Published in the May 16, 2019 edition.
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield High baseball team knew these two had a chance to define their season.
After a four-game losing streak, three of which came against Middlesex Liberty programs Arlington, Woburn and Belmont, the Warriors reset their focus onto the Freedom Division with two games at friendly Walsh Field to help them get back to their chase for first in the division.
Wakefield responded by beating Stoneham on Saturday, 6-3 and followed that up with a resounding 12-6 victory and a season sweep over Burlington on Monday.
Chris Alden took the rock against the Spartans and continued to prove that the bigger the game, the better he is. The sophomore got Wakefield back in the win column allowing one unearned run in six innings and striking out five.
The Warriors got RBI’s from Gabe Sanders (who also scored from second on a bunt with nobody covering home plate), Cal Tryder, Erich Hickey and Tommy Mottl.
Sanders picked up the save in the 7th and the Warriors won their fourth of five Freedom games.
Wakefield quickly turned their attention to Burlington, the highest ranked team in the Freedom coming into the season. Wakefield beat Burlington in extra innings on April 23 but the Red Devils have plenty of big wins this season including a victory over Melrose, the only Freedom team to top the Warriors so far this season.
On a damp, dreary Monday that featured a steady rain late in the game, the Warriors created their own energy.
After setting the tone with three runs in the 1st, Wakefield blew the game open with a six-run 3rd on the way to their highest scoring game of the season.
The entirety of the Warrior lineup produced balanced and patient at-bats, drawing seven walks and featuring plenty of bunts and aggressive base running that had the Red Devils scrambling for most of seven innings.
Wakefield started off the bottom of the first with two walks to Sanders and Mottl and a base hit by Tryder to load the bases. After a wild pitch scored the first run, Hickey walked to load the bags again and Danny Hurley hit a sac fly for a 2-0 lead. Mottl did a nice job of tagging to third on that fly ball which allowed Chris Coombs to repeat the play, sending a deep fly ball out for another sac fly and a quick 3-0 lead.
Burlington would get the next two, one in the 2nd and one in the 3rd. Warrior starter Jack Ryan went 2.1 innings, allowing just one hit and three walks while striking out five.
Ryan surrendered a walk and hit after a strikeout started the 3rd, which brought fellow sophomore Danny Hurley to the mound. Burlington capitalized on an RBI single and Hurley was officially in a jam after hitting a batter to load the bases with one out and a 3-2 lead.
Hurley responded with back-to-back strikeouts on two nasty off speed pitches, nearly identical to Ryan’s go-to strikeout pitch in this one.
That was about as close as the Warriors wanted to get in this one as the offense, led by a couple of captains, exploded in the 3rd.
Captain Mottl walked and captain Hickey blasted one all the way to the fence for an RBI double and a 4-2 lead.
That’s when the Warriors turned up the pressure as the rain picked up. Hurley’s sac bunt was mishandled by the first baseman and pinch runner Andrew Medina scored from second. Coombs bunted Hurley to second and Alden connected on a pinch hit RBI single.
Scott Elwell had a base hit and Zach Kent bunted for a single to load the bases back up. Sanders chopped one to third and a bad throw home resulted in a 7-2 lead. A Tryder walk made it 8-2 and a Mottl sac fly pushed the lead to seven.
It was a barrage of action and a direct challenge to Burlington: make the plays if you can.
“As will be the case with all our remaining Freedom Division games, we need to force other teams into decisions and force play like we did,” said Wakefield head coach Kevin Canty. “We got back to some small ball and it worked out for us. If we put pressure on other teams, it means we are in a position where if we make a mistake, it does not cost us as much.”
Hurley shut down the shell-shocked Red Devils in the 4th behind two more strikeouts and Wakefield added two more runs on productive RBI groundouts by Alden and Elwell.
Burlington scored two in the 5th and Wakefield took one back in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single from Hurley.
Elwell made two great plays at third in the 6th, one on a strong throw from deep in the corner and although Burlington tacked on two more, Wakefield won this game much earlier as they put themselves in the driver’s seat to win the Freedom.
“We are in a good spot, as we control our own destiny when it comes to winning the league,” said Canty.
Wakefield (8-7) beat Watertown on the road 5-0 yesterday and is now 6-1 against Freedom teams. They will go for a season sweep against Wilmington today at Walsh before setting up what could be the game of the year on Tuesday against Melrose, 7 p.m. at Morelli Field.