Warriors use some seventh inning magic in 2-1 walk-off win against Reading
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Memorial High baseball team clinched a share of the Middlesex League Freedom division championship yesterday afternoon at Walsh Field. However it took some seventh inning magic for the Warriors to do so.
Wakefield rallied for two runs in the final inning and edged Reading by a 2-1 score in a well-played contest by both clubs.
The Warriors are now 14-4 overall and 12-3 in the M.L. Freedom division. Wakefield can do no worse than a co-championship in the M.L. Freedom division. It is the first league title the Warriors have captured since 1989.
Wakefield can win the title outright either with a win next Wednesday at Woburn or a Wilmington loss. The Wildcats have two league games remaining next week.
Wakefield secured a share of the league title against a perennially strong Rockets. The Warriors also clinched a state tournament berth in a 14-3 win over Reading on May 9. However, yesterday’s victory proved to be tougher than the one-sided contest nearly two weeks ago.
Reading scored a run in the top of the first inning and the score remained that way until the last of the seventh inning.
In the final inning, pinch-hitter Joe Greer was hit by a pitch to lead off. Mike Caraglia laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached safely when an error by the third baseman Corey DiLoreto on the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag. Neil Fitzgerald tried to bunt as well but eventually with two strikes, popped up to shortstop for the first out of the inning.
Corey Imbriano then singled past shortstop and into left field as Greer scored from second base. With runners on first and second, Anthony Cecere doubled to the gap in right-center field as Caraglia crossed the plate with the game-winning run.
“That was a good game,” said Coach Keith Forbes. “We made some base running mistakes but the one you can’t deny is this group will battle to the end. Corey and Cecere were the bright spots. They had the big hits. Greer was hit by a pitch to get on and then Caraglia reached on the error on the bunt to get us going.”
The winner on the mound for the Warriors was reliever Joe Stackhouse who pitched the seventh inning. The senior left-hander struck out one and walked one.
Shawn Smeglin started the game and pitched well. Smeglin gave up one run on five hits in six innings of work. The senior right-hander struck out seven and walked two.
“Stackhouse got the win,” said Forbes. “Shawn pitched well. This was his best start of the season. He battled and got the big strikeout or a pop up when he needed it. His senior leadership has really helped us this year.”
Reading sophomore Connor Mulligan also pitched a fine game and took the loss for the Rockets. The right-hander pitched six and a third innings giving up two runs (one earned) on eight hits. Mulligan struck out three, walked one and hit a batter.
“Mulligan’s a sophomore and he pitched well. He is going to be very good over the next couple of years,” said Forbes. “I’m happy we came back.”
Reading could’ve used the victory as it fell to 6-10 on the year. The Rockets need to win their remaining four games to get into the state tournament. One of those games is against Wilmington next week.
Reading scored its only run in the top of the first inning. Mulligan singled sharply into left field. One out later, Ryan Wynns lined a base hit to left field. Alec Bergeron then singled to left field with two outs as Mulligan scored from second base. With runners on second and third, Smeglin induced a fly ball to right field to end the inning.
The Rockets went in order in both the second and fifth innings. In the third, Pat Jordan had a one out single to left field but was left stranded at second base. In the fourth, Bergeron walked and Tom Peacock singled to right field. Mark Dalton tried to lay down a bunt but Warrior catcher Matt Mercurio fired a strike to Caraglia at first base to pick off Peacock and end any kind of scoring threat. Wynns drew a leadoff walk in the sixth but Smeglin came back and retired the next three batters to keep the score at 1-0.
Stackhouse walked a batter, pinch-hitter Carl Gillies, in the top of the seventh but he was forced at second on a ground ball by Joe Pappalardo. Papparlardo stole second base and took third on an errant throw by Mercurio. But a ground ball to second ended the half inning.
Meanwhile, Wakefield had its chances to score before the seventh inning.
Fitzgerald singled to right-center field in the first inning but advanced no further.
Wakefield had a great chance in the second inning as it loaded the bases. With one out, Patti singled up the middle. Tighe Beck then beat out an infield hit to second base. Andrew Auld had a base hit fall in center field to load the bases. Caraglia then lifted a fly ball to right field which appeared like it was going over right fielder Papparlardo’s head. However Papparlardo made a fine catch on the play but the runner at third wasn’t tagging up on play and had to hold at third base. A fly ball to left field ended the inning.
Wakefield went in order in the third and fourth innings. In the fifth inning Auld reached safely on a dropped third strike and passed ball. Fitzgerald walked with one out but a fly ball to shortstop and a fly ball to center field ended the frame.
Mercurio singled to left field in the sixth but pinch-runner Tim Hurley was caught in a rundown and tagged out for the first out of the inning. With two outs, Patti had his second hit of the game with a single to left field. But a fly ball to right ended the inning.
“We played good defense and we had the timely hits in the seventh,” said Forbes. “We’ve been rallying late but it would be nice if we rallied earlier in the game. We clinched a share of the title. We’ve reached two of our goals. We want to work on cleaning up a few things before the state tournament.”
Wakefield plays Beverly in a non-league this afternoon at 4:15 p.m. at Beverly High School. The Warriors wrap up the regular season next Wednesday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. when they face Woburn in the M.L. finale at Ferullo Field in Woburn.