Published August 13, 2019
WAKEFIELD — Former Lynnfield High grads Jonathan Luders and Bryant Dana helped the Wakefield Merchants of the Intercity League make it to the semifinals recently.
Dana, who just recently concluded his sophomore season at Westfield State, has been filling in at catcher for the Merchants. He hit .200 and added six RBI’s in 16 games while calling great games from behind the plate.
Luders, who is off to Seton Hall next year to play baseball, jumped into the starting lineup as soon as Lynnfield’s spring season was over and has batted leadoff while playing shortstop. Luders hit .389 in the regular season with a team-high on-base percentage of .535. He led the team in runs scored with 17, was second in hits with 21 and also collected nine RBI’s.
The two were teammates at Lynnfield in 2016 and 2017.
The Merchants beat the Malden Maddogs in the first round this week.
They won game one at Walsh Field on Sunday, 3-1.
Joe Maguire got the win for the Merchants.
The Maddogs snapped a stalemate in the third inning. Maguire quickly picked up two outs on a flyout to left and a groundout to third before a base hit was followed by a blooper that found its way into left. Malden’s Derek Bauer capitalized with a runner at third by shooting a single into right for a 1-0 Maddog lead.
With runners on the corners once again, Maguire got a glove on a sharply hit come-backer to the mound. Luders decided it was a good opportunity for his daily play of the game, although he would have one later that would rival it. On this play, the shortstop changed his route in a flash once Maguire got a piece of it, launched himself at the ball which was rolling just behind the mound, barehanded it and fired across his body while in a full dive. The throw just got to Jake Nardone at first in time for a momentum-building out as the Merchants were out of the jam trailing by just one.
Dana led off the next inning with a walk. Playing some classic John O’Brien small-ball, Luders bunted his former teammate over with a perfect drop down the third base line for a hit.
Reigning MVP Bobby Losanno came through with an RBI single to tie the game. Losanno made it to second on the throw home.
Stepping up to bat was longtime Merchant Mike Sorrentino. “Tino” swiftly connected on his second base hit of the day, this one on a first pitch flick to left that dropped in just fair. With the speedy Losanno running on contact from second, there was no chance for a play at the plate as the Merchants took a 3-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The competition for the Luders’ Play of the Day became complicated with one out in the top of the fourth. A sharply hit grounder found its way into Luders’ mitt deep in the hole at short. Getting to the ball was impressive enough. It required a perfect jump complete with a backhand stab. Luders once again defied the laws of physics as he made a throw off his back foot. Like the previous play, the casual fan may have thought it best to eat the throw, but Luders connected, once again getting a big out and a roar from the Merchant crowd.
One member of that crowd, Bob Wogan, has been watching Intercity League baseball for 15 years. Where did he rank the play?
“That’s in the top three of the greatest plays I’ve seen in this league.”
Wakefield completed the sweep on Monday night at Morelli Field as they rode Jimmy McNamara to a 4-1 victory.
Luders walked to lead off the third, then stole second. Koster connected on a base hit that scored Luders, then wheeled around the bags and took off for third base after an overthrow to home plate but was called out on a close play.
Losanno, who later hit a solo shot in the fifth, blasted a double over the head of the centerfielder and Chris Butler later drove him home with two outs for a 2-0 lead.
Luders continued his spectacular play at short with a couple of gems including a fine play on the run in the second and a diving catch on a sinking liner in the fourth.
“It comes down to defensive plays,” said Ellegood. “Luders is playing phenomenal shortstop right now. Our whole infield has been playing great since he arrived, it’s kind of put everything together.”
Luders shifted Ryan Collins to third base for Wakefield this summer. Typically a shortstop, Collins has adjusted well to third. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a shortstop with more range than Luders. It would be just as tough to find an infielder with a stronger arm than Collins who can make any throw from third. Together, and with whoever is filling in at second base, whether its Steve Rizzuto last night, Kevin Lucey or Scott Searles and Jake Nardone at first, the Merchants have one of the better infields in the league.
The Merchants are familiar with the semifinals, having gotten the bye with the second best league record in recent years, including last year, but last night marked the team’s first playoff series win since 2010.
Wakefield will now set their sights on Alibrandis who got a bye with the second best record in the league this season.
It is the second season in the league for the Somerville-based squad who left the Yawkey League after winning eight straight titles.
Alibrandis took ICL powerhouse Lexington to five games in the semifinals last year.
This year, the semifinals are a three game series, so the Merchants will look to get off to a quick start tomorrow night, 7:30 p.m. at Victory Field in Watertown.
Game two of the series is scheduled for Thursday at a location to be determined. The Merchants would like to host it back at Morelli Field if they can.