Season ends against Greater Lowell in extra innings, 3-2
Published June 14, 2019
By JENNIFER GENTILE
TYNGSBOROUGH—The road to the Div. 2 North finals ended for the #11 seeded Melrose Red Raider baseball team, who fell in quarterfinals in a 3-2, extra-inning grudge match against #3 seed Greater Lowell Tech (15-5) at Greater Lowell Tech on Monday afternoon in Tyngsborough.
After being locked 2-2 in 8 innings, a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Greater Lowell’s Jacob Trzcienski delivered the blow for Melrose. He scored junior Matt Gaudette in the bottom of the eighth to give the Gryphon’s the walk-off win. It was another one-run game by Melrose, who’ve kept it close against competitors in 2019 (seven games were determined by one run this season) but this one stung for the Red Raiders (11-10), who on Monday had battled to ties of 1-1 and 2-2 over the course of 8 innings.
Just one inning earlier, Trzcienski had been a pest for Melrose when he nearly scored at home at the bottom of the seventh for victory, but was thrown out by Melrose left fielder Cam Gorman, who nailed a beautiful missile at home into the glove of catcher Liam Crovo, who made the tag at the plate.
Melrose junior hurler Brandon McSorley was rock solid over the day, nearly going the distance in an 8 strikeout game and giving up just a scattering of hits and no earned runs. Melrose’s Colby Moss and Brian Pelrine pitched in relief for Melrose while Greater Lowell’s Ben Bardzik took the win for the Gryphons after relieving starter Brian Bosia.
Melrose had plenty of opportunities to score late in the game, but came up empty at the plate, though their pitchers and defense managed to get out of several jams, including a bases-loaded scenario in the second, sixth and seventh innings. But all it took was one deep shot to center to finish their playoff run.
After the game Melrose head coach Scott Searles commended his junior hurler McSorley for his performance. “Brandon pitched excellent. He battled through and seemed to get stronger as the game went on. When we got to the seventh, he just had too many pitches to run him back out there. I see great things going forward and he will definitely be slotted as the one next year.”
Overall, Melrose failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities. “There is no question we had chances but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We had costly mistakes on two bunts and got picked off with the top of the order up.” And even though both Gryphon pitchers appeared shaky, Melrose bats still remained quiet. “To be honest, I thought the velocity was down compared to what we were used to seeing, and we just didn’t do a great job adjusting and sitting back,” says Searles.
The Gryphons were on the board first when Cole Blades drove in Greater Lowell’s first run in the bottom of the first on an outfield error by Melrose. In the second, Melrose stranded two runners with no outs. The inning began when Harry Kelley nearly hit the ball out of the park with an off-the-fence double and Cole Lepler drew a walk, but Melrose batters popped up to end the inning. Meanwhile, McSorley was crisp on the mound for the Red Raiders, fanning three in the first two innings, and struck out Jake Trzcienski to end a bases-loaded threat in the second.
The Red Raiders made it a 1-1 game when Liam Crovo hit a double over the head of the Gryphon’s right fielder to score Melrose’s Matt McDonough. Melrose retired the side in the third thanks in part to a great catch in the outfield by Cam Gorman. But the Gryphons came around in the fourth and made it a 2-1 game. Melrose stopped the damage when their second baseman Matt Morrissey tossed out a lead runner at third and McSorley fanned the final batter to get out of the jam.
Melrose tied it in the fifth on Matt Morrisey’s (2-3) RBI single that scored Kevin Nickerson, and after Harry Kelley was intentionally walked, Melrose had a chance to take the lead, but a double play ended the inning. Melrose maintained that 2-2 tie all the way to the 8th inning.
McSorley left the game after six innings with just one earned run. Melrose had some opportunities with hits from Matt McDonough and a drawn walk by Kevin Nickerson, but Melrose gaffed on base running errors at the wrong time.
A top of the 8th plate appearance with the meat of the batting order for Melrose went nowhere, giving Greater Lowell that chance for their eighth-inning heroics.
While Melrose pitching did the job this season, Searles admits not having senior closer Dillon Kaliris hurt on Monday. “It definitely hurt,” says Searles. “That’s been Dillon’s slot all year and he was so good in those high leverage situations at the end of games. I had full trust in Colby and he did a great job in the seventh. Unfortunately, he came out in the eighth and had trouble finding the zone, but I see great things ahead for him and Brian [Pelrine]. In the end, they did exactly what they were supposed to do. They [Greater Lowell] just hit the ball deep enough to score that run.”
This year, Melrose graduates eight seniors, including captains Liam Crovo, Harry Kelley and Matt McDonough, along with Pat Coen, Zach Maguire, Aiden Ward, Kevin Nickerson and Dillon Kaliris.
All Star honors were awarded to Harry Kelley, Liam Crovo and Cole Lepler. Melrose’s ace Harry Kelley (Bentley bound) was the unanimous choice for All Conference honors, putting him among the best in all Freedom and Liberty divisions.
“I am definitely going to miss this group without question,” says Searles. “There was such great cohesion between them and they truly did root and care for one another, and that’s not always the case. Playing time can make some people act different, and with this group there really was none of that. They were always pulling for each other.”
The coach had special praise for his senior captains. “Harry was an absolute stud this year and I would put Matty McDonough’s work ethic up against anyone in the country. I have been part of some unbelievable teams in my time at Austin and we won a state championship, and I cannot say enough about the job Liam Crovo did behind the plate. I’ve never seen a high school catcher that notices the things that he does within the game. I wouldn’t say I took him for granted, but I for sure had a lot of trust in him and let him handle a lot of stuff back there that we’ve never let other guys do at any of my other stops.”
Overall, it was a wonderful first year for the coach. “I am truly going to miss this group going forward and I wish them nothing but the best in their future endeavors.”