ACTON, Mass. -- There was no way Ryan McDonald was coming out of the game.
The junior left-handed pitcher for Acton-Boxborough was determined to finish what he started last night. McDonald did just that, stifling Lowell on just five hits while striking out 10, as the Colonials prevailed 3-0 in the first round of the Division 1 North playoffs.
No. 8 A-B (16-5) moves on to the quarterfinal round when it will face either Lexington, Malden or Westford Academy on Sunday at 4 p.m. at a site to be determined. The ninth-seeded Red Raiders close out their season at 14-7.
McDonald kept the Lowell bats off-balanced throughout with his mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches. In fact, he didn’t allow a Red Raiders to reach third until the seventh frame.
“As a pitcher you’re thinking you want to go as long as you can and give it everything you’ve got,” said McDonald. “I felt great and the adrenaline was flowing. In the beginning I was able to established my off-speed stuff and then as the game progressed I picked it up more with my fastball. I realized over the last couple of innings they weren’t able to catch up to my fastball.”
McDonald was accurate in that statement as he wrapped up this contest by striking out four of the last five batters he faced.
In what was expected to be a low-scoring affair, the Colonials were able to strike first against Red Raider starter R.J. Noel. A single by Jared Tamulynas was followed by a line double to left by McDonald scoring Tamulynas and putting A-B on top 1-0.
The Colonials would add a solo run in the following frame thanks to Chris Murphy’s RBI single which drove in Dana Flood, who had led off the inning with a single.
While Lowell’s puzzlement against McDonald continued, a two-run lead was looking better with each passing inning. In the sixth however the Red Raiders threatened after putting a pair of runners on base. But McDonald was able to get out of the jam without issue.
In the bottom of the inning A-B added some insurance. Brian Bowler and Tamulynas opened with back-to-back walks. A McDonald sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. Noel was then pulled in favor of Matt Tulley. Much to the surprise of Red Raiders, Matt Sweet laid down a perfectly-executed suicide squeeze on Tulley’s first delivery allowing Bowler to cross the plate.
“We’re not the type of team that’s going to put up 9 or 10 runs in a game,” said A-B coach Pat Grucela. “We knew we needed to manufacture runs in order to be successful and I was happy with the way we executed tonight. Ryan was a horse for us out there tonight. He got stronger as the game went on.”
In the seventh, Lowell had it best chance to get on the board. With two out and two runners on James Ricoy lofted a pop up in foul territory on the right side of the infield. Gusty wind conditions pushed ball back into fair territory and out of the reach of first baseman Devin Santilli. The ball dropped but Santilli displayed his alertness by throwing out Padriac Donovan out at the plate after a rundown ensued. After that, the Red Raiders were done.
“A lot of it was [McDonald] and some of it was us not being able to execute when we had the opportunities,” Lowell coach Dan Graham said. “On that squeeze play, I was kind of expecting it but just wasn’t expecting it on Matt’s first pitch.”