Alden, Warriors shut down Winchester in game one win

CAPTAIN Tommy Mottl scored Wakefield’s only run of a 1-0 win against Winchester after starting a two-out rally in the 1st inning with a single, stealing second and later scoring on a base hit from fellow captain Erich Hickey. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Published in the April 15, 2019 edition.


WINCHESTER — It’s not necessarily a style of baseball you’d expect from a young team.

The Warriors don’t fear close games and big plays with a win on the line; they welcome those situations.

The 2019 Wakefield Memorial High School baseball team has some experienced players returning: captains Erich Hickey, Tommy Mottl and Gabe Sanders are joined by the likes of Ryan Donald, Chris Coombs, Cal Tryder and Chris Alden, all of whom got enough reps last year to know exactly what it takes to win in the always tough Middlesex League.

But Wakefield will need all of them, in addition to multiple inexperienced sophomores and even some freshmen to contribute if they want to return to the Div. 2 North Tournament this year after concluding last season with two exciting wins in a row to make the dance before falling to rival Melrose in the preliminary round.

So far so good as Wakefield is off to a 2-0 start with wins over Winchester on Thursday and Northeast Metro Tech on Sunday.

The Warriors beat Winchester on the road 1-0 in exactly the style of game they love.

“We’ve talked about this from the beginning: ‘If we pitch and play defense we’re going to be in every game,’” said Wakefield head coach Kevin Canty after the win over Winchester. “We’re going to be in lots of games like this.”

The Warriors turned to Chris Alden on the hill on Thursday, who took care of his end of the bargain with an impressive start in which he went six innings and allowed just four hits and no runs to go with three strikeouts. The sophomore was in synch with his defense from the start as the Warriors backed him up well and made plenty of plays. Alden had a no-hitter through four innings.

“Chris was awesome,” said Canty. “For a sophomore to come out like that, throw strikes, not walk anybody, force them into contact and allow our good defense to make plays, that’s pretty much how we drew it up.”

The Warriors got on the board first, donning crispy new jerseys on Winchester’s brand-new Ciarcia Field. Mottl got a two-out rally going with a base hit to left and followed that up by stealing second. That set the table for a bat belonging to a player Wakefield wants up in any situation as Hickey fought off a 1-2 count with an RBI single that would end up being the unforeseen game-winner.

Alden set the tone from the jump with an eight-pitch 1,2,3  1st inning complete with his first strikeout of the season on three pitches.

The sophomore sat Winchester down in order again in the 2nd, getting three ground ball outs on just nine pitches. Sanders made the first play at short and junior Scott Elwell made the second play at third before Alden fielded a slow comebacker for the last out.

Alden stayed perfect through the 3rd, with a K on a nasty offspeed pitch sandwhiched around a groundout to Sanders and a groundout to Coombs at second.

The sophomore’s perfect game ended in the 4th with a walk but he followed that up by picking off the runner at first with a great move.

Wakefield’s offense had some more chances but couldn’t capitalize. In the top of the 5th, Tryder singled up the middle but was doubled up at first after a line drive off the bat of Mottl was caught on a diving catch in centerfield. It looked like a surefire single and maybe more with the centerfielder selling out. Canty, Tryder and Wakefield wouldn’t do anything different the next time. They’ll continue to push the pace on the bases and tip the cap to great defense.

“We’re going to stay aggressive,” said Canty. “I don’t care that we got doubled up on that play, it was a great hit by Tommy and the kid made a great play, we’ll deal with that. I’m going to send guys, we’re going to force other teams to make plays against us.”

Alden allowed his first hit of the game to Winchester’s first batter of the 5th. The response? A perfect pitch to get a groundball to Sanders at short who flipped to Coombs at second. A great turn and throw to first for a double play put an end to a rally before it started.

Elwell looked like he made a great play in the 6th but the runner was called safe for an infield single. Coombs stole the play of the game from his hockey teammate as he snagged a grounder, tagged the runner going to second and through to first for another double play.

Alden trotted out in the bottom of the 7th, but a leadoff single led the Warriors to bring in Sanders.

“Gabe is the guy we want on the mound in that situation, it think it’s pretty obvious he’s our best player,” said Canty. “Even if he doesn’t have it at the plate he can make a difference in so many ways. He can make great plays in the field, and he can come in and close games out like he did. We want to have him in as many big time situations as we can because I know he’s going to come out on top more often than not.”

The captain got a strikeout in his first matchup. After a walk, Coombs got an out on a fielders’ choice.

So, with runners at first and third, two outs and a one-run lead, the Warriors got ready to bear down for their first of what should be many big time situations this year. A slow grounder was sent down to Elwell at third. The junior scooped it on the run and fired one down to sophomore Danny Hurley at first who made a beautiful pick to end the game with two web gems on one play.

“I have faith in our guys to do the job when it needs to get done,” said Canty. “Whether it’s Elwell making that play or any plays late in the game we have guys who are capable of doing that and we have a lot of confidence in them.”

“Hurley dropped a foul ball earlier in the game and then made three great picks; I’m going to have confidence in him to make those plays.”

In fact, on that foul ball, in which the sophomore was staring straight into the sun by the way, captain Hickey could be heard from right field encouraging a visibly frustrated Hurley.

“You’re way to hard on yourself kid, you’re getting the next one.”

With that mentality, it won’t matter who needs to step up with the game on the line.

“We’re young and we’re going to make mistakes but I don’t want them to be afraid to make mistakes,” said Canty.

Instead, Canty wants his team to play focused and free. No matter the situation, even if it’s against more battle-tested teams, the Warriors will play to win this season.