Beat Loafers 11-7 in game four to win series 3-1
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
WAKEFIELD — The Highlife are back on top of the Wakefield Twi League after defeating the Loafers in game four to win the championship series, three games to one.
While celebrating their first championship since 2011, the Life were finally able to exhale and enjoy the moment after another tough playoff series against a very good Loafers team.
Game four matched up Loafers ace Garrett Cole against the Highlife’s John Evangelista.
A classic back-and-forth game started from the very beginning, but in the end, the Highlife’s high-powered offense refused to give the Loafers a chance at a decisive game five.
The Highlife kicked things off in the top of the first inning when Anthony Cecere smashed a leadoff double, Jason Federico walked, and Cliff Silva hit a two-out bloop two-RBI single after Cole got two consecutive strikeouts to take the lead 2-0.
Evangelista, a recent graduate of WMHS and a key pitcher on the Warriors’ baseball team, kept the Loafers off the board through the first two innings. The Loafers scratched a run across in the bottom of the third after Matt Russo hit a double, and Cole smashed an RBI-double into the gap in left-center field to make it 2-1.
With the momentum slowly turning to the Loafers, the Highlife made their move in the fourth inning, much like in game three when the Life plated seven in the fourth. As was the case in that game, the Highlife used some small ball to push across five runs and take a commanding 7-1 lead.
Silva led-off with a single. Cole struck out the next two batters but Tommy Sheeran beat the throw to first after the ball bounced in the dirt. With one out and runners on first and second, Mark Sullivan’s single caused all sorts of havoc for the Loafers defense. Silva was held up at third but the throw from Loafers center fielder James Beaton bounced off the glove of the cutoff man and Silva raced home to make it 3-0. Jake Vezga followed with an infield RBI single, then Federico bounced one off the plate forcing Cole to race in and field it. Cole tossed a wild throw past Russo at first base, allowing Sullivan and Vezga to score. Russo provided the game its comic relief when he yelled at the umpire that the ball went out of play, meaning Vezga would have to hold up at third. It was certainly close, and the boundaries at Moulton aren’t always the clearest, but after a quick conversation with the field umpire, Russo turned back to the home plate umpire with a “my bad,” drawing a few laughs from both sides. “We should really change that rule,” Russo added with a smile.
Eric DiTonno added one more RBI single for the Highlife before Cole got out of it.
The Loafers continued to fight in the bottom half of the fourth, as their counter punch was thrown by non other than their official rally-starter, Joe Romano. Romano’s one-out base hit was followed by a single from Alex Jansey. After Evangelista got a big strikeout on Jared Pavey, Connor O’Brien cleared the bases with a double, making the score 7-3. With the Loafers bench back into the game, Russo stepped up to the plate and cracked what might have been the hardest hit of the series, rifling one down the line in right. It might have got out if not for the oak tree acting as the unofficial foul pole. The ball crashed into a mess of leaves and branches, and was called dead, giving Russo a double and scoring O’Brien. After the wild fourth was in the books, the Highlife were leading 7-4.
In the bottom of the fifth, Joe Galli walked, Matt Smith singled, and Romano walked to load the bases for Jansey, who’s sacrifice fly cut the deficit to two. Evangelista got a big out by forcing Pavey to pop up.
Cole got through his second consecutive scoreless inning in the top of the sixth, and the Loafers came through in the bottom half of the sixth. O’Brien was hit by a pitch, Beaton singled, and Cole hit a ground ball to short that took a wild bounce over the head of Vezga and ended up in the outfield, scoring O’Brien, cutting the deficit to one, and putting runners on second and third. Galli hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Beaton and tying the game.
With the score 7-7 and a game five beckoning, the Highlife made the most of their last opportunity to score some runs.
DiTonno hit a leadoff single, Anthony Caracciolo had an RBI single, blooped another base hit, and Sheeran painted the right field line with a two-RBI double. Sullivan followed up with an RBI single and before you could blink, the Highlife had scored four runs and taken a 11-7 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
Evangelista stayed in the game and closed out the Loaf, as a pop up to Caracciolo at first officially put the crown back on the heads of the Highlife.
This Highlife team will be remembered for an explosive offense and and big performances from pitchers like Evangelista and Nick Dettorre. The Highlife featured clutch hitting throughout their whole lineup and gained a reputation for never being out of a game, especially after coming back from a 5-0 hole in the second game of the championship series.
In the end, it was a fun 2017 Wakefield Twi League playoffs that produced a worthy champion.