DOM DRAGO went the distance in a beautiful pitching effort against Wakefield in a 5-3 win in the opening round of the Div. 2 tournament. (Dan Pawlowski photo)

 

…only to fall to King Phillip on Monday

 

By CONNER BYRNE

MELROSE—What a difference 24 hours make.

The Melrose High varsity baseball team bested rival Wakefield in the preliminary round of the Division 2 State Tournament, 5-3, at Morelli Field on Sunday, June 5, but within 24 hours saw their playoff run end in a 8-1 loss to King Philip on the road on Monday, June 6.

Melrose finishes their very successful season at 14-8.

The boys in red and white kicked off their tournament against Wakefield at home at Morelli Field with hurler Dom Drago taking the hill.  After Melrose and Wakefield split their regular season series this spring, both teams were ready for battle. Wakefield got to a quick start with a pair of singles and a fielders choice would score a run to give the opposition the early lead. A double later in the top of the first would give Wakefield a 2-0 lead after one. Wakefield would tack on another run in the third, making the contest 3-0 in the second inning. The Melrose bats were quiet for much of the early innings against Wakefield’s number one pitcher Luke Ickes, but the Melrose faithful knew that wouldn’t last.

A messy third inning from Wakefield would allow Melrose to chip away at the deficit. Melrose’s Drew Harrington started things off with a strikeout, but quickly took first base after a mishandled ball by the Wakefield catcher. A few groundouts from Matthew Whelan and Trevor Botto would advance Harrington to put him on third, and another passed ball allowed him to touch home giving Melrose their first run at 3-1. Drago settled in quite nicely as he was able to shut down the bats of Wakefield. A quality defensive inning from Melrose would get them back to the bats for a fourth inning surge.

Michael Richards started the Melrose run with a single which was followed by a Rob Colozzo walk. Richards would steal third to set up Domenic Lamentea for an opportunity to knock him in at the plate. Lamentea forced an error on a ground ball reaching first and knocking in Richards. Harrington would have another productive at bat for the Red Hawks knocking in Colozzo with a sac fly. The game was 3-3 after four. The fifth inning would be the separator for Melrose as they looked to gain their first advantage of the game. Botto kicked things off with a single and would steal second to put himself in scoring position. Rowan Smith drove him in with a single, giving Melrose a 4-3 lead. Smith stole second and Richards advanced him to third with a single. Smith would take advantage of another passed ball by Wakefield and give Melrose some insurance with a 5-3 lead after six. Melrose locked in defensively to maintain their lead. Drago was still going strong and Colozzo hauled in a pair of fly balls to keep Wakefield at bay. Wakefield was able to get a runner on, but as they tried to steal second, Richards came out of his stance and fired a bullet to second and threw out the advancing runner for an electric ending to the sixth inning. Melrose’s defense held up in the seventh, and Melrose capped off their comeback victory 5-3 as they advanced to the next round.

“Our effort against Wakefield was great,” said Melrose coach Scott Searles after the game. “We had faced their number one both times this season [Luke Ickes] and we knew we were going to score some runs. Dom had been fantastic all year. He gets stronger as the game goes on. So we knew if we could get through those first two innings we would be in good shape going forward. Dom stayed right on schedule. He ran into a little trouble in the first and give up and run in the second. But he was nails from that point on.”

Faced with the brutal task of no rest between games, Melrose traveled to King Philip (12-8) the next day on Monday to face the #2 seed in the division. Unfortunately, Melrose struggled against a predictably tough King Philip and fell 8-1. Melrose had their ace Trevor Botto on the mound against one of the best teams in the state.

Said Searles after the game, “In our minds to have a realistic shot to make a run at this thing we had to hold off on Trevor Botto in the first round, and have him for King Philip. Unfortunately, we just didn’t play our best game down there.”

Despite the loss, Searles saw some good moments on the field. “I thought we played one of our best games of the year defensively behind Trev as far as making plays. Rob Colozzo made the play of the year in center field tracking down a fly ball that was a mile away. I think he especially played a really great game on the defensive side. Malcolm Whitfield also had a fantastic play at short to give the team a little energy. We actually hit a decent amount of balls hard. We were just kind of snake bitten because they’d be right after people.”

This season, Melrose says goodbye to a massive 12 seniors including captains Mike Richards, Trevor Botto and Rowan Smith, plus Zach Federico, Matt Whelan, Drew Harrington, Dom Lamentea, Dom Drago, Rob Colozzo, Andrew Izzi, Tom Foley and Malcolm Whitfield.

“This is by far and away the most seniors of any team I’ve ever been a part of. The guys we had were great,” says Searles. “You could see it from day one that they already had the chemistry from playing together for most of their lives. It was also a benefit from a leadership standpoint. Those guys have been on teams since they were 10, 11 years old. So everybody pretty much already knew and accepted their role. Overall it was just a great group to coach. They played hard and they played for each other. I’m going to miss these guys a lot.”

**Jennifer Gentile contributed to this article.