LOWELL, Mass. –- It was a roller coaster ride and far from pretty, but Whittier Tech managed to get hits when the time was right.
Nathan Frongillo was the hero for Whittier (20-4) in the bottom of the seventh inning, hitting a walk-off line-drive over the first baseman’s head—scoring Connor Manning and giving the Wildcats an MIAA Division 3 North title by beating St. Mary’s (17-6), 4-3.
After a game that saw several errors for each team and clutch-hitting that had all in attendance on the edge of their seat, Whittier coach Joe Boland felt more relief than anything else. He praised Frongillo, a four-year varsity player, for his poise down the stretch.
“Just a great ballplayer, he’s been with me since he was a freshman," Boland said. "It didn’t surprise when he delivered that hit. And to bring Connor Manning in -- Manning has a lot of speed, he’s nine in the lineup, and he was on base three times--he had a tremendous game. It didn’t surprise me one iota when he delivered that and it didn’t surprise me when Manning scored. We’ve seen these guys do this all year long."
Brandon DeLeire pitched a gem for St. Mary’s throwing a complete game and giving up just one earned run. Andrew Wells pitched all seven innings for the Wildcats and scored a run in the fifth inning after he hit a double to the outfield.
Wells also got on base three times and his confidence, his coach said, never wavered.
“Wells never thought we were the underdog, I did think we were the underdog,” the coach said with a laugh.
After taking the 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, Whittier saw the lead slip away following a triple by Anthony Licciardello.
Licciardello scored two batters later to tie the game, and St. Mary’s finally appeared to have a little momentum going into the last couple innings. Wells, however, didn’t give St. Mary’s another inch from there on out.
“Just another day at the beach ya know?" Boland said. "Against St. Mary’s, to beat them we’ve got to have a pretty excellent day, and Wells was amazing out there. He certainly is one of the best pitchers around, he showed it today—he kept his composure, even after we went as flat as flat can be in the first couple of innings. I was very proud of my boys, to win this thing is huge."
In addition to the Division 3 North championship, Whittier also won the state voke title. It has been a landmark year for Boland and the Wildcats, and they’ll have an opportunity to keep their run going against South region winner Middleboro on Tuesday. Boland has high expectations at this point of the season, but he’s come to expect the best out of his team, even when they face adversity.
“We’ve had a lot of these games, we seem unsettled at times. There’s a couple plays that I think we should have made in that ballgame, but then we made other plays that were good plays. Nothing’s been easy for this team all year long...We just won our third championship—we won the league, we won the voke, and then this.”