Backs Against the Wall Again for Lowell Legion
QUINCY -- It’s deja vu all over again for Lowell Post 87.
Post 87 dropped its first game of the District 5 playoffs and had to play its way out of the loser’s bracket while rallying to claim the crown. Now Lowell will have to make history repeat itself in order to be the last team standing at the state level.
Braintree Post 86 overcame an early two-run deficit while edging Lowell, 3-2, Saturday morning at Adams Field in a first round game of the double-elimination American Legion State Baseball Tournament.
Anderson Jimenez paced Lowell’s offense with two hits, including a two-run single in the first inning.
Zach Gitschier had a strong game on the mound for Post 87. Gitschier limited Braintree to five hits and three walks while striking out two.
Lowell is now 21-3. Post 87 will play Sandwich Post 188 in a loser’s bracket game Sunday at 10 a.m.
“We just can’t seem to get that first one,” said Post 87 coach Bill Martel. “It seems like it’s been happening for years, even before I was here it was happening. Then we have to fight all the way back. But we’ve shown it can be done.
“We only have three loses on the year, so that stands for something. We started off the Districts with a loss. Now we have to bounce back again. Luckily, we have an early game (Sunday) so we’re right back at it. We have a ton of arms. If we get that win, I think we’ll settle in. Once we get a little momentum going our way, anything can happen. We’ve proven we can’t ever be counted out.”
District 6 champion Braintree improved its record to 16-7. Braintree is the defending state champion, advancing to the regional final last summer.
Braintree staged a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth inning that snapped a 2-2 tie. Jackson Duffy doubled to left field and scored the winning run on Alex Kennedy’s single to center.
“They have a good team,” said Martel. “They’re the defending state champs. They lost in the regional finals. They have a couple returning guys. They’re well coached. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We gave 100-percent.”
Post 87 out-hit Braintree, 8-5. Lowell stranded nine baserunners, five of which were left in scoring position. Post 87 left the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
“We had a lot of guys on,” said Martel. “We just stranded way too many guys on base. We had plenty of chances to score more runs. There was a little snafu (in the fifth). There was some miscommunication (when a Lowell baserunner only advanced to third from second base on a two-out single to center) and we lost out on a run.
“I wheeled (the runner from second) around. But our guy heard me say, ‘Right there!’ which I said to the runner behind him because I wanted him to hold at second. He thought I was talking to him and stopped (at third base). I probably shouldn’t have said anything verbal. It’s my fault as a coach. It’s my job to get him to score there and he didn’t.”
Joey Sanchez reached base safely three times for Lowell. Sanchez had two singles, a walk and scored a run while batting leadoff. Despite the first round loss, Sanchez, a Dracut resident who attended Central Catholic, is confident Lowell will make its presence felt in the coming days.
“That’s a good team,” said Sanchez. “It was just one of those days. We were ready to play. I thought we matched up well with them well. In my eyes we can play with anybody.
“We’ll fight back. We always do. We’re a tough team. We always fight to the end.”
Lowell came out swinging in the top of the first inning. Sanchez, Edgar Velazquez and Ray Velazquez singled to load the bases. Then Jimenez smacked a single to left that gave Lowell a 2-0 lead.
Gitschier continually got big outs while nearly making the lead stand. But Braintree grinded out single runs in the first, third and fifth innings.
“His last four or five outings have been great,” said Martel. “He’s displayed a lot of guts. He’s been there for us when we needed him most. He’s really been fantastic.”
Aidan Foyle and Thomas Hassett had one hit each for Lowell.
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi