Heartbreak In Danvers; Falcons Eliminate Redmen in 11 innings, 9-8
Tewksbury High baseball team is knocked out of state tournament by Danvers for the fourth straight time.
For Tewksbury High baseball coach Ron Drouin, "Danvers" has become a four letter word.
In each of the last four times the veteran TMHS baseball skipper has guided his Redmen to the MIAA state tournament, their quest for a Division 2 state championship has ended at the hands of the Danvers High Falcons.
And the most recent of those four losses was the cruelest of them all, as Tewksbury was eliminated from the 2011 state tournament in a heartbreaking, 11-inning, 9-8 loss to the Falcons in Danvers Monday night.
"I'm so sick of losing here it turns my stomach," an emotional Drouin said after watching several heroic efforts on the part of his players go for naught. "This is a good program but they're not four times better than us, and they've sent us packing four times."
Four Redmen, in particular, had reason to be disappointed after coming up one run short in this 3-1/2 hour marathon. Senior catcher Rob Wallace did everything in his power to end the Danvers jinx, knocking in senior center fielder Chris Andella with the tying run with a clutch, two-out single in the top of the seventh inning, sending the game into extra innings.
Wallace eliminated four different Danvers runners from the base paths during the game, the most critical of which involved a collision at home plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning where Wallace successfully applied the tag to Danvers' Greg Little as Little tried to steal home with the winning run.
Wallace had already erased Danvers' Ray Arocho on a play at the plate in the fourth inning, and the senior captain went on to pick off a runner at first base in the eighth inning and throw a runner out stealing in the ninth.
"I thought Robbie Wallace was rock solid behind the plate," Drouin said. "He's as fine a guy as we've ever had here. He's a gamer, he comes prepared and he's passionate. We need more guys like him."
Sophomore pitcher Cam Oliveira also turned in a relief effort worthy of heroe's praise, taking over for starter Sean McCarthy just five batters into the game, after McCarthy failed to retire any of the first four hitters he faced. Oliveira pitched six solid innings in relief for Tewksbury, allowing four runs on six hits, striking out three and walking one. It was just Oliveira's third appearance on the Tewksbury mound this season.
"Cam Oliveira did a tremendous job considering he's only thrown three innings all year long," Drouin said. "He gave us a chance to win. He had some life to his fastball. He just needs to tighten up his breaking ball and I think he can be a pretty good pitcher for us in the future."
Senior right hander Matt Luppi also did all he could to extend his TMHS baseball career, relieving Oliveira in the seventh inning and throwing four-plus scoreless innings in spite of the fact that he was pitching on just three days rest. Luppi had thrown 4-1/3 scoreless innings allowing just one hit, striking out five and walking three before Danvers' Dan Connors singled home Nick Gikas from second with the game-winner in the bottom of the 11th.
"Luppi's a great kid," Drouin said. "He's done everything in his life the right way. He deserves better. He deserved a break tonight but he didn't get it."
Senior center fielder Chris Andella also waged a one-man war against Danvers, reaching base six straight times in the game, collecting four hits, knocking in two runs and scoring two runs.
"I thought Chris Andella was tremendous on offense," Drouin said.
"They've got some great hitters on that team," Danvers coach Roger Day said. "Their lead-off man (Andella) gave us a lot of trouble."
Tewksbury jumped out to a 4-0 first inning lead in this one, sending nine men to the plate in the opening frame. Luppi had the big hit in the first, cracking a two-run double to bring home Andella, who had walked, and McCarthy, who had singled. Luppi and senior second baseman Joe Hulme (single) also scored in that inning.
But Danvers rallied back with five runs in the bottom of the first, chasing McCarthy before he could record an out. Tewksbury regained the lead with a pair of runs in the third, after Hulme walked and stole second to open the inning. Senior right fielder Ryan White knocked in Hulme with an RBI single, and Andella drove in Hulme with an RBI single to make it 6-5 in favor of the Redmen.
Danvers went back on top with two runs in the bottom of the fourth to make it 7-6, but junior shortstop Eric Heider tied it at 7-7 when he singled and came home on Andella's RBI double in the fifth.
Danvers went up, 8-7, in the bottom of the fifth, and was one out away from winning the game in regulation until Wallace came through for the Redmen in the top of the seventh. With two outs and the season seeming to slip away, Andella walked and stole second. Wallace then slapped an outside pitch into right field to bring home Andella and give Tewksbury another shot at breaking the Danvers jinx.
"We had our chances and we threw away some opportunities," Drouin said. "I'm just so heartbroken for these guys. They deserved better."