By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
It was not looking good for the Needham on Saturday night in Worcester in the Division I state finals against St. Peter-Marian. The Rockets found themselves trailing, 5-1, in the top of the seventh.
However, like they have done so many times this season (most recently against Braintree in the sectional semifinals) the team mounted an epic comeback, scoring four runs to tie the game before winning 6-5 in extras to claim their first state title in program history.
Jordan Gold began the rally with a leadoff walk before an error at third base allowed Steve Donovan to reach and put runners at first and second with nobody out. Alex Luscher drew a walk to load them up for Kevin Mackenzie, and the junior proceeded to crack an RBI single to plate Gold and make it a 5-2 game. Alec Sharton followed it up with an RBI single to left to score Donovan and make it a 5-3 game. Will Foley then kept the rally going with a single to center to score Luscher and make it a one-run game at 5-4 with still nobody out. Tom Chmielewski then launched an RBI sacrifice fly to left field to bring in Mackenzie as the tying run.
Strong-armed reliever Charlie Roberts wiggled his way out of some trouble in the home half of the seventh, stranding the potential winning run at third base, thanks to a great diving catch by Sharton in foul territory and a pair of strikeouts, to send the game into extras.
Donovan reached first on an infield hit with two outs in the top of the eighth and took second on a wild throw. Luscher then delivered the biggest hit of his career with an RBI double into the left-center field gap, plating Donovan and giving the Rockets a 6-5 lead after 7 1/2 innings.
Charlie Roberts came back out in the home half of the eighth and shut the door, inducing a fly out to left field to end it and sealing the historic comeback victory for the Rockets.
After beginning the season 4-7, Needham finished winners of 13 out of their final 14 games. The comeback, in itself, is something out of a fairytale.
“It means a lot,” said Needham pitcher Tom Chmielewski. “Not a lot of people were talking about us, so we always had a chip on our shoulders … It motivated us to come together as a team and do something special.”
The way Needham baseball bought in and came together at the right time en route to the state title is exactly what makes high school sports special.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.