(Lowell MA) Manchester-Essex seniors filled the big moments for the Hornets this afternoon leading the team to its first baseball state title, 5-2, over Tahanto at LeLacheur Park.
“The seniors have absolutely led this season from beginning to end,” said ME coach BJ Weed afterwards as he dried off from a post-game dousing.
Seniors Luke Leavitt (2 hits, 2 runs, 1 RBI), Harry Painter (3 hits, 1 run, 2 RBI), and Dylan Wilson (2 hits, 2 RBI) supplied the firepower in ME’s five runs.
Dylan also came on to protect the Hornets’ 5-2 lead over the final two innings.
“I was lucky enough to come in and close the game,” said Dylan. “We were up 5-2. I was just trying to pump the zone with a good defense behind me. Just throw strikes and let my defense work.”
Some might dispute Dylan’s “let the defense work” line during the final inning. Why? There were two popups in the last inning and Dylan was all over both of them. The game-clinching out was a popup that Dylan caught in the righthand batter’s box.
“I knew coming in that I wanted to get the last out,” Dylan said smiling afterwards. “I saw that last popup and said to myself, ‘I’m not letting anyone else get this.’”
Tahanto, from Boylston, had a very young team. They started three freshmen and an eighth grader (catcher Andrew Brown).
The Stags tied the score (1-1) in the first and only trailed 3-2 after three innings.
The fourth inning was decisive. The Hornets (20-5) pushed across two runs and had the pitching the rest of the way to make that 5-2 lead stand up.
Sophomore Will Levendusky led off the fourth inning with a bunt single. Later, with two outs, Luke Leavitt doubled to right scoring Will. Harry Painter (3 hits) followed with a double over Matt St. Denis (LF) to bring Luke home with the 5th ME run.
Freshman Kellen Heney pitched the first 4 2/3 innings for the Hornets. The Stags (17-7) threatened to get runs back against Kellen in their half of the fifth with two on, two out. But Coach Weed summoned Vaughn O’Leary and the freshman struck out Derek Arcand to end the inning.
Another chance for Tahanto in the 6th but again with two on, and two out, the Hornets got yet another strikeout (Ryan Walton), this time from Dylan Wilson, to frustrate the Central champs.
Freshman Trevor Grady doubled in the 7th with two outs but Dylan Wilson reeled in the last out.
Manchester-Essex got a run in the first inning. Harry Painter doubled, went to 2B on a wild pitch, and scored on Dylan Wilson’s single to right.
Tahanto got that run back in their half of the first. Adam Fuller walked, stole second, and was driven in by Ethan Sauriol (3 hits) with a two-out single to left.
Two runs for ME in the third. Will Janowicz (bunt single) and Luke Leavitt (walk) led off the inning. Harry Painter singled and the throw home allowed Will to score and Luke to get to third. Dylan Wilson’s single brought Luke home.
Tahanto coach Neil Greewald: “It wasn’t our best game for sure. Hats off to Manchester-Essex. They out-pitched us, out-hit us, and played better defense.”
Mike Quill (catcher): “It was incredible to win this. Everyone has worked hard all year and it has paid off. Kellen (Heney) is a young kid with composure.”
Bennett O’Leary (shortstop): “All year long people doubted us because we got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last year. We used it to motivate us. We had one goal this entire season and that was to win the state championship and we did it.”
Luke Leavitt (Southern Maine commit): “We put it together this whole post-season. We were never losing. We never found out what it was like to be chasing. I told the younger guys yesterday, ‘There’s no better feeling than to win something like this with your best friends.’”
Franklin Wood (reserve): “It was amazing. So much fun to be a part of this. It was great to see us keep battling the whole game and having our captains lead us through was awesome. Usually a Catholic school wins D4. It was good to see a public school do it.”
Harry Painter (UMass Lowell commit): This will be my home field for the next four years. It’s beautiful. I can’t wait. We worked hard; early mornings, late nights. It all paid off. Every one of my hits came off a fast ball. I tried to stay off the curve balls as much as I could. I wanted to get into good counts and drive the ball. At UMass Lowell I’m thinking of studying sports physical therapy. I learned a lot when I had surgery on my arm.”
Coach Weed: “This is almost like a dream to me. I can’t say enough about this team. I am almost speechless. We’ve had the goal to win a championship since we started five years ago. We started Harry (Painter) slowly this year because of his injury last year. He got better every outing and he hit .544.”
Dylan Wilson: “I will be going to UMass Amherst to study Biology.”
Tahanto was the #7 seed in the Central. They are in the Midland Wachusett League.
In 2017, the Stags were 22-1 losing in the state semi-finals that season.
Today’s game was the first state final Taranto has been in since 1993.
Manchester-Essex won ten straight including five in the tournament.
Harry Painter was the Player-of-the-Year in the Cape Ann League. Harry, Bennett O’Leary, and Dylan Wilson were on the CAL First Team. Luke Leavitt and Mike Quill made the CAL second team. Coach Weed was Coach-of-the-Year.
Beautiful weather for today’s noon start.
Busy twenty-four hours for Hornets’ fans. The girls lacrosse team was in the state finals last night.
Disappointed that the MIAA had no programs for a game of this importance.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)