NEWTON, Mass. -- Entering the top of the seventh inning, the top five hitters in the Newton North batting order had one hit in 15 at-bats.
Down by a run heading into the final inning against Boston College High School, the heart of the lineup would be called upon if the Tigers were going to avoid their second loss of the season. Ben Porter struck out to begin the inning, but John Little and Alex Joyce hit back-to-back singles to put two runners on for the cleanup hitter Kevin Alexy.
Alexy dropped a line drive into center to score Little to tie the game and move Joyce over to third. This brought Mike Barbieri to the plate. He did not have a hit all game, but with runners on the corners and one out, Newton North coach Joe Siciliano did not hesitate to call for the suicide squeeze.
The lefty dropped a bunt down right in front of the plate, but BC High’s Andrew Jaehnig was unable to get it to the catcher in time. Joyce slid into home safely, and the Tigers walked off with a 2-1 victory.
“My heart was racing,” said Joyce. “I was like, ‘If he misses this, I don’t know what I’m gonna do, get in a pickle, run the catcher over, well I can’t do that because I’ll get thrown out. But yeah, it was pretty nerve-racking.”
In the last few innings of Friday’s game, rain began to steadily fall, which caused ground balls to lose speed as they approached fielders. Still, the play was called and the team was prepared to deal with the result.
“There was no thought process,” said Siciliano. “We do that. Yesterday, I went out and scouted, and I told the coaches to work on the bunting. They worked on suicides. You have to understand, before we came out on our field to practice, what do you think we worked on for three weeks indoors? I told the kids in practice, if you do it (suicide squeeze) one time, you’re going to win the game.”
Until the last inning, the BC High pitchers had kept the North hitters off the scoreboard. T.J. Hobin threw five shutout innings before being relieved by Andrew Jaehnig.
The Eagles’ lone run came in the top of the sixth. Jeff Stillman led off with a single to center. Newton North anticipated a sacrifice to move him to second, so they attempted to pick him off first base. They did catch him off the base, but he took off for second and was able to slide in safely under an errant throw by the first baseman. He advanced to third on a Joe Roddy groundout and then scored on a Sean Webster flair single to right field.
That was the only blemish on Teddy Rodliff’s pitching line. The senior lefty gave up one run on four hits over seven innings. He struck out 11 batters, including 8 of the first 10 batters he faced in the game.
“That was just a tough break,” he said. “I knew the infield was playing in and we were trying to cut down the run. I just threw it so they could hit it, and unfortunately it was a fly ball instead of a ground ball. Unfortunately, those are the breaks, and you just have to work with what you get.”
With the win, coupled with a Bridgewater-Raynham loss Friday, Newton North may move into the drivers seat for one of the top two seeds in the upcoming Super 8 tournament. However, they know there is still regular season baseball left to be played before that can be decided.
“This is a team we were looking forward to playing, not necessarily the whole week, but the whole season,” said Rodliff. “This is huge going into the tournament because after this we have four or five more games against teams not quite the caliber that we just faced. We’re just going to take this momentum and ride it to the tournament.”
Suddenly refreshed: Entering the bottom of the seventh, Friday was actually a good day for BC High. Earlier in the day, its Saturday morning game against Braintree was pushed back to Monday afternoon due to impending weather. This gives the team an extra two days of rest in what was originally supposed to be a three games in three days stretch against Lowell, Newton North, and Braintree.
After its 16-5 loss Thursday against Lowell, in which he had to use four different pitchers, BC High coach Norm Walsh felt he was going to have to piece together his pitching for the remainder of the weekend. However, Hobin took the mound and pitched 5-plus innings of shutout baseball.
Newton North put runners on first and second with nobody out in the bottom of the sixth, but Andrew Jaehnig came on in relief and struck out the next three batters to get his team out of the jam.
North rallied in the bottom of the seventh and gave BC High its second loss in as many days. As the season winds down and teams grapple for spots in the Super 8 tournament, the Eagles are suddenly moving in the opposite direction. They hope to right the ship Monday afternoon against Braintree.