By Jim Sullivan
---- — Needing at least one win in its last two games of the regular season to secure a tournament berth, the Amesbury baseball team hosted Shawsheen Valley Tech while menacing storm clouds gathered yesterday. The Indians (10-9) were able to small-ball their way into the tourney, beating the Rams, 1-0.
“I’m just so proud of those kids,” Indians coach Gene Brunham said. “We’ve been up and down all year, I’m happy for them especially because they work hard and they’ve never wavered.”
It was a battle of left-handers as Amesbury threw Andy Reidy at the Rams, and Reidy was perfect in the top of the first inning. Shawsheen southpaw Pat Gallagher took the ball for his squad in the bottom of the frame and Indians leadoff hitter Adam Ivancic jumped on Gallagher’s third pitch for a single to left field. But Ivancic was thrown out stealing second on the very next pitch to Ben Cullen, who sent a single out to center. Mac Short was hit by a pitch next before Zach Fitzgerald sent Cullen to third with a single that caught Short at second. Devlin Gobeil walked to load the bases next before Tommy Connors struck out swinging to leave things scoreless.
Shawsheen had three go up and three sit down in the top of the second. Reidy hit a two-out single then stole second and advanced to third on a dropped third pitch to Ivancic, who stole second. But Cullen bunted into the third out to end the threat.
The Rams had their first hit of the day in a two-out single from Ryan Cormier in the top of the third, but it would go nowhere as Short made a sliding catch on a pop-up from Gallagher.
The play of the game and, as it would turn out, Amesbury’s season happened in the bottom of the third when Gobeil reached on a two-out single, then moved to third base on a single from Connors, who got caught up in a rundown between first and second that plated Gobeil in the confusion.
“It took them 20 minutes to get Tommy out,” said Burnham. “That is by design. It is practiced quite often from early in the season, and it is something that we carry with us. It’s a designed play.”
Shawsheen’s James Gibb led off the fifth inning with a walk, then moved to second on a groundout. Cam Cathcart drew a walk next. Gallagher had a single after that as Cathcart was caught at second, and Gibb made it to third. But Ryan Bradley hit the ball straight into an out in center before the Indians would go down in a row in the bottom of the frame.
Nick Hawrylciw took to the mound for Amesbury in the top of the sixth and recorded a 1-2-3 inning as his offense would make some noise in the home half of the frame. Connors started thing off with a single to center then would move to second on a one-out grounder from JT Chamberlain. Reidy hit a rocket out to right field next that sent Connors screaming for home. But the senior was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.
The Indians were given a bit of a scare at the very start of the seventh when Mike O’Hearn sent a double way out to left. But O’Hearn was caught trying to steal second in the next at-bat, and Hawrylciw got the final Ram with a groundout. The pitching mixed with Connor’s excellent base running in the third inning that scored Gobeil sent Amesbury to the 2013 state tournament.
“It was a creative play on their part,” Rams coach Brian McCarthy said of the third-inning rundown. “It’s obviously a designed play. He goes halfway and stops, and they executed it perfectly. It’s a hard play to execute perfectly, and they did it perfectly.”
With his Rams already qualified for the tournament, McCarthy tipped his cap to Amesbury.
“We knew they would be a good team,” McCarthy said. “They are always a good team, and they come out of the good league. So this is always a measuring stick for us. They beat us pretty good earlier in the season, and we took them to a very close ball game.”