Senior’s three-run homer in seventh lifts Warriors to 6-5 comeback victory over Reading
Published in the April 19, 2016 edition.
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WAKEFIELD — Don’t ever count out the Wakefield Memorial High baseball team.
Down 5-1 in its last at bat, Wakefield pulled off an improbable five run comeback, capped by Matt Mercurio’s three-run walk-off home run as the Warriors earned a 6-5 victory over Reading yesterday in a non-league game at Walsh Field.
Mercurio’s home run was his second round tripper of the game as the senior catcher and 2015 Middlesex League Freedom division MVP sent a 3-2 offering over the left field fence for a solo home run in the fourth inning.
That allowed Wakefield to go to 2-1 overall on the season and split the season series with the Rockets. Wakefield lost to Reading by a 4-3 score in eight innings on Friday at Morton Field. But the Warriors enjoyed a little bit of payback and they did so in dramatic fashion yesterday.
Reading’s Mike Rainone relieved starter Liam O’Neill to begin the seventh inning and proceeded to walk the first two batters, junior Mike Guanci and senior Tighe Beck, to begin the frame. Guanci and Beck moved up to second and third on a wild pitch. The right-hander came back and got the next two batters with a strikeout and a pop up to first base for the first two outs of the inning.
Leadoff hitter Will Shea, a junior, then struck a pop up just past first base and into shallow right field. Reading second baseman Mark Dalton appeared to call off first baseman Tom Peacock. However Dalton was unable to make the play as the ball fell in for a base hit as both Guanci and Beck scored to make it a 5-3 game.
Jake Nardone, a sophomore making his first varsity start, put in a hard fought at bat, fouling off several pitches before working a walk to put runners on first and second and bring the potential winning run to the plate.
Reading Head Coach Dave Blanchard lifted Rainone at that point and called in left fielder Tom White, the winner of Friday’s game, to face Mercurio in the hope of recording the final out. But Mercurio crushed a White offering over the fence in left field as Wakefield celebrated while the senior rounded the bases after clubbing his three-run dinger.
“Matt Mercurio played like the MVP he is,” said Coach Keith Forbes. “He had a great game and when he is locked in, he is as good a hitter as there is. We caught a break on the pop up. The second baseman called for the ball and it fell in. It was a little unlucky for them. But we took advantage.
“This team doesn’t quit and keeps battling,” added Forbes. “I would like to see us be a little more consistent throughout the game and not have to keep coming back. We struck out eight times and hit some pop ups. I would like to see us turn in some better at bats. We’re going to work on having better at bats.”
The pitching and defense, on the other hand, have been pretty consistent. While the first Reading game featured a lot of errors by both teams, yesterday’s contest was error free as both clubs played like the highly-ranked teams that they are.
John Evangelista, a junior right-hander, pitched well and kept the Rockets off the scoreboard until the fifth when Reading rallied for four runs on five hits, including a pair of triples. Evangelista went five innings giving up four runs on nine hits while hitting a batter.
Adam Chanley, a senior right-hander, earned the win relief as he hurled two innings giving up one run on two hits while striking out two batters.
O’Neill pitched the first six frames for Reading. The right-hander gave up just the solo home run by Mercurio and four hits while striking out seven and walking two. The Warriors were very happy to see him leave the game in the seventh inning.
Over the first three innings, Wakefield’s only base runner was Shea. He walked to lead off the first inning and then stole second, while in the third, he had a two out single to left. The junior also had a two out single up the middle in the fifth inning as he had three of Wakefield’s six hits for the game.
Wakefield took a 1-0 lead in the last of the fourth inning. After working his way to a full count, Mercurio crushed an O’Neill offering out of the ballpark. Ben Coccoluto, a junior, walked and then Beck singled to right field to put runners on first and second. The Warriors were unable to do any more damage and pinch-runner Zach Thomas was picked off second and tagged out in a rundown for the third out of the inning.
Reading, which had four hits over the first four innings with three infield singles by Connor Mulligan, Pat Jordan and Corey DiLoreto and a base hit to left field by White, broke through against Evangelista in the top of the fifth inning.
Nick O’Neil singled to left field to start the frame off. After a pop up on a bunt attempt by Dalton in which Evangelista made a nice diving catch on, Mulligan smacked a RBI triple to left field as O’Neil scored to the game at 1-1.
On his slide into third base, Mulligan injured his left shoulder and the game was delayed for 20 minutes while the Rocket ballplayer was attended to and eventually taken to the hospital by ambulance.
When the game resumed, Carl Gillies singled to left field scoring pinch-runner Joe Bradley to give the Rockets a 2-1 lead. Gillies stole second and scored on a two out triple to right field by DiLoreto. DiLoreto crossed the plate on an RBI single to right field by Jordan to give Reading a 4-1 advantage before a ground ball to third ended the inning.
“Reading put in some good at bats. The triple to the gap to tie the game was on a good, high pitch,” said Forbes. “Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the hitter. Evangelista had thrown only 40 pitches through the first four innings.”
Wakefield went in order in the home half of the fifth and both teams went in order in the sixth innings.
Reading added another run in the top of the seventh to make it all that much tougher for Wakefield. Bradley singled to left field and scored on DiLoreto’s second triple of the game with a shot to right field.
But the Warriors never gave up and Mercurio delivered the big blow for Wakefield’s second win of the year.
“We’re struggling a little bit to put together good at bats. We didn’t get outside as early as we would like and didn’t see a lot of live pitching,” said Forbes. “The pitching and defense have been there all year. We’ll work on our hitting. If we can score five to six runs a game to go along with good pitching and defense, everything will fall into place.”
The Warriors host Arlington tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. at Walsh Field.