Final destination

Final destination

Scituate High sophomore pitcher Max Pierce was on top of his game in last Saturday’s 4-0 victory over the Prout School at Pierce Field, as he blanked the Crusaders on three hits and a walk. That win clinched the Spartans’ first trip to the Division II championship finals in its history. The Spartans opened their best-of-three title series against neighboring rival Ponaganset High on Monday night at McCoy Stadium and were dealt an 8-4 loss. (Breeze photos by Kayla Panu)
Scituate blanks Prout, cops first trip to championship series in program’s history

EAST PROVIDENCE – Two days after suffering a 2-1 loss to the Prout School in the regional final of the Division II double-elimination tournament, the Scituate High baseball team gave the ball to sophomore Max Pierce in a winner-take-all game last Saturday afternoon at Pierce Field, and he fired a three-hit gem to help blank the Crusaders, 6-0, and lead the Spartans into the first championship series in their program’s history.

“Prout is a real good team,” Scituate head coach Dave Hanson said. “They’ve been to the finals six times, so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But our guys came in relaxed and confident, and Max went out there and pitched a great game.”

The Spartans, who are the second seed in the playoffs, are playing in the best-of-three D-II championship series this week at McCoy Stadium, and they’re facing none other than neighborhood rival and defending D-II champion Ponaganset, which is the fourth seed. During the summer, several members of both teams play on American Legion and Connie Mack ballclubs with each other, so the coaches and players know each other very well.

“They are the defending champions, so to be the champs, you have to beat the champs, and we will go out there and give it everything we got,” Hanson said after Saturday’s victory. “We know a lot about them and we know they are a very good team, but right now, we’re just going to enjoy this a little bit. (This is the) first time ever Scituate is going to the finals, so it’s something (the players) will remember for the rest of their lives.”

While the 10th-seeded Crusaders had lost a game during the tournament, the Spartans had yet to drop a game. All they had to do was win last Thursday and they were in the finals, but that was easier said than done, as their offense could not get going and they committed four errors in the field.

Billy Holihen was on the hill for Prout and he gave up seven hits. The Spartans’ only run came in the sixth inning, as Sam Owens led off with an infield hit to deep short and Mark Gelsomino hit a single up the middle that the center fielder booted, and that allowed Owens to race around the bases.

“(Holihen) had us off-balance the whole game,” added Hanson, who saw his pitcher, Ben Russo, deliver a three-hitter, but surrender two runs in the top of the second. “I give (Holihen) credit. Obviously, he had us fooled the whole game and threw strikes, and we just couldn’t get anything going. It’s hard to win with one run.”

After that defeat, the Spartans regrouped and came out strong last Saturday, and with two outs in the top of the first, they got something going and scored their first run. Owens, who got his 100th career hit in the game on Thursday, belted a base hit to right to start the two-out magic. Aiden Pendergast was hit by a pitch, and Gelsomino hit a single through the right side to drive in Owens.

“(Owens) is the first player ever in Scituate to get (100 hits),” Hanson said. “He was, I think, 6-for-8 in the tournament. We go as far as he takes us. He’s been carrying us all year, and he just keeps it going.”

While Pierce was nearly perfect on the mound, the Spartans opened up the game in the sixth with a five-run rally that saw them bat around their lineup.

Mike Cronan led off with a walk, and after Owens singled to left, Pendergast dropped a bunt that he beat out for a hit to load the bases. Gelsomino then lofted a fly ball that dropped into shallow center field, but that ended up resulting in a fielder’s choice instead of a hit, because after some confusion on third base, Cronan ended up getting thrown out at the plate.

With the bases still loaded, Russo delivered a bloop hit behind the first baseman to score Owens, and Sean Ward, who ran for Pendergast, scored on Kyle Allhusen’s fielder’s choice. The first baseman fielded the grounder and threw the ball home, but was too late.

That knocked Prout’s starting pitcher, Kyle McCutcheon, from the game. Nick Niles relieved him, but two more runs scored on Gino Forte’s hard-hit single down the third-base line, and Pierce then drove in Allhusen with the final run.

“Mike (Cronan) had a great at-bat, Sam’s been rolling, and give Aiden credit, he hadn’t bunted all year,” Hanson said. “He got asked to do it today and he put down a perfect bunt, and then the guys at the bottom of the order, Kyle Allhusen and Gino (Forte), had huge hits. That was the difference. It was a great team effort all the way around. It hasn’t been one guy, but the whole team. Everybody’s had a big part in it.”

While Pierce, who walked just one batter, shined on the mound, the defensive star was second baseman Chris St. Pierre, who along with the rest of the Spartans, did not commit an error.

“Max was great,” Hanson said. “I knew from this morning, when we were taking batting practice, that he was focused and ready to go. He threw strikes and he was outstanding, and for a 10th grader to come out there in an elimination game and do that tells you a lot about his hard work and his character. And Chris St. Pierre at second base, I can’t say enough. He’s been doing that all year.”

Scituate’s Sam Owens collected five hits and scored three runs in his team’s two Division II playoff games against Prout last week at Pierce Field. Included in Owens’ hit total was the 100th of his career.