Cavs overcome miscues to land in Division II finals
CONCORD – Hollis Brookline senior shortstop Joe Messina felt he wasn’t having his best game in Tuesday’s Division II semfinals against John Stark on Tuesday.
That all changed with one swing of the bat.
Messina’s two-run double to deep center at Warren H. Doane Field in the bottom of the sixth snapped a 6-6 tie to give the No. 2 Cavaliers an 8-6 semifinal win over the No. 3 Generals.
Up unitl then, Messina had gone 0-for-3 and had a couple of balls get past his dives in the infield. But it didn’t matter.
“Through this whole year, I’ve had confidence in every single one of my teammates,” Messina said. “And at that moment (at the plate), they were all putting their confidence in me. … I was trying to put my team on my back.
“It’s one of the best feelings that I’ve ever had.”
It was a grueling, hard-fought battle as the 16-2 Cavs overcame a whopping five errors, blowing leads of 2-1 and 6-3 to land in their first title game since they won what was then the Class I crown in 2007.
“We’ve had eight different kid on this baseball team win games,” HB coach Jay Sartell said, his team bashing out nine hits. “No easy outs in this lineup, it’s a strong team, and it’s built for this kind of tournament baseball, too.”
“These guys were taking punches and popping right back up after every inning,” Stark coach Dennis Pelletier said. “We fought really hard. … They (the Cavs) hit the snot out of the ball, really.”
The Generals (16-3) had seemingly broken the Cavs’ hearts with three unearned runs in the fifth to tie the game at 6 off reliever Henri Boudreau, the team’s ace who likely will get the starting nod in next Monday’s 4 p.m. finals at Manchester’s Northeast Delta Dental Stadium vs either Bow or St. Thomas.
And in the fourth, an errant HB throw to third turned what would have been an incredible triple play into a game tying run (2-2) and opened the door for a Ben Stogner RBI single off starter Brandon Hsu that gave Stark a brief 3-2 lead.
“The mental mistakes were uncharacteristic of the team,” Sartell said, “and it took a little bit to get them back into it.”
Well, not too long, because the Cavs, who already had enjoyed a two-run Grant Snyder double off Generals starter Brett Patnode in the second to take a 2-1 lead, answered right back with four more in the fourth for that 6-3 lead. The rally was keyed by a long Snyder two-run single to the fence in deep center, giving him four RBIs on the day.
“He’s been stroking the ball,” Sartell said of Snyder. “He’s seeing it like a watermelon at this point, to be honest. A clutch player.”
Max Mello followed with an RBI single that also produced a second run thanks to a Stark outfield error.
But the clutch rally came in the sixth against Stark sophomore reliever Austin Hazard. Ryan Coutu led off with an infield hit deep in the hole at short. One out later, he was forced at second on a Snyder ground ball. But Mello kept the inning alive with a base hit and then Messina delivered, with Boudreau doing his job retiring the Generals one-two-three in the seventh.
“We won a 1-0 game I think our first game,” Sartell said. “We can keep the winning run on third base, and still maintain an icy cool, and that’s the characteristic of the team I like to see.”
He hopes to see it again next Monday.