D4 Baseball: Georgetown claims first state title

LOWELL, Mass. -- Georgetown baseball coach Justin Spurr gave his team a no-so-subtle motivational message in its locker room before the Division 4 State Championship game against Harwich on Tuesday.

It was the team’s runner-up trophy from last year’s Division 4 EMass Championship game against Cohasset. With it, he gave the simple message, “That’s not the trophy we want to go home with this year.”

His team got the message loud and clear, and took home the winner’s trophy this time with an 11-1 victory over Harwich.

Ryan Browner had a lead to work with before he ever took the mound for Georgetown. His team exploded for 5 runs in the top of the first, mostly due to the four errors committed by the Harwich infielders.

Harwich second baseman Tyler Meehan had difficulty handling three ground balls in the inning, which kept the Royals momentum going.

“Getting on the board first was huge,” said Browner. “We were away the entire postseason, so we wanted to get runs quickly, and that’s what we did. I was able to go out there and throw strikes with that lead.”

With things unraveling quickly for Harwich, starter Jake Malone started struggling with his command. There were two wild pitches and a passed ball in the first two innings, one of which scored a Georgetown run.

Malone was relieved after 4.2 innings, while Browner just kept attacking the zone, getting outs any way he could, while putting the finishing touches on a complete game.

He was helped by timely defense behind him.

In the third inning, a walk and back-to-back singles loaded the bases with no outs. With Malone coming to bat to go pitcher against pitcher, Browner induced a ground ball, which his infielder flipped back to hope to prevent a run from scoring.

That brought up Stephen Brown, the Harwich cleanup hitter. On the 0-1 pitch, he grounded to C.J. Ingraham, who flipped to the shortstop, his brother Colby, for the the first out, who quickly threw to the first baseman to complete the inning-ending double play.

With runners on second and third and one out in the fourth, Noah Nickerson flew out to left field. David Ingraham, C.J. and Colby’s cousin, got it back into the infield quickly, preventing the run from tagging up and scoring.

Browner struck out Matt McNeil to end the inning, again preventing any runs from scoring.

Georgetown added three more runs in the fifth and two in the eighth to finally take the Division 4 Championship home.

Browner battles: This was the second game in a row that Browner went the distance. He also did it on three days rest. Conventional wisdom would think that Browner would only be able to go a few innings, if at all, on Tuesday. Instead, Spurr relied on the right shoulder of his senior, and he didn’t let him down.

“I wanted the ball right after (Saturday’s 5-2 victory over Northeast Regional),” he said after the game. “Technically, I did get three days rest because the game was in the morning, but I was able to come out here and throw strikes. They were aggressive, so I didn’t have to throw a lot of pitches, so it was easy on my arm.”

There was no doubt in Spurr’s mind who was going to pitch the deciding game for his team.

“This was Ryan’s third crack at a state title (after losing on the mound last year to Cohasset in the D4 Baseball Finals and this fall in soccer),” he said. “If I didn’t go to him, I’d be a fool. If there is anyone who wanted it more than him today, I’d like to meet him, because I don’t think there is.

“We communicated at practice on Sunday and I said, ‘Realistically, what can you do today?’ and he said he could do three innings on Sunday. I asked him Monday, and he said he was ready to go. I kept Patrick Slack loose at all times, just in case we needed to use him. I just told him we weren’t taking him out and he was going to finish this game.”

Hit the ground running: When Georgetown came out of the gates with its five-run first inning, Spurr knew the ramifications that could have on Malone’s psyche.

“I scouted their game on Sunday (against Bishop Connolly), and (Malone) was playing left field,” he said. “When he got up to hit, then he flipped the bat, and said something to the pitcher, so we knew he had a short leash. He was kind of a ‘hot head,’ so we knew we had to be loud and we knew we had to get to them. Seeing their infield-outfield, we knew where we had to hit the ball to make things happen.

“They’re a very, very good team. I saw them play and thought they were probably going to be one of the better teams we faced all year. Those five runs in the first, it’s all hustle. It’s what we’ve taught and what we said before we left the school. Yesterday at the end of practice, it was, ‘Leave everything at LeLacheur,’ leave everything on that field, and only take home the gold.”

Happy Trails, Harwich: It was the last hurrah, literally and figuratively, for Harwich. Next year, the school will merge with Chatham High School and become Monomoy Regional.

In a fitting tribute to the school and its storied history, its fans chanted, “We are Harwich!” in unison as its team exited the field after the game.