|Longtime teammates Joe Alibrandi (left) and Tim Liuzzo are in the middle of the action for Quincy’s Morrisette American League Post 294 squad during its 4-1 win over Walpole in the opening round of the District 6 playoffs. They start the postseason’s sectional round on Sunday.|
Alibrandi, Liuzzo enjoying final summer run with Morissette Post 294.
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Joe Alibrandi and Tim Liuzzo have been best friends, and teammates, since age 8: Little League, four years at North Quincy High, and American Legion ball with Morrisette Post 294 in Quincy.
This summer is likely their final run together.
In the sixth inning of the best-of-3 District 6 playoff opener Tuesday night against host Walpole at Bird Middle School, the game scoreless, Alibrandi stepped up to the plate. Those on hand heard the clink of the bat hitting the ball as he laced a single through the middle, moving Matt Davis to second base. Jason Pekkinen walked to load the bases. Liuzzo then lined a hit to left, scoring Davis and Alibrandi for a 2-0 lead en route to a 4-1 win.
The following night, with Liuzzo on the mound at Adams Field, Morrisette (16-8) closed out the series with a 9-2 victory, advancing to the sectional round Sunday.
For the pair of recent North Quincy grads, this summer has been a satisfying run after a less-than-stellar final season of high school ball.
“We didn’t do too well,’’ said Liuzzo, noting their 4-15 record. “There’s a better chemistry on Morrisette.’’
Alibrandi added, “We struggled in the high school season. This team’s more intense. We want to win more.”
In Game 2 on Wednesday, Post 294 opened up a 6-0 lead in the first inning, capitalizing on three Walpole errors.
In the seventh, with Morrisette comfortably ahead, 9-2, Liuzzo was back on the hill. He walked the first batter and then allowed a single up the middle, putting runners at first and second, prompting a visit to the mound from coach Steve Maze.
Liuzzo set down the next two hitters before loading the bases on a walk. But he retired the final batter on a 4-3 groundout, closing out a 118-pitch effort in which he allowed just two runs.
“Timmy for the last two years has been a big pitcher for us, always comes through,” said Maze, in his ninth season as head coach.
Alibrandi is a talented shortstop and hitter who contributed runs in both games of the series.
He also pitched through his junior season, but last summer developed tendinitis in his shoulder, and has not pitched in a game since.
“I threw one pitch and heard a click in my right shoulder. I had to do physical therapy for like three months,” he said. “I actually still do the workouts I learned in therapy, band work. It’s definitely getting there. It’s a lot better, but I haven’t pitched in a while.’’
Maze highly values Alibrandi’s impact on the team, despite his absence from the mound.
“Two years ago when he was a sophomore I thought for sure he was a Division 1 player, Division 1 athlete,” destined for a top college program, said the coach.
“He had some arm problems when he was a junior and that slowed him down a lot, but overall he is hands down the best player on the team. He can hit. He can field. He can throw. He can run. He never gets rattled. He’s always playing in big situations.’’
Alibrandi will play at Westfield State, a Division 3 program in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Liuzzo will play for MASCAC rival Framingham State, which advanced to the ECAC Division 3 New England tourney before losing to Anna Maria.
“It’d be fun to play against him,” Alibrandi said of being in opposite dugouts, starting next spring.
“It would be a good competition,” added Liuzzo.
After three years as American Legion teammates, their transition to college ball will be bittersweet. But they are ready.
“For me and Joe, it’s fun to end our careers together in Morrisette,” said Liuzzo.
Walpole, the second seed in the tourney after capping the regular season with a 12-game unbeaten streak, finished at 17-6-1 overall.
Cam Hanley, who collected three hits for Post 104 in Game 1, was unavailable for the second game because of a college visit to Wake Forest.
After allowing six runs in the first inning, aided by three errors, Michael Baryski settled down on the mound for Walpole, tossing three scoreless frames.
Nottle returns to Rox role
Ed Nottle is back with the Brockton Rox, albeit in a different role, with a different franchise.
The 72-year-old baseball lifer returns as first base coach for a Rox franchise in its first season in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. He will coach home games for the remainder of the season.
In April, health issues led to Nottle resigning as manager of the Edinburg (Texas) Roadrunners of the North American Baseball League. In May, he had two-thirds of a lung removed, and his recovery from the cancer surgery prevented him from attending his induction into the inaugural class of the Rox Hall of Fame on June 7. Continued...