Dover battles back, then falls in Jr. Legion title game
MANCHESTER — Sean Casey’s walk-off single plated Steven Whalen to lead Braintree, Mass., Post 86 to a 5-4 victory Monday over Dover Post 8 in the 2014 Northeast Region 1 Junior American Legion Baseball Tournament championship game at Gill Stadium in Manchester.
“Tough loss, but finishing second in the region is nothing to be ashamed about,” said Dover manager Dave Rouleau. “Typical of the way we’ve played all year, our kids never gave up until the final pitch. That’s why we’re state champions and the second-best team in New England.”
Trailing 4-1 entering the seventh inning, Dover rallied to tie the game. Peter Drakopoulos opened the frame with a double and, one out later, Ryan Connolly singled, placing runners on the corners.
Colby LaChance scored Drakopoulos with a sacrifice fly to right, leaving Connolly at first base with two outs. Tim Verrill kept the rally going, drawing a walk.
Tim Mainella, who pitched a three-hitter in Dover’s semifinal win Sunday against Tolland, Conn., delivered a clutch single to right to score Connolly. Verrill didn’t stop at second on the hit and forced an errant throw from the rightfielder that rolled out of play. Verrill was awarded home with the tying run and Mainella ended up on third base. Cole Carter made a bid to plate Mainella with the go-ahead run, but his deep fly to right was caught for the final out.
Braintree jumped on Dover starter Bryan Woolley for four first-inning runs, getting RBI hits from Casey, Kevin Troy, Joseph Vannelli and Aiden Adams in the inning.
Mainella, who struck out nine batters Sunday, had three innings left to pitch in the tournament. Rouleau decided not to waste them and summoned Mainella to the hill to start the second inning. Mainella did his job, setting the side down in the second and third innings. He allowed a one-out single in the fourth inning and, after another batter reached on an error, got his final out on a groundout to second.
Evan Zuchowski also pitched well in relief, retiring all six batters he faced through the fifth and sixth innings.
“Tim and Evan did a great job keeping us in the game,” said Rouleau, whose club stranded nine runners. “We had some chances to score earlier, but Braintree’s infield play was outstanding.”
In the second inning, Dover loaded the bases, but Braintree got an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to preserve its four-run lead. In the fifth inning, Dover scored its first run when Zuchowski scampered home from third base on a wild pitch. With runners on the corners and one out, Verrill hit a hard chopper toward shortstop. Braintree shortstop Adams dove on the carpet to snatch the ball, turned and started another inning-ending double play to second baseman Steve Burns to Casey at first.
“We left everything on the field today,” said Verrill. “We weren’t the most talented team in this tournament, but no one had better chemistry. It was fun playing on this team all summer.”
In nine innings earlier Monday, Tolland, Conn., defeated Riverside, R.I., 8-7, for third place in the region.