WINCHESTER — Three Reading teams made the Bay State Baseball Tournament of Champions finals on Saturday, and when the first two lost on Sunday, it appeared it may be a dark day for the Rockets, as the last team on the docket was the biggest underdog.
But Reading, and the tournament, saved the best for last. After seeing a three-run lead disappear in the bottom of the sixth, Reading Red of the A Division (12-year-olds) did not get discouraged. The Rockets fought back to take a 7-5 lead in the top of the seventh, and then held on for a 7-6 triumph over a Framingham Blue team that came into the weekend with only one loss all summer.
Ryan Marino pitched six innings to pick up the victory, and Declan Wilkes earned a hard-fought save in seventh as the Flyers were a threat to win to the final out.
Before Wilkes got Jacob Snell to hit a ground ball back to the pitcher for the final out, the most exciting moment of the game came when Jonathan Velez re-entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, with two runners on base, and hit an opposite-field, three-run home run just over the fence in right to tie the game at 5-5.
The hit showed just how difficult it is to beat the Framingham Blue team of the A Division.
Marino came back to strike out the final batter of the sixth and reached his pitch count limit at the same time, which meant a new Reading Red pitcher would have to come on in the seventh.
The Rockets went back to work at the plate in the top of the seventh, beginning with a Jack Chapin single off Snell, who was in his second inning of relief for Framingham Blue.
Chapin stole second and went to third on a one-out fielder’s choice, as the second baseman picked up a routine ground ball and paid attention to Chapin going around third instead of throwing to first for what would have been the second out.
Jack Connelly then singled to left to score Chapin with the go-ahead run. Another runner was thrown out on the play, leaving a runner on second with two outs. Connelly stole third base, and when Nate Mulvey walked and attempted to steal second, the Flyers bit and threw the ball to second base. Mulvey pulled up halfway between first and second, and Connelly raced home from third in the chaos to give Reading Red a 7-5 lead.
That extra run proved crucial as Framingham Blue as Jeremy Krendel walked, stole second and scored on a two-out single by starting pitcher Alex Tosi. Wilkes then got the third out to send the Reading Red side into a wild celebration with the victory.
The Flyers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, which seemed important at the time as they had not allowed a run all week, in the Tournament of Champions build up and on Trophy Weekend.
Brendan Peck led off with a double, Tyler Hamilton singled, and Peck scored on a ground ball to second by Krendel. Hamilton later scored on an error.
It stayed a 2-0 game until Reading Red erupted with three runs in the top of the fourth to take a 3-2 lead. Nick Genese and George Rodgers got the rally started with singles, and both scored on a two-run single by Ethan LeBovidge. After going to third on a wild pitch, LeBovidge scored the go-ahead run on a dropped fly ball in deep right in what was scored a sacrifice fly for Marino.
The Rockets added two more runs in the fifth to take a 5-2 lead. Clay Chase led off with a solo home run to left. Genese then singled, went to second on a wild pitch, and eventually scored on an error.
Reading Red went about closing out the game in the sixth, as Marino got two of the first three batters to put the Rockets on the brink of victory. But Anthony Moretti kept the game alive with a single, and Velez then provided the three-run home run that sent the game into bonus baseball.
Reading Red 10, Chelmsford Maroon 4 — The Rockets also got the tournament off to a promising start for Reading, winning the first game of the day, Saturday morning, on Nutile C Field.
The Lions took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first as pitcher Matthew Stuart singled after a double play and Ben Ramseyer followed with a two-run home run to right-center.
The Rockets were hardly discouraged, countering with five runs in the bottom of the first to take a 5-2 lead.
Reading Red batted around, beginning with a Nate Mulvey single. He scored on a one-out single by Declan Wilkes, who scored on a two-out single by Nick Genese to tie the game at 2-2. George Rodgers singled to keep the inning alive and then two errors paved the way for three more runs and a 5-2 lead.
The Rockets added a run to make it 6-2 in the bottom of the second. Mulvey and pitcher Tim McGrath reached on back-to-back errors. Two passed balls allowed Mulvey to score.
Chelmsford Maroon got that run back in the top of the third when Gene Engelhardt singled, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Zach Foley.
Reading Red made it 7-3 in the last of the third when Jack Chapin scored for the second time in the contest. He reached on a fielder’s choice force at second, stole second base and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
The Lions added another run in the top of the fourth to stay within three runs, 7-4. Jack Latham (3-for-3) singled, leading off, and went to third when Nicholas Ly followed with another single. Latham scored on a wild pitch.
Reading Red opened up a big lead in the bottom of the fifth when it scored three times to take a 10-4 advantage.
Clay Chase singled, stole second and went to third as Genese reached on a passed ball on a third strike. Genese stole second and both runners scored on a two-run single by Rodgers to increase the lead to 9-4. Rodgers took second on the throw home, stole third and scored on a two-out single by Jack Connelly.
The Lions loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth but the game ended on a double play as the runner on second left early on a fly ball to right and was doubled off to end the proceedings.
McGrath got the victory with five innings of work before Mulvey closed it out by pitching the sixth.