NORWOOD, Mass. -- Heading into Monday afternoon’s holiday meeting with Xaverian, Norwood had inserted itself into the conversation of the top teams in Division 1-South. With recent wins over no. 4 Walpole and no. 6 Newton North, the Mustangs were becoming one of the favorites heading into the tournament.
Norwood (16-4) kept the momentum alive on Memorial Day with a hard-fought 6-5 victory over the defending D1 state champions with all six runs being scored by the top three in the order. Lead-off hitter Tyler Gover reached base on three infield singles and scored all three times, while right-fielder Anthony Perriello gave the Mustangs their first lead with a fifth inning hit that drove in a pair of runs.
Following the game, Perriello spoke about the confidence that the past two weeks have given to the Mustangs ahead of the tournament.
“Starting with last week against Walpole and Newton North and now Xaverian, those are three top notch teams in the state and showing that we can beat them heading into states makes everyone look out for us like we’re the team to beat. That’s a good feeling,” he remarked.
Norwood head coach Kevin Igoe added, “You definitely want to finish the last quarter of the season with a 5-0 mark; that was our goal. We faced some tough pitchers this week and it only made us stronger. So, we feel good about that.”
He continued, “As far as the last part of the season, we’re playing as good as we can and, hopefully, it’s going to show...we’re looking forward to whoever comes in.”
Xaverian (10-10) took the early lead in the top of the first inning against Norwood starter John Galvin. Ricky Smith, Aidan Desrosiers, and Andrew Elliot had three straight base-hits to load the bases, before starting pitcher Austin DeCarr hit a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0. DeCarr was also strong on the mound, with eight strikeouts in only four innings of work, but the senior was on a pitch count as he worked back from an injury earlier in the season.
In the third inning, wildness from DeCarr led to Norwood’s tying run. After Gover reached on the first of his three infield hits, he was moved to second by a wild pitch. Following a Rourke Flynn single, a second wild pitch allowed Gover to come around with the Mustangs first run of the game.
“He overthrew that pitch that gave them a gift run and in a one run game that’s a big play,” said Xaverian head coach Gerry Lambert, who argued that it was an important teaching moment as the team gets ready for the playoffs.
He continued, “If you try to ramp it up just because it is a big play or a big game, it doesn’t work that well in baseball. That’s something we can learn from when the second season begins for us.”
In the top of the fifth, the Hawks jumped back into the lead. Number nine hitter Tyler Wolfe lead-off with a single and moved into scoring position after a groundout and a walk. Desrosiers came through with a run-scoring single to make it 2-1.
The Mustangs responded immediately off of relief pitcher Paul Regan. Another infield single for Gover got things started and Flynn reached base on an error. After a balk moved them into scoring position, Perriello stepped up and ripped a single to right center, plating both runs. Two batters later, catcher Mark Saulnier brought home Perriello with a single to make it 4-2.
Norwood added two more runs in the seventh. Gover beat out a groundball to the shortstop and promptly stole second. Flynn lined a single to left to bring home Gover and two batters later Kenny Michael knocked Flynn in with the Mustangs’ 10th hit of the game.
Those runs turned out to be crucial for Norwood as Xaverian hit back for single runs in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, including an inside-the-park solo homerun for pinch hitter Jake Farrell. The sophomore crushed a pitch to right center that one-hopped the 400-foot sign and he was able to race home to make it 6-4.
In the top of the ninth, Xaverian put the first two runners on against relief pitcher John Nardelli. Norwood went to Dan Flahive, who allowed one run to score, but was able to escape a bases loaded jam with a strikeout and by inducing a game-ending comebacker.
The Hawks managed 13 hits in the game, including nine from the top four hitters, but Xaverian left 12 runners on base and ended the inning with the bases loaded twice. Lambert highlighted the lack of a big hit as the difference in the outcome.
“Their pitchers made pitches and wiggled out of those jams and we weren’t as big as we needed to be in those situations," he said. "Sometimes the dilemma of baseball is that, in any one game, you may not get the big hit.”
Once again, Xaverian qualified for the playoffs and will have a low seed, but will still be one of the favorites. Norwood has joined the Hawks in the group of teams that will be expected to make a run at the title and Perriello believes this is right where the Mustangs should be.
He remarked, “From the beginning of the season, we knew that we could do some damage and now we’re starting to reach our full potential and it’s a good feeling.”