By Jim Sullivan
---- — Newburyport Senior Legion baseball coach Tim Southall might be in a little trouble with his wife right now, but it’s a good thing.
“My wife has been putting up with me for a lot of years,” said Southall. “At the beginning of the year, I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, honey. We’re going to be good, but we’re not going to be making any (state tournament) runs this year.’ And the other night, I got home and told her we were one win away from going to the state tournament. She is a little bit shocked, but she’s happy for us.”
Mrs. Southall isn’t the only one doing a double-take these days as the second-seeded Nor’Easters (18-7-1) are North Sectional champs once again after losing 13 players from last year and taking down the top seed, Sudbury (20-4), at Eiras Park last night 3-0.
“That ended our season, which was a hell of a season,” said Sudbury coach Len Noce. “And congratulations to Newburyport. I know that (Southall) had a big group leave the team, and to reload the way he did is impressive.”
Righty Joe Levasseur took to the mound for Post 150 and threw a three-hitter.
Alex McLaughlin matched Levasseur from the start for Sudbury, having a perfect bottom of the frame. Levasseur would let up a single in the top of the second inning, and McLaughlin would give up the same to Mac Short in the bottom of the frame to keep the mirror performance going.
“Joey pitched excellent,” Southall said of Levasseur. “That was probably his best game of the year for us. To face a team like Sudbury, and he was pounding the strike zone. He was locating down. He was working backwards and his breaking ball was phenomenal. He did a great job.”
Sudbury’s Mike Walsh started the third inning with a one-out single to right field, then stole second base before being stranded after a pop-up and a strikeout. Brett Fontaine hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the frame before stealing second. Zack Rice then laced a single past shortstop to send Fontaine home and give the Nor’Easters the 1-0 lead.
Nor’Easters first baseman Ryan Kuchar found himself involved in all three outs in the top of the fourth inning, catching a sky-high pop-up, making a beautiful stab that he tossed to Levasseur and sucking up a grounder from Bobby Petersen.
Short reached on an error and took second with one out in the bottom of the fourth, before moving to third on a ground out from Ryan Kuchar. Short then scored on an error at first that saw Fontaine make it to second. D.J. Engelke drew a walk to keep things going with two away. Tyler Chaisson loaded the bases with a single. Rice drove in Fontaine next, beating out a single before Josh Creamer popped up to end the inning.
Levasseur let a pair of runners on with a single and a walk in the top of the sixth inning, then loaded the bases with one out with another walk. Pete Zuckerman struck out next before Petersen sent a liner straight at Kuchar, who made the diving catch to get Levasseur out of the jam.
The Nor’Easters went down in a row in the bottom of the sixth before Corey McNamara took the ball for Post 150 to close things out. He sent the Nor’Easters back to the state tournament starting this weekend.
“I’m excited,” said Southall. “This was a young team coming in. I knew we would be good, I just thought it would be a bit of a struggle. But the guys got working hard. They bought into what we were selling. I just put them in the position to make plays. They are the ones that win games, so I’m proud of them.”
“I couldn’t be happier for our kids, and next year we are going to be tough to deal with,” said Noce. “The Sectionals are always the best part. I always enjoy them because they are very competitive. The competition is always fun.”