Where experience counts
Gloucester makes comeback win, advances to finals
Fired up after its ninth-inning win against Sudbury the previous night, the Middleton Post 227 Legion baseball team struck early against Gloucester in the sectional final last Wednesday. Leadoff man Jason Katz singled up the middle, Curtis Kowalski reached on a walk, and Brandon Kowalski delivered a two-run double.
By the sixth inning, Middleton was cruising, ahead 8-2, against the same Gloucester club that had delivered a 16-0 defeat to Post 227 just two days earlier.
Post 3, however, stormed back, plating 10 runs in the seventh and eighth innings for a stunning 12-9 win at Alumni Field in Lowell to earn its first trip to the state’s final eight since 1998. Gloucester (15-4) opened tourney play last night against Leominster Post at Riverside Park in Hudson. Lowell Post 87 (18-5) will join Gloucester in the final eight after its 11-9 win over Newburyport.
Gloucester “hit the ball at the end of the game and we made a few key errors that cost us,’’ said Middleton head coach John Kowalski.
After a shaky start by Mackenzie Quinn, James Nicolosi came on in the third inning and was immense in relief for Gloucester, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced. Entering his sophomore year at Salem State, Nicolosi is a valuable utility player for Post 3.
“If I had to pick a team MVP it would be Nicolosi,’’ says Gloucester coach Gerald MacKillop. “He bats in the middle of the lineup, plays third base, and pitches. He does a little bit of everything for us.’’
Although the Gloucester roster is stocked with 19-year-olds with the experience of a college freshman season, none have played in the postseason at the Legion level. But what they bring to the field is a better understanding of the game.
“You can tell who has played a year of college,’’ says MacKillop.
“Bret Cahill is a phenomenal catcher and came back from University of Massachusetts Lowell calling games completely by himself. It’s the small details, the ins and outs of the game, that they know, which is usually overlooked at this level.’’
“You learn a lot more in college,’’ said ace hurler Lucas Ilges, entering his sophomore year at UMass Boston. “They showed me different pitches so now I’m mixing it up more.’’ Shawn Hull (Salem State) and Conor Ressel (UMass-Lowell) also played as college freshmen.
Ilges and the other older players were able to draw on their experiences and offer advice to the younger players. He said he was glad that he returned for his final season of eligibility, not only to play with his friends one more time, but to help the younger players grow.
Caulin Rogers, who paces Post 3 in hitting and whom MacKillop considers the best leadoff hitter in District 8, credits the older players for passing on their knowledge and wisdom.
“They give us little steps along the way, like how to compose myself before a game or help me with mechanical things like what’s wrong with my swing,’’ said Rogers.
Headed to Bridgton Academy this fall to play baseball, Rogers hopes to move on to a higher level. “They give me advice about being recruited by college coaches and what to look out for,’’ he said.
“The older guys are coaching these kids up just as much as us,’’ says MacKillop. “It’s good to see. We are more of a family than a team, and that really helps us.’’
Gloucester is fortunate to have a strong rotation of four starters (Ilges, Quinn, Nicolosi, and Adam Philpott) who are all capable and experienced pitchers. “We won’t sacrifice an arm to win a game,’’ MacKillop says. “It’s quality innings over quantity.’’
Lowell advances Lowell advanced with a wild 11-9 win over Newburyport last Wednesday.
Newburyport struck for three first-inning runs, but Lowell capitalized on errors to seize a 4-3 lead, and added four more runs in the fifth for an 8-5 cushion. Newburyport trailed 11-5 entering the ninth and made a spirited rally, but fell short.
“Newburyport is a tough team that hits well,’’ said Lowell coach Sean Riley. “Today we got the right hits at the right times and our pitchers couldn’t have pitched any better; we were lucky to be well-rested.’’
Lowell is led by 6-foot-2 pitcher Chad Gens, a rising senior at Lowell High School.
The coach considers him the best player in the tournament. “He’s a pro player,’’ said Riley. “He doesn’t say much, but he competes.’’
Riley said Kyle Edwards and Costas Tingas have also been solid on the mound, shortstop Patrick Lawrence is a leader offensively and defensively, and Derek Reed (centerfield) and Andrew Donahue (second base) are consistent in the field. Nick Goodin has been “unbelievable’’ in relief, according to the coach.
Lowell and Gloucester both slipped into the sectional playoffs as a fourth seed and both went undefeated to move on to the states.
“It goes to show you that there is not a big difference between first and fourth in this league,’’ said Newburyport coach Tim Southall.
“To be the fourth seed and win the section is huge,’’ said Riley. “We have momentum right now. The guys are full of confidence. We are going there to win.’’
Cat Calsolaro can be reached at email@example.com.