South rallies past ’Hawks
By JASON ORFAO
NASHUA – As rain steadily fell at Holman Stadium, it was uncertain if Nashua South and Merrimack could squeeze in five innings for an official ballgame.
By the time it was over, the Panthers and Tomahawks needed eight innings to settle the score.
South erased a three-run deficit in the seventh and Alex Amigo drove home Carter Cormier with an infield hit in the bottom of the eighth to give the Panthers a 4-3 walk-off win in Division I baseball action on Wednesday, May 4.
It marked the second walk-off triumph in 10 days for South, which also defeated Bishop Guertin in the eighth at Holman on April 25.
"I’d rather not do it that way, but I’ll take a win any way we can get it," Nashua South coach James Gaj said. "It was a good team win and everybody did their part."
The rally spoiled a strong outing from Merrimack starter Alex Thornton, who held the Panthers off the board for the first six innings and had retired 13 of 14 entering the seventh. He allowed a walk – his only one of the day – and a base hit to start the seventh before being pulled in favor of Justin Grassini.
Thornton was charged with two earned runs off five hits. The right-hander struck out two, walked one and hit a batter.
"Alex Thronton threw a heck of a ballgame," Merrimack coach Nick Jaskolka said. "He was mixing his pitches very well. He was able to command his change-up and his curveball."
Merrimack was in control throughout the first six frames. The Tomahawks scored one in the first, made it a two-run lead in the second and added a third run in the fifth. However, Merrimack missed a few opportunities to tack on insurance along the way.
Bunting was inconsistent, two Tomahawks were thrown out at third base in the sixth inning and South’s Owen Amigo made a nice running catch on a deep fly to left field to prevent a Merrimack run in the top of the seventh.
"The biggest thing on South is they don’t quit," Jaskolka said. "Our execution all game long was poor. We couldn’t get a sacrifice bunt down, we couldn’t get a safety squeeze down.
"They wanted it more. I tip my cap to Coach James over there and those boys, because hey, when the lights shine the brightest, they came to play in those last two innings."
Alex Parrott sparked South’s seventh-inning rally with a walk before Shea singled to right field and ended Thornton’s day. Grassini surrendered an infield hit to Alex Amigo that brought home Parrott, retired the next batter, but Routhier tied it up in the following at-bat.
Cormier earned the win in relief, tossing three innings of shutout ball. He fanned two and scattered three hits. After retiring the first two batters of the eighth, Merrimack tried to ignite a rally when Ryan Slate drew a walk and Tyler DeNeill delivered his third hit of the day to bring No. 3 hitter Chad Seaver to the plate. However, Cormier buckled down and induced a pop up to escape the jam and set the stage for the walk-off win.
"You just have to go out there and throw strikes. You go right at them and try to paint the corners," Cormier said. "It was a little shaky, but you just have to muscle down and find the confidence and go right back at them. You can’t let it get to your head."
Devin Gates started on the mound for South and pitched five solid innings. He allowed three runs – one earned – off five hits, walked three and did not strike out a batter.
"Those two guys together – they’re young, but they’re good," Gaj said of his pitching duo. "It was a two-man job. It was a two-man win. I wish they could both get the win because they did a great job."
DeNeill was the only Tomahawk with multiple hits, finishing 3 for 5 on the day. Seaver and Nick Dutton each had an RBI, while Slate, Grassini and Andrew Michaud scored one run apiece.
Shea went 2 for 4 with a double for the Panthers, while Pat McDonnell also doubled. Alex Amigo was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
"We were hitting the ball hard, but they weren’t falling and we finally made something happen," Gaj said. "For these guys not to give up, I’m very happy."
Merrimack 4, Salem 3
The Blue Devils managed to make it a one-run game in the seventh inning, but Tim Moran earned two crucial outs to give Merrimack the win on Friday, May 6.
Grassini earned the victory for the Tomahawks, allowing four hits and one earned run over five innings of work. He struck out four.
Grassini also contributed at the plate, collecting a hit and an RBI. Nick Dutton also added a hit and an RBI.
Justin Cardenas had two hits and an RBI while DeNeill had a hit and a run scored but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Tomahawks dropped to 7-5 in Division I on Monday.