MALDEN — The Reading Summer Rockets completed a brilliant run through the Middlesex Senior Babe Ruth tournament field, bouncing back from an opening game loss to take their first-ever outright league title.
Reading completed the mission over the weekend, beating the Malden Marlins not once, but twice on Friday (10-6) and Saturday night’s (8-7) in the double elimination tourney at Rotondi Field. Malden came into Friday undefeated in the tournament and well-rested.
After losing, Friday night, the Marlins seemed like they were on a mission in the top of the first, Saturday night, lining the ball all over the place. D.J. Warren and Gabe Sanders hit a pair of sharp singles, followed by a line drive right at Tim Ryan in left field for the first out.
Up came Jonathan Fitzgerald who tripled to center to give Malden a 2-0 lead. Lucas Dascoli singled and it was 3-0 with only one out. Pitcher Connor Duggan got a little encouragement from the coach, and he reacted with a pair of strikeouts to retire the side.
Reading showed it was ready to answer the call in the bottom of the first, coming up with three runs of its own to tie the game at 3-3 after one.
Steven Webb walked and came all the way around to score on a triple by Logan Nowicki. Dan Weston made it back-to-back triples and it was a 3-2 game with still no outs. Weston scored on a Cole Tully single to even the score before pitcher Sanders got out of the inning, with the help of a 6-3 double play.
The Marlins moved back on top with a run in the top of the second. With one out, Nick Sargent reached on an error, went to second on a wild pitch, took third on a Cam Oliveira single, and scored on a Warren sacrifice fly.
Duggan settled in after that, getting through the third, fourth and fifth innings unscathed, while the bats did their part to put Reading in front.
The Rockets tied the game at 4-4 in the third. With two outs, Weston walked, Tully singled, and Tim Sahagian walked to load the bases. Sanders hit Charlie Presho with a pitch to force in Weston with the tying run.
In the Reading fifth, Nowicki led off with an infield single, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a double by Cole Tully to give the Rockets their first lead, 5-4. Sahagian made it back-to-back doubles to make it 6-4. Sahagian stole third and an errant throw from the catcher allowed him to score for a 7-4 lead after five.
In the top of the sixth, Malden showed it was not going to go away easily. Dascoli led off with a single, Reed walked and both runs scored on a two-out double down the right field line by Cam Oliveira.
Only up by a run, 7-6, Reading added on a crucial insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Alex Dean was hit by a pitch, leading off. He went to second on a Nowicki single and scored on a two-out single by Tully, who went 4-for-4 with 3 RBI for the game.
The Marlins continued to fight in the top of the seventh, with Sanders leading off with a triple and scoring on a ground ball to second. Sahagian started the seventh for the Rockets and he struck out two of the last three hitters, leaving the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Reading 10, Malden 6 —The weekend began with a more authoritative win in Friday night’s first final game at Rotondi Field.
Pat Harrigan drew the start for the Rockets and lasted one out short of five innings to pick up the win. Chris Shin allowed just one run in relief to earn the save.
Harrigan started the game by walking D.J. Warren and Gabe Sanders, but a 6-4-3 double play helped right the ship to a scoreless top half of the first. Steven Webb walked and Logan Nowicki singled to start Reading’s first, but Marlins’ starter Lucas Dascoli struck out the next two batters while retiring three in succession.
The Rockets took control in the bottom of the second, scoring five times to take a 5-0 lead and giving the impression there would be a game on Saturday.
Charlie Presho got it going with an infield hit, Tim Ryan doubled and Alex Dean was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Webb walked to force in a run, and Nowicki scored on a force play at second.
Dan Weston walked to reload the bases, and Cole Tully responded with a triple up the gap in left-center, clearing the bases and giving Reading its 5-0 lead.
The Rockets added another two runs in the third to increase the lead to 7-0. Presho led off with a walk and he scored on a one-out triple by Shin. A ground ball off the bat of Dean brought in Shin.
Malden closed the gap considerably in the fourth and fifth innings, coming up with five runs to cut the lead to two, 7-5.
A three-base error brought in Bryan Bessler with the first Marlin run and put Jonathan Fitzgerald on third. Fitzgerald scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Ryan Snook to make it 7-2.
In the fifth, Warren reached on an infield single with one out, and scored on a triple by Sanders. A passed ball brought in Sanders and suddenly the Marlins were back in the game, 7-4. Another run was generated by a Bryan Bessler walk, and singles by Fitzgerald and Greg Reed to make it 7-5, which prompted a pitching change to Shin.
Meanwhile, Malden reliever Bobby Spoto struck out four in a row, including the side in the fourth, to keep Reading from pulling away just yet.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Rockets got an insurance run when Ryan got his second hit, went to second on a Shin sacrifice, to third on a ground out, and scored on an infield single by Webb for an 8-5 lead.
Reading tacked on two more in the bottom of the sixth to build the lead back up to five runs, 10-5. Weston tripled leading off, and scored on a passed ball. Tim Sahagian later scored as part of a double steal with Ryan.
The Marlins started to get something going in the top of the seventh as the first three batters reached base. Sanders reached on an infield single, Spoto was hit by a pitch, and Bessler singled to plate Sanders.
But just as the Malden fans were getting into it, Spoto was caught stealing and Shin struck out the last two batters swinging, sending the tournament to the ultimate final game.