PLYMOUTH, Mass. -- As the swirling dust settled along the Seiver Field base paths, it became abundantly clear that Auburn High figured out how to once again beat rival Plymouth North.
Chip away, play small ball, and never, ever stop running.
Behind a onslaught of bunt singles and heads-up base running, the Rockets beat Plymouth North 12-5 -– its first victory against the Eagles since the MIAA Division 2 State Championship in 2009. Plymouth North didn't help its cause, and on several occasions made fielding and throwing errors, which turned routine grounders into extra bases.
"I'm not blaming anyone, but we looked horrible...It was just bad," said Plymouth North head coach Dwayne Follette. "They gave us outs and we didn't take them....Little things against good teams will come back to haunt you, and that's what happened today."
After falling behind 4-1, Auburn pieced together a six-run fifth inning paced by a rare three-run, bases-clearing bunt laid down by senior Joe Fahey. The ball harmlessly dribbled down the third-base line, but two throwing errors allowed three Auburn runners to score while Fahey hustled to third.
The Rockets, who spent the first few innings diving after Plymouth North bunts and anxiously eyeing base runners, decided to give the Eagles a taste of their own medicine.
"They played small ball against me, so we figured why not give it a shot, and it paid off," said Auburn starting pitcher and Salve Regina commit Tyler Lamonda. "This is our first game really playing small ball, but we figured we'd give them a taste of what they do."
Lamonda, who pitched a complete game for the Rebels, helped his own cause at the plate. With the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning, the senior ripped a fastball to left field. A throwing miscue allowed for the ever-elusive, inside-the-park grand slam, putting the score at 12-4.
"That's what kind of kid he is. (Lamonda was) an absolute leader today. He hasn't really swung the bat that well this year, and I asked him yesterday if he wants to hit, and he said, 'Yes, I do want to hit,'" Auburn coach Eric Swedberg said. "He's one of our senior leaders for sure, and he gets better as the day goes on."
Using an assortment of curveballs, four-seamers and change-ups, Lamonda was able to settle down after giving up four runs in the first three innings. After Auburn's six-run fourth, Lamonda struck out the side. From then on, he allowed only one unearned run on in the bottom of the seventh, after three-consecutive infield throwing errors.
He finished the game with seven strikeouts. Lamonda said he "knew this one would be a lot tougher than others," and that the victory meant a little something extra for him.
"We just beat a top-notch team. We haven't beat them since 2009, and that was (when I was in) 8th grade, so it's huge," he said.
Friendly Rivalry: Follette and Swedberg spoke after the game, and before parting ways gave each other an old-buddies hug on the first base line.
The two coaches, who have made it a point to face off other every year since meeting in the 2008 Division 2 State Championship, have a deep respect for each other and their programs.
“Coach Swedberg and I really like each other, and we have the same philosophies in coaching,” Follette said. “It started right after we beat them in the state finals in extra innings, in 2008. We both said it was the greatest game we were ever involved in.”
Lamonda echoed the sentiment and added that the players also recognize the importance of the matchup.
“It's two good teams first of all. I think the kids sense that both coaches are very serious about respecting the game and playing the game hard,” he said. “Not that we aren't anyway, but most especially when we play in these games.
“We love coming here. It's just a big, awesome thing with the tradition we have with coach over there and the mutual respect. My only wish is to come out here and be sharp and have a good game and hope that it's a fair game and a sharp game.”
Playoff Pitch: Follette told his team to treat the Auburn game as if it were a playoff matchup. He started Kenny Drew, "who is going to be on the mound in the second round of the tournament." The result wasn't what he was looking for, but Follette opened up the bench and got 25 guys involved.
"That's what I take out of it. I take nothing else out of it other than we can't play that bad in the tournament, or it's time to go home," he said.
His major concern with the bottom half of the order, which had trouble getting on base throughout the game.
"Hey, if you're going to have a dog like this, and have a bad game, better now than in the tournament," he said. "We've got our work cut out for us. We definitely have to improve offensively at the bottom of our order."