MARSHFIELD, Mass. — It’s no secret to Kevin Igoe that his Norwood baseball team likes to live on an edge a little too much this season.
Igoe has seen his team build huge leads, get a little complacent and then find a way to gut out a victory several times already. It’s enough to drive a coach mad, especially with their tournament lives hanging in the balance.
The Mustangs followed that exact script and lived to tell about it as they knocked the third-seeded Rams (17-5) out of the Div. 1 South playoff with an 11-10 thriller on Wednesday afternoon.
Sean O’Neil went 5-for-6 with two extra base hits and three RBI, Peter Kelly scored two runs, including the pivotal run in the top of the seventh, and Kenny Michael closed the door with six strikeouts in the final three innings of relief as the No. 6 Mustangs (17-5) will take on No. 15 Xaverian in the semi-finals on Thursday.
“We don’t play well with leads. I don’t know what it is,” said Igoe. “All year we have been up 8-0, 7-0, but we always seem to let the guy up. I don’t know what that says about us, but we’ve started out 2-3 and since then we are 15-2. They are confident with a relaxed intensity about them and we’ve got great senior leadership.”
Michael was called into relief for the second straight game in the tournament, and again he kept the opposing lineup at bay with the momentum clearly favoring the Rams in the final innings.
“When we have leads we don’t really settle, but I don’t know how to explain it,” said Michael, who earned the victory against New Bedford on Tuesday. “We usually see teams come back like that, but that one was a little too close for comfort.”
How They Got The Lead: The Mustangs have balance up and down the lineup and that was on display against the Rams’ left-handed starter Kevin Kwedor.
Kwedor had a tough time keeping the ball down in the zone and the Mustangs sprayed line drives all over the field. Norwood sent 12 men to the plate, and scored eight runs on six hits and two errors.
O’Neil, Anthony Perriello — who left the game in the third inning after pulling his hamstring while trying to leg out an infield single — and Nick Saulnier opened the inning with three straight off Kwedor to plate two runs.
Tom Munro was plunked with a pitch and Tyler Gover hit a ball down the line by the diving third baseman to score Saulnier for the third run of the inning. Munro and Gover moved up into scoring position after a throwing error by the left-fielder on the play.
Kwedor hit his second batter of the inning and another error in left brought in a run. O’Neil carved a 1-0 pitch just fair down the left-field line for two more runs and Perriello added another RBI single for the 8-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth, O’Neil blasted an RBI double off the school in right field for the ninth run of the game and Rourke Flynn, who came in for the injured Perriello, followed that up with another RBI double for the 10-0 lead.
How They Gave It Up: The bottom of the fifth inning looked like it would be another quick inning for the Mustangs, but the Rams exploded offensively to get right back into the game.
The Rams had nine men in a row reach safely for eight runs. Kyle Moran delivered with a two-run double and Steve Harrington hit a two-RBI single as the Rams compiled nine hits in the inning after having only four in the previous four innings.
“Every time we were in the in the huddle we were saying that we were going to break through, we were going to break through and then we did,” said Rams head coach Billy Battis. “I’m very proud of them.”
How They Got It Back: Kelly doubled to leadoff the top of the seventh and moved over to third on a single to third by O’Neil.
Flynn rolled one towards the hold between short and third, which allowed Kelly to scamper home for the winning run.
Michael came on in relief with the bases loaded, nobody out in the bottom of the seventh inning and allowed two inherited runs to cross the plate, but then he settled in nicely to get three swinging strikeouts and two Rams looking.