BROCKTON, Mass. -– Given his efforts throughout the inaugural Division 1A Super 8 baseball tournament, it seemed fitting that Dylan Sbordone fired the final pitch for top-seeded Newton North as they bested Bay State Conference rival Braintree, 6-2, to capture the program’s first-ever state title.
The right-handed Southern New Hampshire commit was a mainstay at the end of games as the Tigers maneuvered through the double elimination tournament in unbeaten fashion. When he recorded a six-out save at Campanelli Stadium on Monday, it concluded in an impressive tourney for Sbordone that would’ve made Mariano Rivera proud.
“He’s got a great arm,” said North coach Joe Siciliano. “A great arm and he’s just worked hard. Last year, he pitched JV. He was on the varsity but he pitched JV, and he’s really busted his hump. He’s worked on all of his stuff. He’s always working on his change-up, working on this, and working on that.”
Sbordone came on in relief of Newton North’s marathon first round win against Catholic Memorial. He tossed 3 and 1/3 in relief before darkness postponed the contest, then came back the next afternoon to pitch one more inning before the Tigers pushed across the winning run.
As Silver Lake rallied late against the Tigers in round two, Sbordone came on an induced a double play before working a quiet ninth to secure the save.
After Teddy Rodliff effectively pitched the first six innings against the Trojans, Sbordone threw three dominant innings, striking out five and surrendering just one unearned run en route to picking up his second win of the tournament.
And on Monday afternoon, he made his fourth appearance of the postseason. He entered with the tying run standing in the on-deck circle in the eighth, and promptly stymied a comeback attempt by Braintree. The first hitter he faced flew out to first base, and the second grounded into an inning ending double play. Sbordone locked down the save with a 1-2-3 ninth that ended on a lazy flyout to left.
“That double play, he didn’t throw that hard,” said Siciliano. It was a curve ball and the kid reached for it. He’s done that three or four times for us this year and it’s because he’s worked so hard on that stuff.”
Sbordone’s final line during the Tigers’ four-game tourney run?
Eleven innings pitched, 12 strikeouts, two hits allowed, one walk, zero earned runs surrendered and two wins and two saves.
“I just go out there and do the job the team needs,” said Sbordone. “I just try to get the job done. It’s kind of hard to not let adrenalin get to you, I was just trying to go out there and get the last three outs.”
Braintree struck first in this one as Wamps’ leadoff man Billy Keane was hit by the first pitch of the game. He took second on a wild pitch. After a flyout to left, Keane swiped third with Connor Colombus at the plate. Colombus lined the next pitch over the third baseman’s head for a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Braintree loaded the bases later in the first, with Matt Bickford reaching on an error and Gino LaRossa working a walk. Tigers’ starter Tommy Hodgson used a pair of strikeouts to strand all three runners.
In the bottom of the first, Braintree Scott Strachan retired the side in order -- sandwiching two looks strikeouts around a weak groundout to first base.
The scored stayed 1-0 until the bottom of the third. Thomas Joyce led off with a triple into the right field corner –- Newton North’s first hit of the day. After a ground out and a liner to shallow right that couldn’t score Joyce, Ben Porter was hit by a pitch.
Porter attempted a steal of second base, catching Stachan off guard as he went into his motion. The lefty stopped his delivery, and was called for a balk that brought Joyce in with North’s first run.
The Wamps retook the lead in the sixth. After LaRossa drew his second walk of the contest, Colin Rios laid down a sacrifice bunt that hugged the first base line. When it became apparent the ball wouldn’t roll foul, Hodgson tried to field the ball and throw it to first in one motion, but bounced it just short of first base. The ball rolled away just a few feet, but it was enough to let LaRossa scamper over to third.
Anthony Venuti followed with a hard hit grounder to shortstop that resulted in a double play through the middle but allowed LaRossa to come home uncontested.
Newton North looked on the verge of tying it in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with one out. Strachan stranded the runners though by inducing a ground out to first that cut down a runner at the plate and then striking out Curtis Beatrice at the conclusion of a nine pitch at-bat.
The Tigers offensive frustrations lifted in the seventh as they scored five runs, sending nine batters to the plate.
Christian Cox (3-for-4) got things going with a one out single. Eric Mah was then hit by a pitch. The duo both advanced on a wild pitch, and a Ben Porter single scored Joe DeNucci, a pinch runner for Cox, to tie the score.
After a John Little Walk loaded the bases, Bay State Conference MVP Alex Joyce stepped to the plate. The first pitch to him was a curveball that seemed to be bending toward his helmet. After stepping out of the way, he blistered a 1-0 fastball back through the box for a 2-RBI single and North’s first lead of the day.
“Once I came up with the bases loaded and one out, I knew all I had to was hit the ball hard somewhere and we’d hopefully get a run out of it, especially with the infield in,” Joyce said. “He threw me that first curveball and I probably should’ve wore it off the head, but I didn’t. I was a little upset with myself, because that was the winning run right there, but I got a better pitch on the next one so that’s all that matters.”
Kevin Alexy followed with a walk to re-load the bases, and Mike Barbieri smacked a single to left for two more insurance runs.
“There was some key plays in that inning,” said Siciliano. “Ben Porter is down oh, two or one, two and he just dumps that ball into the outfield. Mah battled, battled and then he gets hit by a pitch. Those are two huge plays. Christian -– he was down in the count and battled. Then we got it back to Porter and those guys and it just put a ton of pressure on the other team.”