Win game one, 8-7 against the Loafers
Published in the August 7, 2017 edition.
By DAN BYRNE
WAKEFIELD—Sunday at Moulton Park, the Wakefield Twi League playoffs got underway with a thrilling game one between the Brewers and the Loafers.
It took eight innings, but the top-seeded Brewers walked-off with an 8-7 victory.
Brian Millea got the start for the home side Brewers and went the distance, pitching eight innings and getting the win.
Things started out slow offensively for both sides, as both teams failed to get a runner into scoring position in the first two innings.
The Loafers broke through first with a run in the third after Millea suffered a leadoff walk to Alex Jansey. The Loaf played some small ball and sacrificed Jansey to second base. He moved to third on a single to right field, then scored on a Connor O’Brien sacrifice fly.
O’Brien opposed Millea on the mound for the Loafers, and made quick work of the Brew Crew bats, keeping them off the board for the first five innings.
The Loafers broke the game open in the top of the fourth scoring six runs on six hits, as Millea kept finding the fat part of the Loafer’s bats.
Pete Beaton led things off with a single, then moved into scoring position with a stolen base. After a single made it first and third, Matt Smith knocked both runners in with a double to deep left-center field.
After a pair of RBI doubles by Romano and Pavey made it 7-0, Millea settled down and got O’Brien to fly out to left, then he struck out Beaton to end the threat.
The Brewers didn’t rally until the bottom of the fifth when Brian DiRuzza reached on an error to lead things off, then moved to second on a stolen base.
It seemed O’Brien was not going to be touched as he came back and struck out the next two batters, including a controversial called third strike to Joe Greer.
The next batter reached as Drew Betts was hit by a pitch, bringing up Matt Fiore. The Brewers shortstop came in to his third at-bat having reached base safely off O’Brien the previous two appearances at the plate.
In his third trip to the batter’s box, Fiore lined one to left-center, scoring DiRuzza and Betts. Fiore used his baseball acumen to anticipate the Loafers throwing the ball around, and by the time the play ended Fiore stood on third base. He would come home a few pitches later on a passed ball.
O’Brien came back to get the next batter to ground out to shortstop, ending the fifth inning threat by the Brewers, but they drew blood with three in the inning and they weren’t done.
Millea pitched brilliantly after hitting a wall in the fourth inning. From the fifth inning on, he allowed just one hit and two walks.
The Loafers got a base-runner on a walk in the top of the sixth inning but failed to score.
The Brewers waited until late to start their rally, but by the time the bottom of the sixth came around there was no time to waste.
Mike Fiore led the inning off with a a double, then Tom Leahy got hit by a pitch. Next up, DiRuzza slapped a double scoring Fiore and Leahy to make the score 7-5. Andrew Patti was the next batter, and he reached base on a walk, and that knocked O’Brien out as the pitcher for the Loafers and in came second baseman, and former Umass Lowell pitcher, Garrett Cole.
Cole retired the first two batters he faced, but up stepped Matt Fiore with the tying run on second base and two down. Cole got ahead in the count, but Fiore hung in, fouling off pitch after pitch until the former WPI standout got one he could drive, sending a base-hit back through the infield, scoring both runners and tying the game at seven runs a piece. Cole got out of the jam as the next batter, Halsey, popped out to second base.
With the score tied, Millea got back on the hill for the seventh. Matt Russo led things off with a single, but Millea got Beaton to go down on strikes for the first out. After a walk to Cole, Millea got the next two to go down quietly and ended the Loafer’s scoring threat.
The Brewers went down in order against Cole in the bottom of the seventh and Millea got the Loafers to retire in order in the top of the eighth.
With the score tied 7-7 with one out in the eighth, Andrew Patti singled and Tim Hurley came in as a pinch runner. With Mike Coombs at the dish hitting for Joe Greer, everyone knew Hurley was looking to swipe second. Cole threw to first three times to check the runner and hold Hurley, but he took off anyway and moved up to second base with a successful steal.
Cole got Coombs to go down on strikes, bringing up Drew Betts with two outs. Cole got ahead of Betts, but the Twi League veteran was able to fight off some tough pitches. Eventually, Cole left one out over the plate just a bit too much, and Betts was able to get the barrel of the bat on the ball. As the ball found some green over the infield, Hurley came around to score the winning run, and the Brewers walked off with a 1-0 series lead.
Brewers shortstop Matt Fiore (3-4 4RBI) talked for a moment after the come-from-behind win in game one.
“We knew we were still in it,” Fiore said, remarking on the sentiment around the team after falling behind 7-0. “We just kept chipping away, we strung a few hits together, scored a couple of runs, and Millea pitched well to keep us in it.”
There won’t be much time to dwell on the loss or gloat over the win, as the two teams head back out onto the field on Monday night, at Moulton, game time 5:45 pm.