ATTLEBORO — Having faced early one- and three-run deficits, having rallied for five runs in the second inning, having made no less that a quartet of dazzling defensive plays, the Attleboro High School baseball team has lived to talk about it at practice Tuesday afternoon.
Placing runners on base in every inning, placing the leadoff batter on base in five of the first six frames played at Hayward Field and riding a heroic relief pitching role by junior righthander Ryan Morry, the Bombardiers somehow survived a roller-coaster of a ride, prevailing 8-7 over Bridgewater-Raynham in the quarterfinal round of the MIAA Division 1 South Tournament.
The No. 8 batter, senior catcher Troy VanVliet, belted three hits and scored three runs; their leadoff batter, senior infielder Tim Callahan, clubbed two hits and scored twice; and junior infielder Lorenzo Wilson belted a two-run triple in a five-run second inning surge as the No. 11-seeded Bombardiers (13-9) now advance to the Final Four of the Division 1 sweepstakes.
The outcome marked the 17th game Attleboro High has been involved in in which the outcome was decided by one or two runs in extra innings.
And by the length of the webbing in the glove of lefthanded leftfielder Camden Fitzpatrick, who made a running one-handed catch to his right for the second out of the seventh inning, was Attleboro able to emerge victorious.
“That was the play of the game; if he’s not lefthanded, he probably doesn’t catch that ball,” B-R coach John Kearney said in praise of Fitzpatrick’s catch, as the Trojans had the tying run at the plate with nobody out in the final frame, stranding the potential tying run at third base as VanVliet fielded a foul-ball pop-up to end a two-run rally.
AHS gained a 7-4 lead in the third inning. VanVliet reached base on an improbable infield pop-up double, as the B-R third baseman tripped over the bag attempting to field the ball, and VanVliet scored on an errant pick-off with Larkin (via a single) at first base.
“We’ve been doing this all year: we’ve been down, we come back,” beamed Bombardier boss Steve Dunlea. “The kids just don’t quit.”
AHS was able to snip one B-R threat after another — shortstop Nick McMahon initiating a double play for the first two outs of the third inning; Tim Callahan, the second baseman, then making a spectacular leaping catch of a line drive for the final out of the frame; Morry stabbing a line drive back to the mound for the first out of the sixth inning; and then Fitzpatrick’s catch, which prevented two Trojans from crossing the plate.
The Bombardiers created an 8-5 lead with what proved to be their game-winning run in the fifth inning. VanVliet stroked a lead-off single into left field, and pinch-runner Bailey Camacho scored on an Espinal sacrifice fly.
“Give them (B-R) a lot of credit, they fight, they battle,” Dunlea said of the Trojans, who had runners on base in all but the fifth inning. “They gave us everything they had.”
In the seventh, B-R used a walk and two hits to plate a pair of runs, then AHS senior Eoin Kelleher came on to face two batters and recorded the final out.
AHS was mired in a quagmire, as eight of the 11 batters faced by the Bombardiers’ starting pitcher reached base — the Trojans scoring two runs in the first inning with two outs on two walks and two hits, then adding another pair in the second on a walk and two hits.
However, B-R’s starting pitcher was equally ineffective, as six of the nine AHS batters he faced were able to reach base.
In the first inning, Callahan stroked a lead-off single up the middle and eventually scored when Morry drew a bases-loaded walk.
In the second, VanVliet singled to the shortstop hole and scored when Sam Larkin’s ground ball was misplayed. Callahan singled and Alvaro Espinal drew the first of his two walks to load the bases for Fitzpatrick, who slashed an opposite-field two-run single down the left-field line. Wilson became the sixth consecutive Bombardier to reach base with his mammoth first-pitch triple into left-center field.
“We made some plays that we had to make, and I tip my hat to Morry coming in (after pitching four innings at Barnstable),” Dunlea added. “He was carrying us. The magic continues on! It’s back to work at practice Tuesday afternoon!”