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Rozak's gem gives P-North another South crown

QUINCY, Mass. -- Alex Rozak could not have picked a better time to pitch his best game of the season for Plymouth North.

The right-hander allowed three hits and recorded 12 strikeouts over seven innings to lead Plymouth North to its third Division 2 South Championship in four seasons, with a 2-0 victory over No. 2 seed Somerset Tuesday night at Adams Field.

“Rozak was nasty,” North head coach Dwayne Follette said. “He’s had games like that and then tired at the end, but he just finished tonight. It was great.”

Rozak felt staying out of any trouble with the Somerset hitters helped him keep his composure and stay on the mound until the final out.

“When I was running into trouble, that’s when I started to get unfocused, but it all came back to me today,” he said. “I wasn’t tired though, I felt strong the whole game.”

The Blue Raiders (17-6) never had a runner get beyond second base and only had multiple runners on base once in the game. The three times a batter had a full count against Rozak resulted in either a strikeout or an inning-ending double play.

“I was hitting my locations today, every pitch was working,” he said. “I have three pitches and earlier in the year, only two of them would work, but today all three of them were.”

It was not as though the North (20-3) bats lit up the scoreboard though. Aside from two innings with costly Somerset errors, Colin Smith pitched a gem of a game for the Raiders.

Zach Zaniboni led off the game with a single and advanced to second with a stolen base. Two batters later, he was driven in by Matt Walsh, who dropped a single into center. Adam Ledoux lifted his head up too soon while fielding ball, which allowed it to roll behind him and Zaniboni to score easily.

In the third, Zaniboni again lead off the inning. He hit a fly ball to center, looking like the first out of the inning. Three Somerset fielders converged, each wanting to catch the ball. It hit off the second baseman’s glove and hit the ground. He advanced on a Smith throwing error when his pickoff attempt got past the first baseman. He eventually scored on a Walsh sacrifice fly to center.

He finished the game with nine strikeouts while allowing five hits and one walk over seven innings. He struck out Plymouth North’s cleanup hitter, Mike Cahill, three times.

“(Smith) was awesome,” said Follette. “He had five of our guys screwed into the ground. He had strikeouts against five of our batters. He came as advertised with a great change-up and breaking ball away.”

The Eagles will face North Andover Wednesday in the state semi-finals in a rematch of the 2009 semi-finals, in which Plymouth North came away with a 9-0 victory.

“They won 23 in a row so we know we have our work cut out for us, but we’re just happy to be there and we’re going to give them a game,” declared Follette.

With Rozak throwing a complete game, it kept as many pitching arms as possible available for North to use if needed against the tough North Andover lineup.

“We know we have two pitchers behind me that will get the job done and we’ll hit the ball well since we’ve been doing that all year,” said Rozak.