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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
After cracking the Super Eight for the first time in program history last year, the Walpole Rebels are headed back as the No. 3 seed following an impressive 16-4 (11-2) regular season.
Backed by an elite pitching staff headlined by the likes of Northeastern-bound ace Cam Schlittler and Tufts-bound right-hander Matt Donato, the Rebels will look to avenge last year’s season-ending defeat to BC High in the semifinals as they fight for the school’s first-ever Super Eight baseball title.
On Thursday, the Rebels hosted Milton (11-9, 6-8) to cap Bay State Conference play and the start of a three-day slate of games with St. John’s Prep on Friday (6-5 defeat) and Norwood on Saturday (2-1 win).
Thanks to a complete-game from Matt Donato and some clutch late-inning hitting by Chris McLean, the Rebels were able to earn a big 2-1 win to further help solidify their spot in the Super Eight.
The story of the game on Thursday was two-out hits. The bats of both teams seemed to come to life whenever there were two away in the inning. Following a lead-off single to open the game, Donato struck out a man looking, followed by another single to right to put runners at the corners. John Brady gunned down the runner attempting to steal second on the first pitch of the ensuing at-bat to make it two away in the inning, but an RBI single two pitches later gave Milton a 1-0 lead after half an inning.
Walpole responded accordingly in the bottom of the inning. After Matt Falvey drew a one-out walk and stole second, Jackson Walonis drove him in with a single to center to tie the game at one at the end of one inning.
The game would remain 1-1 until the bottom of the fifth inning, thanks to some wizardry on the mound by Donato (eight strikeouts). Ryan Boyajian led off the bottom half of the fifth with a single to right. Jack Magane moved Boyajian over to second with a perfect sacrifice bunt. Matt Falvey grounded out to second, moving Boyajian to third. A clutch RBI single followed on a 2-2 count with two away in the inning by McLean, giving the Rebels their first lead of the game at 2-1 at the end of five.
Donato struck out a pair and induced a groundout to short to get Walpole out of the sixth inning unscathed. Will Jarvis led off the bottom of the inning with a double into the left-center-field gap, but was left stranded following a pair of groundouts and a strikeout. Donato came back to close it out in the bottom of the seventh and did just that with a fly to left, a strikeout, and a groundout to short to end it.
“Veteran leadership and execution,” said Walpole head coach Chris Costello of his senior captain and pitcher Matt Donato. “That’s what we’ve come to expect from Matt, and that’s exactly what he provided us today. Baseball is a frustrating game. Sometimes you face a good arm like we did today and you aren’t able to put up a lot of runs and you really need your pitcher to execute. I thought Matt did an excellent job of executing his stuff today and never let anything get to him. All of the two-out hits they got, he just brushed aside and went back to work; really proud of the way he battled and performed today.”
At the time of print, Walpole will host rival Braintree in the opening round of the Super Eight on June 5.
For funny and insightful sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter @fLAno0.