WILMINGTON — With more than a week between scheduled games, the Northeast Wilmington baseball team showed no rust from the layoff when they came up against a first place Dracut club on Tuesday evening.
The teams marched in near lockstep through an abbreviated six-inning duel and emerged, as darkness descended on Scanlon Field, with a 4-4 finish.
There was ample drama in the bottom of the final inning, after both coaches agreed to call it because of the late hour and lack of visibility. Tied at four runs apiece after Dracut climbed back from a one-run deficit in the top of the inning, Wilmington had a chance to win it in walk-off fashion after putting two on with two out. But Derek Gallucci just didn’t have the clutch hit and ended it with a ground ball out.
“We got what we wanted in that situation and put a runner in scoring position,” said Coach Mark Dynan, whose team is currently 4-3-1 with a half-dozen games remaining. “We tried to manufacture one but just couldn’t do it today.”
In the first meeting between these teams, Dracut topped Wilmington, 9-6. But the final score was not indicative of what took place two weeks ago. Trailing by five mid-game, Wilmington battled back to draw to within a run of their host. But Dracut added a pair late to ensure the win. Still, the Wilmington coaching staff was pleased.
“They got up early on us in Dracut and we had to come back,” said Dynan. “Today, we had Joey Dynan going and while I don’t think he had his best stuff, he really kept their hitters off balance. We were able to hold them to one run through four tonight and as the home team, I think we had an advantage.”
Scoreless through one, Dracut claimed a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Sean McMeniman led off with a double to left, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored the go-ahead run on a fielding error.
But Wilmington soon tied it with an unearned run in their half of the second frame. With two outs gone, Joe Hartzell safely reached on what should have been a routine ground ball out to end it. It was one of the few Dracut fielding errors and would prove costly. Garrett Moretto singled, advancing the baserunner to third. And then, everybody was running in a classic double steal. Moretto bolted for second drawing a throw while Hartzell sprinted home, beating the return throw at the plate to knot the score at 1.
In the last game contested before the hiatus, Wilmington dropped a 2-1 decision to North Reading in a rematch. As coach Dynan pointed out, both defeats to the Hornets were the result of defensive miscues. But facing Dracut, the defense was nearly flawless and at times, spectacular. In the third inning, for instance, catcher Nico Piazza erased a baserunner at third with a surgical strike to Harry Serounian. And later, Aidan O’Connell caught up with a deep fly ball in right to end a Dracut bases-loaded threat.
“We had some heads-up plays in the field tonight,” said Dynan. “I think the defense has let us down a couple of times, such as the game with North Reading. But today, the defense picked us up and helped us get this tie.
Dracut climbed ahead, 3-1, in the fifth. Under warm, eighty degree conditions, Dynan was tiring and yielded to several batters, including a pair of doubles. But the defense again came to their pitcher’s aid, minimizing the damage by catching a baserunner attempting to steal third. In all, Dracut left eight men on base, seven in scoring position.
Trailing by a pair, Wilmington was not to be outdone. In the bottom of the fifth, Dynan and Piazza got to McMeniman for basehits. Both advanced and were soon greeting teammates in the dugout after Gallucci drove them in with a double. The Wilmington parade around the basepads also spelled the end of McMeniman’s tour on the mound. Kyle Mackay came on in relief but before he could rescue his team, Wilmington struck with the go-ahead run, as Gallucci scored on an error to make it 4-3.
Jimmy McCarron was dispatched to relieve Dynan in the sixth and after a leadoff basehit, settled down and got a key out. The defense contributed with a double play but not before Harper Soucy scored the game-tying run on a series of stolen bases.
When Wilmington came to bat, O’Connell led off, drilling a fastball to shallow right. It was fielded cleanly, holding him to one base. Mackay struck out the next two, setting the stage for a dramatic finish. Piazza came up and took a ball off the wrist, which advanced O’Connell into scoring position. But it wasn’t meant to be. Mackay preserved the tie with a ground ball out.
“It was enjoyable to watch these kids, playing in eighty-degree heat, come back to score big runs to tie it and take the lead,” said Dynan. “We have to hand it to Dracut. They manufactured a run to tie it at the end. We just couldn’t match that effort and get the winning run across the plate. We’ll settle for the tie.”