Tuesday, June 19, 2018

St. Peter-Marian Storms Back to Solidify Div. 1 State Final Berth

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)

Westfield, Mass. - You could say history was on its side considering playing in the Division 1 baseball state semifinals is considered old hat for St. Peter-Marian. The Guardians have trekked down the road before, winning a sectional championship three times over the last four years.

The Guardians opponent on Tuesday afternoon, Longmeadow, was a newbie to the big dance. The Lancers are not entrenched in the same kind of baseball tradition, much-like their counterparts. Reaching the playoffs for the first time in seven years, Longmeadow made the most of it after winning its first Western Mass. title on Saturday.

Early on, Longmeadow showed no trepidation  jumping out to an early three run lead. But mid-way through, the tide turned as St. Peter-Marian plated four runs in the fourth and added two more the following frame to secure a 6-3 win over Longmeadow at Bud and Jim Hagen Field on the campus of Westfield State University.

With the win, the Guardians (19-6) earned the right to play in Saturday’s Division 1 final at the Holy Cross.

“Obviously, Longmeadow put a lot of pressure on us early by putting the ball in play,” said Guardians nine-year coach Ed Riley. “We told our guys, after being down 3-0, to just chip away and put the ball in play like they did.”  

St. Peter-Marian last played for the championship in 2015 when it fell to Norwood. Saturday will mark the fifth time in school history that the Guardians have played for a state title, having won it in 1977 and 1987.

Against Longmeadow, St. Peter-Marian had a tough time getting out of the blocks. The Lancers (16-8) got to Guardians starting pitcher Carter Liston for a solo run in the second and added a pair more in the third. A lead-off double by Zach Wright to begin the second resulted in an RBI single off the bat of Nolan Brown for a 1-0 lead.

While St. Peter-Marian’s bats were silenced Lancers’ right-hander Michael Carterud, Longmeadow's offense remained on the attack.

In the third, a Tyler Achatz walk and throwing error put two on with nobody out. Two batters later, Michael Barrett’s reached on an infield single to fill the bases. Wright came to the plate and delivered a two-run single into left field. Liston was able to avert further trouble by inducing Jerold Duquette to bounce into a double play.

St. Peter-Marian began its comeback with Will Bruno reaching on an error. Luke Delongchamp’s ensuing opposite field single to right put two aboard with none out. Matt Dumphy next singled to center to load the bases. Moments later, Dan Malm then hit a chopper to Carterud resulting in an errant throw to the plate bringing home a pair of runs.

With the play still enamored in his head, Carterud unleashed a wild pitch sending Dumphy home and knotting things at 3-3. Mahm tagged and scored on Jeff Lamothe’s fly out to deep left to push the Guardians in front. 

“Fortunately for us, that throw to the plate kind of turned everything around for us,” said Riley. “Longmeadow was a tough team and we knew coming in that we had to be ready for them. For a young team like we are, they don't get caught up in the moment.”

After four innings of work, Liston (6 hits, 3 K’s, 1 walk) was pulled for sophomore Frank Hernandez. 

The lefty set Longmeadow down in order in the top of the fifth. In the bottom of the frame, St. Peter-Marian, with its bats now wide-awake, continued its assault on Carterud. A single by Bruno and another Lancer error on Delongchamp’s grounder put two runners on. Following another Carterud wild pitch, Dumphy belted a shot to deep left for a two-run double and give the Guardians some breathing room.

“We just didn’t make the plays when we had to,” Longmeadow fourth-year coach Michael Athas said. “Our biggest asset has been our defense. We’ve been able to shutdown teams when we’ve run into jams but today we came up on the short end."

Hernandez worked himself out of a mini-jam in the sixth but made things a bit more nerve-wracking in the seventh when Longmeadow loaded the bases with two out. Facing Wright, the Lancers’ most-dangerous hitter, Hernandez was able to get a fly out to right, sealing the victory.  

“This was the first time we had been down the entire tournament,” said Dumphy. “We just persevered and came away with the win. How you win baseball games is by putting pressure on the other team to see if they can hold a lead or can’t hold a lead. Fortunately we put enough pressure on them to come out of here with this win.”

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