THE LOAFERS are the 2019 Twi League Champions. (Dan Byrne Photo)

Published in the August 19, 2019 edition.


WAKEFIELD — Thursday’s was game four of the Twi League finals between the defending champion Highlife and the Loafers.

Having taken a win in game three, the Highlife looked to stave off elimination, while the Loafers held a commanding 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

The Loafers showed up with the bats, pounding 14 hits, leading to 11 runs en route to a decisive 11-4 victory to claim the Twi League Championship, winning the series three games to one.

Jordan Fauci couldn’t claim victory as a reliever in game three, but got the ball to start game four, and he was nothing short of magnificent. The former Wakefield Warrior went the first six innings, allowing five hits and four runs, but that was only half the story. Almost every inning, the Highlife had a threat going to pull ahead in the game and even the series, yet time after time, Fauci got the out that kept the Highlife at bay.

The Highlife had basically used up everyone they had to pitch, so they rolled Nick Dettorre back out there for the start. He did a serviceable job making the Loaf swing the bats, the problem was they just weren’t swinging and missing.

He did throw a perfect first inning, including a swinging strikeout of James Beaton to end it, but the success Dettorre had in the first didn’t last longer than that.

Fauci on the other side also threw a
perfect first inning with a third out swinging strikeout of Anthony Cecere, mirroring Dettorre’s effort.

Dettorre allowed a leadoff double to Taylor Robinson in the 2nd inning, but got Matt Russo to ground out to second and froze Justin Sencabaugh on a called third strike for the second out. Sal Mendonca brought Robinson home on an RBI single, then Dom Sorrentino walked moving Mendonca to second base. With two on and two away, Garrett Cole lined a single into left, scoring Mendonca to make it 2-0. Dettorre ended the threat by getting Jared Pavey to fly out to centerfield.

Matt Davis led off by grounding out to Pavey at shortstop in the bottom of the 2nd. With one away, Faucci allowed a double to Anthony Caracciolo and a screaming single by Mark Sullivan to make it first and third with one away. Eric DiTonno came up next and hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning, with Caracciolo holding at third. A two-out walk to Chris Dettorre loaded the bases for Joe Stackhouse, but he couldn’t come up with the clutch hit, rolling over a ground ball to second to end the inning.

The Loafers doubled their lead in the top of the 3rd with Connor O’Brien leading off with a single, then moving to second on a walk to Beaton. With two on and nobody out, Taylor Robinson smashed a liner to left. It looked like Cecere had a beat on it and was going to make a running catch and double the runner off second, when the ball kicked off his glove and rolled away. One runner came across the plate, but to salvage some consolation, Robinson made an aggressive turn at second and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple, with Beaton still standing at third. Beaton came home when the next batter Matt Russo lifted a fly ball to deep centerfield. Dan Concessi made the catch, but it was plenty far enough for Beaton to run home safely. Dettorre got Mendonca to ground out to second base to end the inning.

The Highlife came back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the 3rd. After Concessi popped to short for the first out, Ryan Doyle singled and moved up to second on a walk to Cecere. Both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, but Matt Davis hit a grounder to third base that caught Doyle in no-man’s land. After a brief rundown, Doyle was tagged out for the second out of the inning.

The Highlife got their breakthrough with a two-out triple by Caracciolo that brought home Cecere and Davis making it 4-2 Loaf.

Faucci struck out Mark Sullivan to end the inning with Caracciolo stranded at third base.

The Loafers’ big inning came in the top of the 4th as Dom Sorrentino led things off with a double. Garrett Cole then grounded out to Doyle at shortstop for the first out, and Jared Pavey grounded one to Doyle and he ran down and tagged Sorrentino for the second out, with Pavey reaching base safely.

Back-to-back singles by O’Brien and Beaton led to Pavey coming around to make it 5-2. A walk to Robinson loaded the bases for Matt Russo. He roped a single into the gap that saw all three runners circle the bases, with Russo moving up to second on the throw home. Justin Sencabaugh stepped in and lifted one to deep centerfield, but Concessi ran it down to end the inning with the score 8-2 Loaf.

DiTonno led off for the Highlife in the bottom of the 4th and was hit by a pitch. Jake Vezga hit next and bounced one right back to Fauci for the first out of the inning. Joe Stackhouse followed with a base hit, bringing up leadoff hitter Concessi. The lefty turned on a Fauci breaking ball, but Robinson picked it on a hop, stepped on first and threw down to second to complete the 3-6 double play as Stackhouse was tagged out by Pavey.

Caracciolo came in for the Highlife and pitched a scoreless 5th inning, allowing a leadoff single but then getting Sorrentino to hit into a 5-4-3 double play. Garrett Cole singled with two down, but Pavey popped out to end the inning.

Fauci issued a leadoff walk to Ryan Doyle in the bottom of the 5th, and another walk to Cecere. A wild pitch and a passed ball saw Doyle advance to third base. Cecere stole second to make it second and third with nobody out, but Fauci got Davis to pop to first for the first out of the inning.

Caracciolo turned on a Faucci off-speed pitch and forced Robinson into making a play at first base. Doyle took the opportunity to race home for the Life’s third run, with Cecere moving to third. Mark Sullivan stepped in and got into a fly ball to left, but Russo ran it down and the inning ended with the score 8-3.

Matt Davis came in to pitch the 6th inning for the Highlife, with Connor O’Brien greeting him with a base hit up the middle. After Beaton flew out to right field, Robinson singled to make it first and third with one out, as Matt Russo stepped in. Davis got him to fly to right field as well for the second out of the inning.

Next up Justin Sencabaugh launched a ball into the left-centerfield gap. O’Brien scored easily, and Robinson raced around for the Loaf’s 10th run. A fine barehanded play as the ball bounced off the base of a treetrunk by Dan Concessi held Sencabaugh to a single, but he moved up to second as the throw went through to home plate trying to throw out Robinson unsuccessfully. Sal Mendonca flew to Stackhouse, who had a busy inning with all three putouts, to end the inning.

The Highlife got a run in the bottom of the 6th when Jake Vezga hit a one out double, then came home to score two batters later as Concessi’s two-out RBI single brought in the fourth Highlife run. Fauci got Ryan Doyle to fly out to Mendonca in right to end the inning.

Eric DiTonno came in to pitch the 7th for the Highlife. He allowed one run on one hit. The first two batters went down without much of a challenge, with Dom Sorrentino grounding out to third and Garrett Cole flying out to left field. Jared Pavey knocked a two-out base hit, then came around to score on a series of wild pitches to make it 11-4. Connor O’Brien was called out on strikes to end the inning.

Garrett Cole came in for Fauci to pitch the bottom of the 7th and struck out the side in order, sending the bench onto the field to mob the players, as the Loafers celebrated the Twi League Championship.

There is no doubt this summer’s Twi League seasons ranks as one of the most exciting. The Loafers had the best record for most of the year, then almost had it slip away, backing into a playoff spot, then regaining their early season form to put in a dominant playoff performance.

The Highlife fought hard, but ran out of pitching and in the end couldn’t come up with the hits in crunch time.

The Loafers got it done all year long with strong pitching from the likes of Fauci, Cole and Robinson, and their timely, clutch hitting in the finals led to them claiming the 2019 title.