TEWKSBURY - On July 31, the Tewksbury 12-year-old-National Baseball team battled it out with the visiting Billerica team at Poulin Field to decide who would walk away as the winner of this year’s Conway Tournament. The game was an intense back and forth throughout its duration, with neither team managing to make any damage on the scoreboard until the final innings. Despite the challenges throughout the game, Tewksbury managed to come from behind to claim and then maintain the lead. The final score was 4-3, with Tewksbury victorious.
While the Tewksbury bats took a while to warm up, the defensive effort was led by pitcher Cameron Legvold. He did an admirable job holding the mound, firing in strikes and putting the ball in the perfect place for the fielders to make every necessary play.
On the offensive end, Tewksbury’s first hit came courtesy of Shane Darrigo’s single in the top of the second inning. Riley Frost followed with another single, but no runs were produced.
Billerica launched their own offensive effort in the bottom of the third, battering Legvold with a series of singles. But strong Tewksbury defense put the clamp down before any runs could be scored.
The stalemate broke in the bottom of the fifth. Billerica took the lead, 1-0. Travis McMurdo went in as a relief pitcher and ended the inning before any more damage could be accrued.
With time running out, Tewksbury went all-out in the top of the sixth, battering at Billerica’s defense. Darrigo snared the first hit of the inning with a single. He stole his way to second, putting him in a prime position to swing the momentum of the game. All that was needed was the proper push, and the game would be tied.
He would not have long to wait. Frost followed up with a single, and then made a play for second. While the Billerica infield chased Frost around the baseline, Darrigo dashed across home plate. The Tewksbury dugout exploded with excitement.
From there, Tewksbury was all but unstoppable.
Frost stole his way to third and capitalized on his position to score, giving Tewksbury the lead, 2-1. Matthew Perron and Colby Wilson reached base on walks and were then driven home by a massive double off the bat of Dominic Jolly. By inning’s end, the score now stood at 4-1.
Billerica had no intention of going down so easily. In the bottom of the sixth, with only one out and the bases loaded, a Billerica single seemed to spell doom for Tewksbury’s lead. But smart defense by Tewksbury and quick action by catcher, Jolly, stopped the run from scoring.
A Billerica double drove in two runs, leaving Tewksbury only one run ahead. Tensions were high as McMurdo faced the final Billerica batter. When the batter connected, it seemed like his line drive was about to cut Tewksbury’s lead out from under them. But Tewksbury second baseman Josh Papa threw himself in front of the ball, stopping its trajectory against his chest. Papa fielded the ball to first and Tewksbury’s victory was secure.
Tewksbury coach Wayne Freitag was overflowing with pride for his team. He had been working with this group of athletes for three years. The Conway Tournament Championship was, win or lose, the team’s swan song at Poulin Field as a team. Ending on a note of victory was the best that anyone could have hoped for. While the early innings had him nervous, Freitag was never in doubt that the team had the skill to pull off a victory.
“They have a way to turn it on,” Freitag said.
As Freitag explained it, the late-game surge was a by-product of the smart, adaptive brand of baseball that the team practices.
“A couple of the kids started to re-adapt when up at bat. A couple of kids who haven’t been hitting the ball lately took advantage and started hitting to get us started. That was huge. And then once we got rolling, a couple of the big kids kept us going. But that’s what got us started: clutch hits from guys who struggled for a little while.”
Freitag could barely contain his pride and relief as he described watching Papa make the final play of the game.
“Just plain and simple, that last play by Josh Papa was something else. He ate that ball up and made the play like it was nothing.”