BRAINTREE, Mass. -- They went down in order. They went down looking. When the reality of the season's end became apparent, they went down swinging.
Eighteen Braintree batters struck out against a deep, but less-than-experienced Bridgewater-Raynham pitching staff. The Trojans rode the impressive pitching display, coupled with late-inning offense, to a 12-0 win over the Wamps in the Division 1 South quarterfinals at Braintree High.
“I've said all along that our pitching staff is the strength of our team even though our lineup has been solid,” B-R head coach John Kearney said. “Our pitching staff has been our greatest strength this season. We have four or five guys that can come in and get the job done.”
While B-R's pitching kept Braintree at bay, an explosive eight-run ninth inning put the game well out of reach. After Andrew Noviello, Tyler Glavin, Mike Bruemmel and Joe Freiday knocked in five runs for the Trojans, B-R's Brian McSherry hit a no-doubter home run to right-center field to put the score at 12-0.
It was McSherry's first home run of the year.
“It was a great game. I know the final score isn't indicative of that, but they made some great plays throughout that game,” Kearney said. “Our guys had a big inning, but it was a great game.”
Noviello, B-R's sophomore righty, started the game and struck out 11 Braintree batters over six innings. He used an accurate fastball to make up for his curve, which wasn't consistently hitting the strike zone until the third inning. During his six innings of work, Noviello threw 118 pitches.
“That's pretty much as hard as I've thrown. The curveball slipped a little bit, but when I got it in there, I got it in there,” he said.
Noviello's only scare came during the bottom of the fourth inning after he gave up a single to Steven Lee, and proceeded to walk Gino LaRossa and Patrick Horrocks with one out. The sophomore reared back and struck out both Adam Chin and Nick Susi to get out of the inning.
B-R rode the momentum into the top of the fifth inning and scored three runs on four hits and a walk to put the score at 4-0.
“Getting out of that bases-loaded jam was huge. That was probably the biggest spot in the game at that point,” Kearney said. “He's only a sophomore, but he's been pitching in big games all year for us.”
Between innings, Braintree head coach Bill O'Connell told his guys to be patient and wait for a hittable fastball. As soon as they changed their approach, Noviello's looping curve started to fall into the strike zone.
It was the first time the Wamps have been shut out this season.
“I've been coaching for 19 years and that's about as good a pitching staff as I've seen on a team. We've had a pretty good team this year...We haven't been shut out all year,” O'Connell said. “The scouting report (on Noviello) was: 'He throws hard, but his off-speed could get wild at times.' That's not what happened –- not tonight.”
Noviello was spelled in the seventh inning by Mike Bruemmel, a lefty with good movement on his fastball. The senior picked up where Noviello left off and struck out six of the seven batters he faced.
Braintree used four underclassmen pitchers during the game, and started Scott Creedon, a 14-year-old righty. Creedon pitched the first two innings before getting pulled for sophomore Bobby McNiff. The youngster let up one run on three hits during his two innings of work.
“I didn't want to leave him out there too long,” O'Connell said. “He looked pretty comfortable, but he's still a freshman.”
After McNiff was touched up a bit in the fourth inning, the Wamps brought in junior Matt Bickford, who slowed the bleeding until the ninth inning when he allowed two earned runs. Scott Strachan came in for relief, but B-R's bats, which had been uncharacteristically quiet, erupted.
“That's a tough task for those guys, but we'll be a good team in the future,” O'Connell said. “We started a freshman, two sophomores and a junior, so it wasn't easy out there.”
Cody Medairos finished the game for B-R, and caused two pop-ups and struck out Jack Zanca to end the game.
Kearney believes his staff is set up for nine-inning baseball. The Trojans played five nine-inning games this season, which helped him set up a game plan for the playoffs.
“That does help the mentality. Nine is a long game. I like playing nine because it lets teams play it out a little more truly, I think. A lot can happen in a short time in a seven-inning game,” he said.
Braintree graduates eight seniors, including captains Alex Alexander and Steven Lee.
“I just feel for our seniors. This is the last time they get to go up there under the lights as a Wamp,” O'Connell said. “All eight seniors just gave us everything they had. I told the guys, 'There's only going to be one happy team at the end of the day.' Today was their day.”