North Reading Rays Rule Middlesex Big Diamond League!
The North Reading Rays were a bit sleepy at the start of Sunday morning’s Middlesex Big Diamond League junior division championship game against the Stoneham Dodgers.
But by game’s end, they had sent a message that was loud and clear: they were the best team in the MBDL. The ninth-seeded Rays completed a stunning four-game run through the playoffs by defeating the No. 2 Dodgers, 7-4.
Sunday’s quiet start allowed the Dodgers to go up, 1-0, after two innings. But in the top of the third, the bottom of the Rays’ order came to life when a single by Conor Griffin and a walk by Ryan Dobbyn were followed by a gutsy and emotional “Hit By Pitch” to John Paolucci. Aldo Vittozzi followed with an RBI single to make it 1-1 and Zach Rosatone broke the deadlock when he slugged a two-run double.
A fantastic pitching performance by Vittozzi kept the Stoneham team at bay. And when they did hit the ball, the Rays’ defense was at its best, including a perfectly executed rundown in the third inning that ended a scoring threat. Then in the fifth, with a runner on base, a Stoneham batter mashed a shot to left-center, but Christian DeCosta used his speed and athleticism to reel in the catch while in full stride.
By that point, the Rays had broken things open, thanks to aggressive hitting that produced five singles and four more runs in the fourth.
When Vittozzi’s pitch count expired in the sixth, in came Steve Carreiro – with ice in his veins. Carreiro was stoic and focused as he closed out the game, but not before a late surge by the Stoneham team made things interesting. A leadoff walk was followed up by a triple to deep center. The next batter hit a soft liner that seemed destined for right field, but first baseman Owen Delano backtracked and leaped high to snag the ball in midair.
The amazing catch stunned the whole park, especially the runner on third, who was caught halfway down the base path. A strong throw from first and an even better scoop by Paolucci at third completed the double play.
Jacob Ghaderi earned the team’s “Unsung Hero” award for catching all 14 innings over the final two games and batting 2-for-5 over the weekend.
The final game would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for the sensational pitching performance of Marty Pierce on Saturday against Wakefield. Griffin had an excellent weekend as well, going 3-for-5, and great at-bats by Alex Chaisson and Dobbyn kept the lineup moving.
But defense wins championships, and these ballplayers were focused. When Anthony Pino called for a pop fly in the fifth inning of Sunday’s title game, no one dared get in his way.