Pioneers edged by Austin Prep in North Finals, 2-0

Jun 21, 2018 by

Lynnfield beats Dracut 5-4 in D3N semi’s

Published in the June 20, 2018 edition

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

LOWELL — Baseball can be fair, giving, exhilarating and memorable.

The Pioneers learned on Sunday just how cruel it can be too.

After an even battle throughout most of the day, Lynnfield fell to Austin Prep 2-0, after just the second hit for the Cougars drove home two runs in the 5th inning.

THE PIONEERS line up during the National Anthem at LeLacheur Park before the Div. 3 North Finals on Father’s Day. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Beat Dracut, 5-4

Lynnfield was on the opposite side of that feeling on June 14, when they held on to beat a resilient Dracut team, 5-4 at Lowell High School’s Alumni Field in the D3N semifinals.

During a back-and-forth game, that saw Lynnfield 2-0 lead erased in the 3rd and then regained in the 4th to take a 3-2 lead, it was a nice combination of pitching, defense and timely hits that pushed the No. 2 Pioneers on to the finals.

“We scrapped our way through it that’s a good team we played, they didn’t quit, they just kept coming. Credit Dracut’s coach and staff, those kids played hard.”

Junior Matt Fiore got the start for Lynnfield. He did just what the Pioneers need him to do, as he kept his team in it and let the defense do their job. Fiore went five innings, allowing four runs.

FERNANDO GONZALEZ allowed just two hits and struck out five in six innings of work against Austin Prep during the D3N Finals on Sunday. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

The Pioneers got on the board in the 1st as junior Jonathan Luders walked to start the game, later setting up senior Cooper Marengi who crushed a triple and scored after an overthrow. That play didn’t just give Lynnfield a 2-0 lead so much as it set the tone for a rowdy bench and a loud fanbase dressed in blue and gold.

After Dracut tied it in the 2nd, Lynnfield’s bats went back to work in the 4th, and the Pioneers capitalized on two errors to scratch out another run. Senior Nick Giammarco, typically the catcher who moved over to take Fiore’s third base, played a great defensive game and he got on base in the 4th after Dracut’s third baseman couldn’t handle his sharp line drive.

Senior Joey Mack walked and Dan Jameson’s ground ball was thrown away, resulting in Giammarco scoring a run, as Dracut’s shortstop looked to get a force at second.

The Pioneers added to their lead in the 5th, which ended up being much-needed insurance. After a Luders single to start the frame and a Fiore bunt, Marengi crushed his second triple of the game to deep right field. It could have been called a home run as it hit off the chain linked fence above Alumni Field’s funky right field wall, but Marengi was picked up on the next pitch anyways, as junior Fernando Gonzalez hit an RBI single to make it 5-2.

“He was struggling a little,” said O’Brien of Marengi. “Through the tournament he only had a couple of hits; I think he was pushing a little too hard but he had a great BP today and he has been working through it and he came through in the clutch with two great hits and he made a fantastic catch in the outfield. He played well.”

The Middies knocked Fiore out of the game in the 6th after a walk and base hit, causing O’Brien to call on Gonzalez to get them to LeLacheur Park.

COOPER MARENGI celebrates after his RBI triple and an error resulted in a 2-0 lead for Lynnfield during the 1st inning of their 5-4 win over Dracut in the Div. 2 North semifinals. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

The lefty ran into some trouble as Dracut picked up two two runs after a couple of wild pitches, but Gonzalez got out of the 7th without much hassle, sending Lynnfield back to the Div. 3 North Final for a rematch against the No. 1 Cougars, a team that O’Brien knew was talented as the Cougars scored 26 runs in their semifinal win over Swampscott.

“We gotta play a good ball game to beat them, but they have to play a good ball game to beat us,” said O’Brien. “I’m very confident in my kids.”

Fall to Austin Prep, 2-0

The Pioneers couldn’t get enough going with the bats to disrupt the rhythm of A.P. ace Cam Seguin who pitched a complete game, allowing only two hits.

Gonzalez was phenomenal for the Pioneers, allowing just two hits himself and striking out five through six innings.

Gonzalez got the fans into it early as he struck out Dylan Arnold to start the game. The Cougars would load the bases after a single and two walks, but Gonzalez stood up to the pressure, striking out Jake Thain on a nasty off-speed pitch.

JONATHAN LUDERS stares down Austin Prep’s Cam Seguin during the 1st inning of the D3N Finals. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

The Pioneers threatened in the 2nd, after two base hits from Mack and Jameson. Will Garofoli came within inches of a fair ball ripped down the left field line that would have been extra bases and at least one run, but it went just foul. The Pioneers couldn’t get a run around and both pitchers and defenders started to get into a rhythm.

Jonathan Luders made a great play in the bottom of the 2nd on a grounder deep in the hole. He set his feet and whipped one over to Jameson just in time for the third out.

The Cougars’ runs in the 5th came after a controversial hit-batter call. It looked like the batter was trying to bunt, but the umpires deemed he drew the bat back before it hit him. If he didn’t, it would have counted as a strike. Instead, the Cougars had their first two on board.

To his credit, Gonzalez responded well even after giving up the two-RBI double to Arnold, as he later picked him off second and caused a fly out to end the frame.

In the end, Lynnfield just didn’t have enough offense to get past a really sound defensive team.

“We hit the ball, they made the plays,” said O’Brien. “Two hits each, great pitched ball game, good D on both sides. They just had the clutch hits when they needed them. That’s the game.”

“I’m proud of my kids. It was good to get here, we were hoping to take the next step. I got a great group of kids here and I’m proud of them.”

O’Brien was especially grateful to his seven seniors, who showed great leadership all season.

“They’re a great group of kids. I couldn’t ask for better effort from the seniors or better leadership. Every one them at one point or another won a game for us here so that says something. They came out and competed today and picked the guys up in the dugout right to the end.”

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