LOWELL, Mass. -- Lowell Catholic was so excited to continue its postseason run that its celebration started prematurely Sunday.
With two outs in the top of the seventh and final inning, West Roxbury’s Ruel Delarosa grounded to second baseman James Sullivan. He flipped the ball to Nick Cervizzi at first, and the players jumped for joy, believing the game was over. However, the first base umpire called Delarosa safe, saying that Cervizzi had left the bag early.
The inning continued, but Joe Levasseur got Brian Navarro to ground out to short two batters later to officially end the game and give his team the 12-3 victory.
“It’s pretty exciting to get this far, the school has never been this far,” said Lowell Catholic (18-5) coach Matt Stone. “The kids are excited. They’ve done all the hard work. They’ve put in all the countless hours to get here. To watch them execute and put the practice into play is a pretty special thing.”
Levasseur tossed a complete game, giving up three hits while striking out four and walking three.
Lowell Catholic struck early, with two runs in the bottom of the first and three more in the third. That gave Levasseur more confidence in attacking the strike zone and letting his fielders make plays behind him.
“You want to go out there and shut them down in the first inning and have your team come back and give you runs,” he said. “You feel so good with that run support behind you and you have the defense behind you. I trust my defense and it’s great knowing you can let them hit the ball and the defense will make plays.”
At the plate, the offense made the West Roxbury (12-9) pitchers work deep into counts and give them pitches to hit. Westie starter Alejandro Lopez had a 19-pitch first inning and a 35-pitch third inning. He was relieved after the third, having thrown 60 pitches and giving up five runs.
The Lowell Catholic hitters were able to apply that same patience at the plate and combine it with timely hitting to put up seven more runs on its way to a Division 4 North championship.
LC bats heating up: For any team to score double-digit runs in a state tournament game is an achievement, especially one game away from the state title game. With one game left in its season, Catholic’s bats are coming alive just at the right time.
“It’s big (to put up 12 runs) but we don’t look at it like that,” said Stone. “We know these games are down to the last out. We’re up by nine in the last inning, and they can come back and certainly put up nine. We’ve seen lightning strike before, you just don’t want to be on the side that it strikes. They hung right in there until the last inning.”
Uncharted waters: Lowell Catholic advances to the Division 4 State title game against South champion Pope John Paul II, Tuesday at Brockton's Campanelli Stadium. It is the farthest any Lowell Catholic baseball team has advanced in school history. It lost in the first round last season to eventual Division 4 State Champion Georgetown.
One would think the big stage would make an inexperienced team nervous, but the team and coaching staff are trying to combat that as best they can.
“Our coach tells us to keep it loose and don’t worry about it,” said Levasseur. “Obviously you’re nervous coming into this game playing at Lelacheur. It’s a big game. But we always try to have fun at practice, joke around, and keep it loose. But when it comes to game time, we’re ready and we’re focused.”