LYNN, Mass. -- The game went into extra innings. Really, it did.
Burlington exploded for eight runs in the top of the eighth inning to beat Reading 14-6 in a Division 2 North semi-final at Fraser Field.
The Red Devils (15-8) move on to face Beverly in the Division 2 North Finals Saturday at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.
“This is one of the biggest wins of the year,” said Burlington interim head coach Chris Nance. “The Lexington game was nice (a 12-11 victory on May 23), but this is nice to come here. Reading is always a thrown in our side because (coach Peter Moscariello) always does such a great job with them. Any time you beat Reading is huge. Just to have the bats come alive, with the pitching staff he has, was gigantic.”
Reading (18-5) got on the board early with two runs in each of the first two innings off Burlington starter Joseph Moran.
Moran gave himself some help in the fifth inning when his two-run double to deep center cut the Reading lead in half. Reading answered back in the bottom of the inning with two more, bringing it’s lead back to four.
The senior kept battling on the mound and kept Reading off the board for the final three innings.
“It actually happened to me before against these guys,” he said. “I let up five runs in the first inning and then my team just kept working hard and I didn’t let up one more run the rest of the game. I never give up, that’s what I feel like now.”
In the top of the sixth, Burlington scored four runs to tie the game, with the biggest runs coming on a two-run single by rightfielder Kyle Shields.
The Red Devils then batted around in the top of the eighth, while plating eight runs, thus putting the game away for good.
Chance to Close: Reading almost ended the game in the bottom of the seventh. After back-to-back one-out singles by Mark Sheehan and Paul Andrick, Scott Tully grounded out to second to move the runners along.
Andrew Ferraro got up, and quickly got behind in the count. On the second pitch of the at bat, Andrick sprinted from second as though he was attempting to steal an occupied base. The pitch crossed the plate, but in an attempt to change direction and head back to second, he stumbled.
Seeing this, Burlington’s catcher Anthony Cruz popped up, and faked a throw down to second. Knowing a throw down could potentially open the door for Sheehan to score from third and end the game, he charged toward Andrick, catching him in a run-down.
When Cruz flipped the ball to his shortstop Jimmy Goober, he saw Sheehan had made a break for home. Goober gunned the ball to Moran, who applied the tag, and sent the game into extra innings.
“We actually practiced that for Danvers,” said Cruz. “When I saw (Andrick) running before the play, he fell, and I knew it was a play, then I just went out there. I actually had to wait for the umpire to get out of my way, and then he got out of there. I knew I was going to second because I saw the shortstop (Goober) was there and I knew he was going to make the throw home because I made sure someone was covering home.”
Burlington thought it was a play designed to get Andrick caught in a rundown and divert the defense’s attention. Reading wanted Sheehan to score before an out could be made, thus ending the game. However, Burlington was ready for it.
“We knew it was a play because he was on the ground and he wasn’t going back. If he messed up, he would have ran right back to the bag, but he didn’t.”
Struggles in relief: When Reading’s Andrew Zaccardi came out of the game after throwing five-plus innings, the Rockets struggled to find a pitching arm to slow down the charging Burlington offense.
Moscariello threw out Sean O’Neil, Garrett Colantino, Tully, and Zack Driscoll to pitch over the final three-plus innings, but Burlington was able to jump on each one of them early and often.
It was evident that things were getting desperate for Reading when Tully entered the game. The day before, the hard-throwing lefty pitched eight innings in the team’s 1-0 victory over Lynn Classical.
Conversely, Moran pitched the entire game, even after giving up six runs, and he helped his team come away with the victory.
“He’s rested, so I knew I could get a full game out of him,” said Nance. “The thing was, I knew if I left him, he has a temperament where if you leave him alone, he’ll settle back down. Once we tied the game up, he wasn’t going to give up.”
Rain Delay -- Again: For a few hours, no one knew if the game was actually going to be played.
A rain shower rolled in about an hour before gametime, prompting the Fraser Field grounds crew to have to work quickly in order to get the field into playing shape.
After an initial hour delay while puddles in the infield were manipulated and eventually eliminated, another rain shower rolled in. It lasted for about 20 minutes, which again put the grounds crew to work trying to fix the infield.
In most circumstances, the game would have been delayed, then played once the conditions allowed. However, because a Division 1 North semi-final (Lowell vs. Malden) was also scheduled to be played at Fraser Thursday afternoon, a scheduling decision had to be made regarding one of the games.
The plan was to delay the start of Reading vs. Burlington and postpone Lowell vs. Malden until Friday. That game will be played Friday at 4 p.m. at Alumni Field in Lowell.