Sam Gage (pictured) fires home a pitch during the top of the second inning on Friday night against Braintree. Photos by Mike Flanagan.
By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Needham MIBL (3-10) returned home to face a powerful Braintree (10-3) squad on Friday night, as both teams looked to climb the standings with playoffs only a week away.
Braintree drew first blood in the bottom of the first. Ryan Mikalauskus singled to begin the game, advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved over to the third on a grounder to second, and came in to score on a passed ball.
Needham responded immediately in the home half of the first. Hunter Anderson led off the inning with an infield single and swiped a pair of bases before coming around to score, thanks to an RBI groundout by Joe Dateo, tying the game at one.
Needham starter Eric Gage found his rhythm in the top of the second, retiring Braintree in order via two strikeouts and a groundout to second. Andrew Stephenson reached on an error to begin the bottom of the second for Needham, followed by a bunt single by Kyle Lambert. A throwing error to first moved the runners into scoring position. Hunter Anderson drove in both Stephenson and Lambert with a single to right, giving Needham a two-run lead after two innings.
Gage continued to deal in the top of the third, again retiring Braintree in order with a strikeout, a pop to the catcher and a groundout to first. The score remained 3-1 until the bottom of the fourth. Joe Dateo led off the frame with a single to right and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice before coming around to score, thanks to an RBI single by Bryce Anderson, extending the lead to 4-1.
Braintree began to chip away in the top of the fifth, plating a run on a passed ball to the backstop with a runner on third. With Needham leading 4-2 in the top of the sixth and Gage running on fumes, Braintree put together a rally. Aidan Aubertine reached on an infield single to begin the inning. Gage struck out Matt Duane, but then walked Chase Cahill and Mikalauskus to load the bases. A wild pitch brought home Aubertine to trim the lead to 4-3, and a walk to Jordan Gorham loaded the bases. The walk to Gorham ended Gage’s night as the lefty smoke-thrower finished with five and a third innings pitched and seven strikeouts. Kyle Lambert came on in relief looking to hold the lead. Just two pitches in, Ryan Sorgi ripped a bases-clearing double down the left field line to give Braintree a 6-4 lead, followed by an RBI single from Paul Gurley to make it a 7-4 game.
Following a scoreless bottom half of the sixth and top of the seventh, Jordan Gorham came on and shut the door for Braintree. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed a single to Bryce Anderson to begin the inning, but induced a fly to right and a pair of strikeouts to earn the save, and Braintree secured the 7-4 comeback victory.
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