No. 3 Lynnfield meets No. 2 Gloucester in semifinals Wednesday
Published June 12, 2019
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
LYNNFIELD — Most fans at Lynnfield High on Monday knew if the Pioneers were to beat North Reading, senior captain Fernando Gonzalez would have to be dominant on the mound once again.
Not many could have guessed it was his bat that would send Lynnfield to the semifinals.
With his team up 1-0 in the bottom of the 3rd, Gonzalez hit a towering two-run homer to right-center and withstood a late rally from the visitors as the Pioneers beat the Hornets 4-2 in the Div. 3 North quarterfinals.
“He tagged that,” said head coach John O’Brien.
Gonzalez wasn’t bad on the mound either, allowing just three hits and striking out four.
His five walks and one hit batter gave North Reading opportunities in the first and sixth innings, but Gonzalez buckled down in both to get out of it.
“He pitched great,” said O’Brien. “He struggled a little bit early to find his control but once he found his breaking ball he was tough to hit. He set the tone and the kids played great defense behind him.”
The Hornets did their best to get to the ace in the first inning. A walk, error and hit batter resulted in a bases loaded situation with no outs.
Shaking off a roaring North Reading dugout, Gonzalez fought through, getting a flyout to Clayton Marengi in center, a huge strikeout and a groundout to Jonathan Luders at short to end the inning.
Lynnfield went to work on breaking up a classic rivalry stalemate in the bottom of the third. Brian Cardarelli drew a walk and Luders bunted him over to second. following a flyout, Marengi stepped up in a big spot and scored Cardarelli from second with a base hit.
That set up Gonzalez, who completely changed the momentum of the game with his home run.
“That was timely hitting,” said O’Brien. “Clay came up with a big base hit to get the run and after Fernando hit that homer I thought it gave him a little confidence on the mound.”
The lefty swiftly sat down the Hornets in order in the fourth and the Pioneers capitalized on the momentum for another insurance run in their half. Matt Fiore walked and Luke Martinho ripped an RBI double to the gap.
Gonzalez again went 1,2,3 in the fifth.
North Reading made sure Lynnfield would earn this one.
Gonzalez surrendered three walks with one out in the sixth as it appeared fatigue was finally getting to him. Still, O’Brien insists there was never any question about pulling him. This was Fernando’s to win.
Of course, his defense had his back.
With the bases loaded and one out, a sharp, sinking liner was sent to left and appeared destined to get the Hornets on the board but Martinho made a superb sliding catch that kept the baserunner at third.
North Reading’s starter in this game, Cole Doke got some level of revenge with a two-RBI base hit but Luders handled a chopper with a running throw to first to account for the final out with Lynnfield holding on to their lead.
A leadoff walk for North Reading in the seventh was quickly quelled by some strong work by second baseman John Singer. He made a quick turn and perfect throw to Luders to get the lead runner for the first out and later ended the game on a nice stab and strong throw to first.
“He’s done well,” said O’Brien of Singer, as the junior’s arm has vastly improved throughout the season. “We got him on the weighted ball and he’s a worker he’s one of the first guys here and one of last guys cleaning everything up; he’s always in the cage and has a terrific attitude.”
So while the headline will rightfully belong to Gonzalez, the Pioneer defense and timely hitting put the home team over the top, and will be needed if Lynnfield wants to beat No. 2 Gloucester in the semifinals on Wednesday night at LeLacheur Park in Lowell at 7 p.m.
“Singer played terrific, Luders keeps making plays, Luke made a fantastic catch in the outfield, (Will) Garofoli ran a ball down in right and (Jaret) Simpson called another great game behind the dish. Hopefully we keep it up that was good to see,” said O’Brien.
With a shocking turn on the other side of the bracket, the door appears to be open for the Pioneers and Fishermen. No. 1 Austin Prep was upset by Swampscott 5-2 in the quarterfinals. The Big Blue will move on to play Bishop Fenwick on Wednesday.
The winners of both games will meet for the D3N championship at Alumni Field in Lowell on Saturday at 3 p.m.