LYNN — Just when you thought Ryan Qualey could not do anything more to help the Woburn High baseball team’s pitching staff, yesterday’s 6-3 MIAA Div. 2 North semifinal victory over Wakefield happened at Fraser Field.
Qualey allowed four hits and a run over six innings before relieved by John Kyle to start the seventh. Kyle had a bit of a tough time and allowed two runs before Qualey came back to the mound (he was playing third base) and he closed out the victory with his eighth and ninth strikeouts.
This gave the Middlesex League Liberty MVP both the win and an apparent save in the same game. (However, the save rule prohibits the winning pitcher from earning a save.)
“He wasn’t at his max pitching count when we took him out,” said Woburn coach Joe Wells, of his ace. “We were hoping John would go in and finish it up, rest Ryan a little bit. That didn’t work, so we let Ryan finish the game.”
Aidan Vining will be on the hill, Saturday afternoon (3 p.m.) at Fraser Field, when the Tanners (17-6) go for their first Div. 2 North title against No. 2 seed St. Mary’s of Lynn on that team’s home field.
For Woburn it will be its first sectional final since losing to Lincoln-Sudbury in 2002.
The Warriors took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning before the Tanners came up with three in the bottom of the fourth and three more in the fifth to take a 6-1 lead.
Kyle, who picked up the relief win in Woburn’s 11-inning victory over Beverly, got a little unlucky when the first ball hit in the inning was not caught, leaving Chris Coombs on first. Coombs took second on a passed ball, Mike Iannuzzi walked and the bases became loaded on a single by Anthony DeVito.
After Kyle struck out the next batter for the first out, Gabe Sanders grounded a single into right field, scoring Coobs and Iannuzzi. When Cal Tryder walked to reload the bases, Qualey came back to the mound and struck out the last two batters of the contest.
“Hats off to them (Warriors), they are a great ball club,” said Wells. “They are a class program with great ballplayers. They gave us a battle today.”
Qualey and Wakefield starter Danny Hurley started out in a pitcher’s duel, as not much happened in the first three innings. That is, except for a Tanner scoring threat in the bottom of the third.
Julian Steed led off with a single to left. He made it to second as Hurley retired the next two batters.
Kevin Vasapolli singled sharply to left and Steed was thrown out at home on a nice throw from left by freshman Zach Kent.
The Warriors got the initial run of the game in the top of the fourth on a triple to the right field corner, with one out, by Cal Tryder. He scored as Tommy Mottl grounded out to second.
Woburn countered in the bottom of the fourth, chasing Hurley and reliever Coombs in the process.
With one out, Nick D’Antuono doubled to right and pinch runner Michael Chiodo went to third on an errant pickoff throw. Kohtaro Shimada walked, prompting a pitching change from coach Kevin Canty.
Shimada stole second and both runners scored when Matt Spolidoro doubled deep down the right field line to put the Tanners in front, 2-1. Zac Willis reached on an infield single and the bases were loaded after pop up single to right by Steed did not allow the other runners to advance.
Second reliever Sanders yielded a sacrifice fly to Dane LeBert to make it 3-1 before getting out of the inning.
The Warriors had a good scoring chance in the top of the fifth when they had runners on second and third with one out on singles by Hurley and Coombs, plus an overthrow. Qualey dug in and got the next two batters on a fly to center and a strikeout.
Vasapolli led off the Woburn fifth with a single. He stole second, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a balk. Sanders walked two batters before he too was relieved, by Jack Ryan.
Qualey stole third and D’Antuono stole second. Qualey scored on a squeeze bunt by Shimada, and D’Antuono was plated on a single by Spolidoro.
“I think the kids on the bases today did a nice job running,” said Wells. “They were keeping the pressure on the (Wakefield) defense.”
Sanders led off the Warrior sixth with a single, but he was caught stealing. Tryder walked and Mottl reached on a fielder’s choice. Qualey struck out the next batter before getting the last batter to hit into a fielder’s choice that resulted with a force at third base.
“With Ryan on the mound, it elevates everybody,” said Wells, on the good job done by the Tanners’ defense. “Once Ryan has the lead, good things happen. He’s a warrior who just battles all the time, doesn’t matter what inning it is.”