EASTON, Mass. -- Entering the game with the bases loaded and just one out in the top of the sixth inning, junior Nick Chapman was trying to protect a two-run lead against the No. 4 and No. 5 hitters in the potent Attleboro lineup.
He struck them both out. Not bad for his first varsity appearance.
“He’s worked hard and pitched a lot of innings at JV,” said Oliver Ames coach Leo Duggan. “One of the problems that we’ve had with other kids is that they walk too many...My JV coach said that he throws strikes.”
He joked, “I told the kids [after the game] that I’m going to send him back to JV.”
Chapman would strike out four of the five hitters that he faced in 1-2/3 innings to save Oliver Ames’ 9-6 victory over the Bombardiers on Saturday afternoon at Easton’s Frothingham Park in a battle of the Hockomock League’s two division leaders.
“They have talent; they can play,” said Attleboro coach Matt Bosh. “We both were kind of out of pitching by the end of the week. Your fourth game, on a Saturday, and you’re trying to string together what you can get. They cashed in and we didn’t get enough big hits.”
Trailing 8-6 entering the top of the sixth against OA reliever Christian Flaherty, Attleboro would get a one-out single from Pat Dunn and a walk to Brandon Clark. After a wild pitch moved both into scoring position, Duggan elected to intentionally walk Max Lancaster (1-2, 2 BB, run scored) to load the bases.
He also decided to switch to the untested junior. Chapman repaid his coach’s faith with a dominating strikeout of Matt Elliot and by catching Ryan Bowen looking to escape the jam and preserve the lead. He then went out and struck out two of three hitters in the bottom of the seventh to earn the save.
Bosh said, “Those guys I had up there -- there’s no one that I’d rather have up there in those situations. Give their pitcher credit. He came in there, pressure situation, threw strikes and got out of the inning.”
Both teams were coming off tough losses on Friday and both were playing the fourth game of the week (this game was rescheduled from an earlier rain-out), so both coaches elected to bring in pitchers that were making their first starts of the season.
Chris Servello, who was coming back from a knee injury, would give up three runs in the top of the first. He walked the first two hitters before Lancaster drove one run in on a line drive to left that Brendan Wlech was not able to grab. The next two runs would each score on wild pitches.
For Attleboro, Connor Silva made his first start, after pitching only in relief through the first 14 games of the season. He would run into trouble in the second. Joe Walsh and Adam Burr each singled and Welch drove one run home with a ringing double down the rightfield line that ended up in the batting cage netting.
Welch was followed by an RBI groundout from John McMillan and an RBI single from Mike Ferrara. First baseman Alex Geba capped the rally with a two-run single that chased Silva from the game and gave OA the 5-3 lead.
Attleboro (10-5, 9-3) would get a run back in the third on a two-out single by Travis Tanguay that scored Clark. The Bombardiers would then regain the lead in the fifth when Elliot drilled a triple to very deep right center to score Lancaster, who had been hit by a pitch. Flaherty entered the game at that point but threw a wild pitch that allowed Elliot to come home and make it 6-5.
The lead was short-lived. The Tigers came right back in the bottom of the fifth to get three runs and regain the momentum.
After a walk, a wild pitch and a strikeout, Walsh (2-3) ripped his second single of the game and pinch runner Nick Charleston barely advanced to third as Elliot’s throw appeared to beat him, but the umpire ruled that he slid under the tag.
That would prove to be a huge call, as Burr (2-3) dropped a single just in front of Brent Cook in right to tie the game. Welch (2-3) would step up next and line a single to center bringing in both runners and making it an 8-6 game.
Despite not being able to hold the lead, Bosh credited reliever Eric Machowski for 3-1/3 big innings to keep Attleboro in the game.
“He came in the second and got us to the sixth only giving up three runs,” said Bosh. “I told him when he came in, ‘You kept us alive.’ [He] kept it close on the first comeback and we just couldn’t do it.”
After Chapman’s heroics in the sixth, Geba would get his third RBI in the bottom of the inning on a base hit that scored Ferrara for an insurance run.
Duggan said, “We’ve been in a hitting slump…but I thought we hit the ball well…Geba had a big day for us and Welch had a big day for us...They felt bad about the way we performed last night (a 6-4 loss to Canton) and were down here until 8-9 hitting [in the cage].”
With the win, Oliver Ames (12-3, 10-3) has a two-game lead over rival Stoughton in the Davenport division and faces the Knights on Monday.