now leaving the MIAA and venturing into the NEPSAC.
Both Pentucket and Newburyport had 2-1 losses to Austin Prep.
Talking to Coach Pollard afterwards had some unexpected excitement. Twice, not just once, players with containers of ice/juice rushed my way to try and pour the contents on him. I had to reach deep to locate the “quickness” to keep from getting soaked!
An interesting play occurred in the Newburyport fifth inning. Connor Stick tried to steal second and was ruled safe by the infield umpire. Then it looked like that umpire deferred to the home-plate umpire who then called Connor out to end the inning. Luke Stallard was the batter at the plate when the Connor-incident occurred. The next inning, Luke did not lead off. My assumption is that Luke was called out on strikes before the play at second happened. Most of the media coverage had winning pitcher Jack Iannibelli with nine strikeouts. That one would have given him ten.
(I have since learned that the batter, Luke Stallard, was declared out because of “batter interference.” It means he got in the way of the catcher as he tried to throw out Connor Stick attempting to steal second base. AP pitcher Jack Iannibelli ends up with nine strikeouts, not the ten I assumed.)
The weather was in the low 60’s and too cold for June.
Newburyport 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 = 1
Austin Prep 1 0 0 1 0 0 – = 2