WOBURN — The Woburn High baseball team knew the postseason would be a different animal from what it had become accustomed to in the regular season, but the Tanners did not realize how quickly they would realize it.
Fourth-seeded Woburn (15-6) needed to rally with two runs in the bottom of the 11th for a walk-off, 4-3 victory over 13th-seeded Beverly (10-11), in the MIAA Div. 2 North first round, Friday afternoon at Carroll Field.
The Tanners (15-6) will be back in action this afternoon (4 p.m.) in the quarterfinals, hosting Marblehead (14-7) back at Carroll Field.
The Tanners got nine innings of three-hit pitching from Middlesex League Liberty MVP Ryan Qualey, and it still was not enough to put away the Panthers, who sent the game into extra innings with a two-out triple in the top of the seventh.
John Kyle came on in relief to start the 10th and he also pitched well, but Beverly pushed across an unearned run in the top of the 11th to take a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the 11th, Woburn had the bases loaded with one out when Qualey hit
a hard grounder that was misplayed by the third baseman. The ball ended up in shallow left field, allowing Julian Steed and Dane LeBert to score the tying and winning runs.
“Hats off to them (Panthers),” said Tanners’ coach Joe Wells. “Their kid (pitcher Brayden Clark) battled just as much as Ryan did. They were a well-coached ball club. This time of year, that’s the kind of games you are going to be in.”
Clark allowed four hits and two runs over seven innings, with three walks and nine strikeouts. Relief pitcher Tyler Petrosino pitched the last three-plus innings and worked out of trouble in the ninth and 10th innings before succumbing in the tenth.
Qualey had no walks and 14 strikeouts, but one of the strikeouts turned into the tying run and two of the three hits led to the first two Beverly runs.
The Panthers scored one run in the fifth on a single by Conor Hanlon and a ground ball later in the frame by Owen Desmond.
It was still 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh when Hanlon reached again leading off, this time on a third strike that eluded the catcher. Qualey got the next two batters before challenging the eighth hitter in the lineup with his hardest fast ball. Nick McIntyre was up for the challenge and crushed a line drive to right-center for an RBI-triple and a tie game. Qualey struck out the next batter looking, and then four of the next six batters while retiring the side in order in both the eighth and ninth.
“The heart Ryan has is unbelievable,” said Wells. “He got up a little higher than we like him to get (in the pitch count) but he gave us all he had and left it out on the field.”
Kyle survived a leadoff single in the 10th, but was not as fortunate in the 11th. Matt Ploszay singled with one out, and pinch-runner Sam Armbruster went to second on a wild pitch. After a walk, Hanlon hit into a potential double play but the throw to first was over the head of the first baseman, allowing Armbruster to score for a 3-2 Panther lead.
Steed led off the bottom of the 11th with a single, while LeBert was hit by a pitch. After an out, Kevin Vasapolli was hit by a pitch to load the bases, paving the way for Qualey’s RBI-grounder and the error that allowed the winning run to score.
“We left a lot of guys on and we have to come up with more timely hitting,” said Wells, of the 13 runners left on base, including seven from the seventh inning on. “That’s something we need to work on.”
Woburn was economical with its baserunners in the second inning when the Tanners scored their first two runs to take a 2-0 lead.
Matt Spolidoro led off with an infield single and pinch-runner Michael Chiodo went to second on a Zac Willis base on balls. Chiodo stole third, Willis stole second, and Chiodo scored on an infield out on a ground ball to the pitcher by LeBert. The catcher was injured slightly on the throw home to get LeBert, giving Willis the opportunity to come in with the second run.
“This time of year we’ll take a ‘W’,” said Wells. “I’m happy for the seniors, they worked their butts off. They are a special group.”