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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
It took nine innings, a three-run comeback, and a heavy dosage of deep breathing, but the Dover-Sherborn Regional High varsity baseball team found a way to win 7-6 in extra innings on Saturday afternoon against Apponequet (12-9) in the quarterfinal round of the South Sectional Playoffs. With runners at first and second and two down in the ninth inning, senior first baseman Hank Reinhart delivered a walk-off RBI single to right field, plating junior Trevor Bowman as the game-winning run and sending DS to the South Semifinals.
Senior captain Ryan Sliwinski got the start on the mound for the Raiders (13-8) on Saturday, but ran into some early trouble with Apponequet scoring on an RBI single in the first inning, seizing the early 1-0 lead. Senior shortstop Luke Turo led off the DS half of the first with a walk, but the Raiders were then retired in order, and Apponequet held the one-run lead heading into the second.
Sliwinski surrendered a leadoff single in the top of the second, but responded by sending down the Lakers in order (strikeout, fly out, groundout) to retire the side. DS was able to put runners at first and third with one out in the bottom of the second, but an inning-ending double play put an end to any type of rally and the Lakers held the 1-0 edge heading into the third.
In the top of the third, Apponequet added a pair of runs via a sacrifice fly and RBI single, extending their lead to 3-0 at the end of two and a half.
The bottom of the third turned out to be the turning point of the game for DS, as the Raiders plated five runs to take a 5-3 lead. Junior Matt Strong got things started with a leadoff single to center. Luke Turo followed up the Strong hit with a bloop single down the left field line to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Following a Holden Ferrari line-out to center, junior Jake Scurrah cracked a two-RBI double into the right-center field gap, plating both Strong and Turo and making it a one-run game at 3-2. Senior Eric Levine then crushed a base hit into right field, but because the ball traveled at such a rapid pace, Scurrah was forced to hold at third, putting runners at the corners with one away for Sliwinski. After Eric Levine swiped second on the first pitch of the ensuing at bat, Sliwinski cracked a single to left to plate Scurrah from third and move Levine over to third base. Senior catcher Jamie Wright then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, plating Levine from third and moving Sliwinski over to second. Hank Reinhart then smacked a double into the right-center field gap, scoring Sliwinski from second and extending the Raider lead to 5-3.
Apponequet was able to cut the deficit to one in the top of the fourth via an RBI single, but Sliwinski settled down and stranded a pair of Lakers at first and second, as the Raiders took a 5-4 lead into the fifth following a 1-2-3 home half of the fourth.
Sliwinski continued to deal in the top of the fifth, sending the Lakers down in order via a groundout to Scurrah at second, a line-out to Ferrari in center, and a fly out to right. DS was able to put runners at first and second in the home half of the fifth after Levine wore a pitch and Sliwinski smacked a single into left. However, a pop out and strikeout stranded Levine and Sliwinski, and the lead remained at just one run headed into the sixth.
The top of the sixth inning saw some incredible defensive play by the Raiders, as Matt Strong made a great play to track down a fly ball and record the first out. Sliwinski was able to get the next batter to line out to Luke Turo at short, but then surrendered back-to-back two-out hits, putting runners at first and second. Luke Turo then made a web gem of a diving catch on a line drive to short, getting DS out of the inning and thwarting the tying run from crossing home.
The Raiders were sent down in order in the bottom of the sixth, but then turned to their closer, Jake Scurrah, to try and finish things in the top of the seventh. Apponequet was able to put the tying run on base to lead off the inning after an infield hit. A passed ball to the backstop put the tying run in scoring position. Scurrah was then able to get a pop out to third base, but a walk and a single down the left field line tied the game for Apponequet. With runners at first and second and just one out, Scurrah battled back with a strikeout before getting the Apponequet clean up man to pop out and end the inning.
Holden Ferrari led off the bottom of the seventh inning for DS with a single to center, but a hit-and-run attempt came back to bite DS as the ball was lined to third and thrown back to first to double up Ferrari. Eric Levine then drew a walk and stole second to put the winning run in scoring position. An infield hit by junior Cole Condon put runners at the corners with two away for Jamie Wright, but a groundout back to the pitcher ended the inning and sent the game into extras.
Scurrah was sent back out to the mound for the eighth and proved his dominance by striking out the side on 10 pitches, allowing his team another chance to win it in the bottom of the eighth. Back-to-back one-out hits by senior Owen Webb and Matt Strong put the winning run in scoring position. Luke Turo advanced the runners to second and third on a groundout to second (a bang-bang play - Turo very well could have been safe), and the winning run was at third for Holden Ferrari with two outs. Ferrari would fly out to center, and the game headed to the ninth.
Apponequet finally broke the scoring drought with a run in the top of the ninth on a throwing error. However, despite having runners at second and third with no outs, Scurrah was able to shut down the Laker bats by recording a pop out to the catcher and two strikeouts, keeping the damage at just a single run and getting the Raiders to the bottom of the ninth down just 6-5.
With one out in the ninth and their backs against the wall, Eric Levine started a Raider rally with a single to right. Levine then stole second base to put the tying run in scoring position. Trevor Bowman cracked a single to center to advance Levine to third, putting runners on the corners. A hit-and-run by DS at first base allowed Jamie Wright’s groundout to short to plate Levine from third as the tying run, putting Bowman at second as the potential game-winning run for Hank Reinhart. After battling to a 3-2 count, Reinhart cracked an inside fastball into right-center field, plating Bowman from second as the game-winning run and sending the Raiders onto the next round with a 7-6 victory.
Following the win, Reinhart spoke about what went through his head before and during his winning hit.
“The goal was just to put the ball in play,” said Reinhart. “Three-two count, he gave me a good pitch and I turned on it.”
Reinhart also praised the hard work by his pitchers, Ryan Sliwinski and Jake Scurrah.
“Ryan battled all day and Scurrah was able to strike some key guys out after coming on in the seventh,” said Reinhart. “Those two definitely put us in a great position to win it.”
Head coach Steve Ryan praised his group for their resilience and ability to battle back.
“Really proud of these guys. They battled back twice and they know that they are never out of the game,” said Ryan. “I’d say that we probably didn’t bring our best stuff early on, as we had 11 days off or something and that definitely was a factor but I couldn’t have asked for more than the way we battled back and found a way to win.”
Ryan also gave praise to the hard work of Eric Levine, who reached base four times, stole three bases, and game across home twice (including the game-tying run in the ninth).
“Eric is a real clutch player and he’s been doing this kind of stuff for us all year,” said Ryan. “He’s a good leader, and he’s a senior that’s been on the team for all four years. Unfortunately, he has a shoulder injury and we can’t use him in the field - but he does everything he can at the plate, whether it’s getting hit by a pitch or delivering the clutch hit and getting on base.”
Ryan also says that this win on Saturday is huge for the DS baseball program going forward.
“This is the kind of thing that helps build a program,” said Ryan. “It’s a small school and lacrosse is pretty popular, but [baseball is] quickly becoming more popular. A win like this is the kind of thing that can help draw kids into the program.”
On Monday evening, the Raiders went on the road to face No. 1 seeds East Bridgewater. On a rain-soaked field, the Raiders prevailed in a 1-0 pitcher’s duel to advance to the South Sectional semifinals against Bourne on June 8.