Thursday, June 21, 2018

Needham Makes Program History, Advances to Div. 1 State Final

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)

Brockton, Mass. - In spite of a lack of baseball history, it seemed to not matter to Needham or Boston Latin. The fact that both schools were in this position is what it was all about.

As evident Wednesday evening, parity at his level has become a welcomed sight as two schools worked their way up the ladder to reach the Div. 1 state semifinals for the first time in program history. 

With each program waiting an entire history to get to this plateau, only one moved on to Saturday'schampionship finale as Needham built an early lead and held on late en route to a 6-3 over Boston Latin at Campanelli Stadium. 

"It is really special to finally be able to get to a state championship," said Rockets coach Matt Howard, now in his fourth season. "I'm so happy for our kids. They have all worked very hard during the season, the off-season and in various summer leagues over the years."

The Rockets (17-8) will square off against St. Peter-Marian (19-6) in the title game on Saturday, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the College of Holy Cross. 

Needham took advantage of their own aggressiveness at the plate to grab a 2-0 lead after one inning. The Rockets tacked on two more runs in the fourth to double their advantage. 

While all of this was taking place, Rockets starting pitcher Thomas Chmielewski kept Boston Latin (18-6) in check. There were times, however, when the junior lefty managed to tightrope his way out of a couple of situations. In the second and fourth frames, Boston Latin had a pair reach but Chmeiewlwski wiggled out of both situations. But in the fifth, Chmielewski wasn't so fortunate. 

After retiring the first two batters, a fielder's choice parlayed with a couple of walks loaded the bases for the Wolfpack. It appeared as though Chmielewski might come away undamaged after inducing Kevin Zarnoch to hit a ground ball to third. But third baseman William Foley's throw across the diamond bounced down the right field line. That allowed all three base runners to cross the plate, cutting the deficit to 4-3. 

"We had a great run with a wonderful group of seniors who have set our program in the right direction," Boston Latin coach Rene Gauthier said. "It's been quite some time since the last time this program won the Dual County League title which was back in 2000. To put a DCL banner in 2018 means they are champions too."

Coleman O'Toole, who replaced Bear (8 hits, 1 K, 1 walk) with two outs in the fourth started the bottom of the fifth by surrendering back-to-back walks to Foley and Chmielewski. Dan DeMayo followed with a sacrifice bunt down the third base line that could not be fielded cleanly loading the bases. A Charles Roberts fly out scored pinch-runner Ben Gilarde. Moments later, Gold hit a chopper that was not handled bringing home the Rockets' sixth run of the game.

With Chmielewski's night coming to a close after five innings, Roberts came in to keep Needham in front. The senior proceeded to set down Boston Latin with relative ease over the final two innings to record the save. Chmielewski, using an even mix of fastballs and curves, allowed just three hits, struck out two and walked three. 

In the opening frame, Needham put a pair on before Alec Sharton and Foley delivered RBI singles. Three innings later, the Rockets answered the call again. With one out, DeMayo reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a botched pick-off attempt. Roberts next laced a double to left for a 3-0 advantage before sprinting home on Gold's sacrifice fly that gave Needham a four run advantage.

"I think we are just a resilient team," said Sharton. "We've been in a lot of tough games, especially during this entire tournament. This is just a real competitive group of kids we have here. Obviously Needham baseball has had a tough past but Coach Howard and the entire coaching staff have done a great job turning this program around."

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