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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
What a ride it was for the 2017 Dover-Sherborn Regional High School baseball team.
After failing to qualify for the last four MIAA State Tournaments, the 2017 Raiders put together a 12-8 regular season record and earned the No. 8 seed in the Division III South Sectionals. The Raiders racked off three straight dramatic wins, including an 8-7 come-from-behind walk-off win over Apponequet in round one thanks to Hank Reinhart’s heroics and a 7-5 win over TVL rival Norton in the South title game. The Raiders then took down Austin Prep (North Sectional champ) in the state semifinals by a final of 4-3 on Tuesday, advancing to Saturday’s Division III state championship game against Auburn at Holy Cross.
Unfortunately, the Raiders ran out of magic against the Rockets (16-4), falling by a final of 4-1 despite a solid effort on the mound by senior ace Owen Webb (5.1 innings, three runs, six hits, four strikeouts).
DS got the bats going early, putting men at first and second with one out in the top of the first inning. However, a 6-4-3 double play by Auburn ended the inning with no Raiders coming across home. Auburn hit a pair of doubles in the bottom half of the first to take the early 1-0 lead, but Webb countered with a line out to Ferrari in center, a groundout to Luke Turo at short, and a strikeout to get DS out of the inning with the damage limited to just one.
Jamie Wright led off the second for DS with a single to center, but was caught stealing after two fly outs to end the inning. The Raiders were able to turn an inning-ending double play (3-6) in the bottom of the second when Ryan Sliwinski corralled a groundball at first, stepped on the bag and fired to second to Luke Turo who tagged the runner.
Holden Ferrari was able to grind out a single with a nine-pitch at-bat with one out in the top of the third, but a strikeout and groundout by Scurrah left Ferrari at first with the game still 1-0 in favor of Auburn. Webb sent the Rockets down 1-2-3 via a pop out, fly out to Ferrari in center, and a strikeout in the bottom of the third.
The Raiders were sent down 1-2-3 in the home half of the fourth following groundouts by Sliwinski and Hank Reinhart followed by a line-out to right field by Wright. Auburn led off the bottom of the fourth with a single, but Webb battled back to strand the man at first after getting a pop out to Turo at short, a groundout to Sliwinski at first, and a line-out to Reinhart out in right field.
Trevor Bowman began the top of the fifth for DS with a single to right, and was pinch ran for by Nick Marken. John Musgrave then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to try and move Marken over to second, but the ball was errantly thrown down the line in right field, putting runners at second and third with nobody out. DS continued the trend of small ball by having Matthew Strong lay down a squeeze bunt on the first pitch of his ensuing at-bat, plating Mark from third to tie the game at one. Strong was thrown out at first on the bunt-attempt and Musgrave was also gunned down at home trying to score the go-ahead run from second. A strikeout ended the inning, but the Raiders were finally able to get on the board and tie the game at one entering the bottom of the fifth.
Webb induced a groundout to Sliwinski at first to begin the bottom of the fifth, followed by back-to-back strikeouts to get DS to the sixth still tied at one.
The Raiders were able to put the go-ahead run on second in the top of the sixth with two outs after Sliwinski singled to right and stole second, but a fly out to left got Auburn out of the inning and left Sliwinski stranded.
The bottom of the sixth was the turning point in the game, as Auburn plated three runs off four hits and an error, chasing Webb from the game and bringing on DS closer Jake Scurrah to try and limit the damage. A bunt back to the mound caught by Scurrah and fired to third to double up the runner ended the inning, but the Raiders entered the top of the seventh down three and in need of a rally.
Jamie Wright began the seventh for DS with a six-pitch walk, but back-to-back strikeouts put DS down to their final out. A line-out by Holden Ferrari to center ended the game, as Auburn was crowned Division III state champs.
As much as the outcome of Saturday’s loss stings, the 2017 DS baseball team is the perfect example of resilience. Head coach Steve Ryan expressed how proud he was of his team for battling all season long following Saturday’s loss.
“Ton of character on this team, battling from the early part of the season where we were struggling a little right around .500,” said Ryan. “We just got better and better, these guys worked so hard and we peaked at the right time. It carried us through the tournament. I think they were in so many tight games early; we played six extra inning games throughout the year and it taught us that we’re never out of it. We’re good in tight situations. That carried through to the playoffs, every playoff game was just a one or two-run game up until this one.”
Ryan also says that the 2017 season should serve as a major steppingstone in building a winning baseball tradition in Dover-Sherborn.
“We’re very proud [of being Eastern Mass champions],” said Ryan. “Through a program that has sometimes struggled to get guys, I think this is really going to wake up baseball in Dover-Sherborn.”